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Making the World of Boutique Shopping Smaller With FarFetch.com

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You covet it from the moment it hits the catwalk, you track the days til it drops in store, then - too late! - "we're all sold out madam, but there is one available in our other shop... in Paris". However, thanks to FarFetch.com, this type of crushing blow is soon to be obliterated. The world of shopping just got a whole lot smaller giving shoppers instant access to some of the hottest boutiques across the world and fighting chance of never hearing - or at least not fearing - those words ever again.

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FarFetch is a portal for a handpicked selection of some of the top fashion and vintage boutiques from across Europe, North America and Canada. Choose to shop from any or all their hosted stores in as many countries as you choose, and FarFetch takes care of the whole tricky international delivery logistics, meaning you checkout once no matter how many shops you buy from. They even offer free returns with worldwide collection! Not only does this clever network provide a wonderful platform for small boutique owners, it also widens the choice for customers - you can revisit that fabulous little store you discovered on holiday, and even shop international sales!

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It all started in October 2007 when the former footwear designer and co-founder of established retail names like London's super hot bStore, SIX London and Swear, José Neves, started developing the technology which lead to the entirely proprietary FarFetch.com platform. Jose tells me, "Because of my background in fashion and my existing relationships with independent retailers, we knew where to start and also what would resonate with the boutiques. However, it was difficult to convince people in the beginning, as a market place is hard to get off the ground. We were lucky to launch with 25 top boutiques in the UK, Italy, France and Denmark and from day one we had an amazing range of designer labels and unique products. We launched on the 8th October 2008 during Paris Fashion Week and I think it was our highly ambitious international strategy that was our biggest bet. I had no funding when I decided to launch in four different countries, adding the US just a year after the project was launched, and Brazil straight after. That resulted in a truly global audience and network of boutiques, which we think it's pretty unique and exciting."

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I agree - it really is exciting. FarFetch is the kind of time vacuum site that can suck away hours of your time, happily browsing, without you even noticing. There's so much to explore and compare - "treasure hunting" as Jose describes it - and not just products, you can also read about the boutiques too, giving it a really personal feel. I love that I can buy from my friends' favourite local stores, no matter where they are in the world. Neves is rightly proud to have "the widest designer range out there - 35,000 products on-site at any one time - with hundreds of unique products available online only on farfetch.com."

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One thing that did intrigue me about the site layout was why search results are split into style categories. Jose explains, "We believe that today's fashionistas like to mix & match and nobody dresses in luxury labels from head to toe. We love experimental designers and "off the wall" products. However, we need to be mindful of brand adjacencies. These are important for brands but also make sense for consumers. This is why we created our three departments: Luxe, Lab and Contemporary, it's a bit like floors in a department store."

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I was curious about the destinations not yet represented on the site as, particularly as a sneaker head, an instantly appealing aspect of FarFetch was the ability to get my hot little hands on pieces that would never come out in the UK. Jose confirms, "There are plenty of countries we currently can't support. For example, due to complex customs rules we cannot feature European stores outside the European Union. Then there's Japan, Hong Kong, Korea - all great fashion countries with amazing boutiques. We've learnt it is difficult to add new countries, especially when tax and customs rules change, so these will have to wait for a little while, but we're keeping an eye on this."

Right now Jose and his team are focusing on completing the job they've started, looking to boost the number of underrepresented territories such as Germany and Scandinavia, as well as adding key American boutiques to the FarFetch network. "We need to make sure we deliver in terms of having the best boutiques, with the most exciting fashion products online, so expect to see many new and exciting boutiques in the coming months. That will keep us busy for a while!"

Have a look for yourself at www.farfetch.com

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