We discuss innovation with Carol Hilsum, Senior Director of Product Innovation and Kelly Kowal, Chief Platform Officer at Farfetch.

What do the first 30 mins of your day look like, your morning routine?

CH: Mornings can be hectic, especially with young children around! I know for me, it’s a mad dash to make sure everyone is fed, watered and dressed by the time we all have to leave the house. I’ve found that if I can wake up a bit earlier than everyone else, I can use that time to do my best thinking. I like to spend that time reading substacks and newsletters from fellow innovation builders, product creators, and investor. I jot down notes and thoughts that relate to my own work. I find John Cutler from The Beautiful Mess and Startupy particularly helpful right now. Of course, I usually only get around 30 minutes of clear-thinking time before someone starts asking for breakfast!

KK: I try to have a regular routine in the morning but life can have other plans, especially when travelling for work! Most mornings, I wake up, have coffee while reviewing my calendar to plan my day and then do my workout which is anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour. I always try to take a bit of time for myself in the morning before the day breaks even if it’s only a 5-minute meditation and always with a coffee!

FARFETCH was the first global luxury marketplace – how do you ensure you continually stay ahead of the curve in such a fast-paced industry?

CH: FARFETCH has been a fast-growing company for all of its 14 years and, as such, pace and agility are built into the core of everything we do. In recent years, we’ve developed an open innovation mindset within the company, which means we work very closely with incredible fashion tech founders around the globe who are experimenting and piloting new technology, products and services. By taking this approach, we’re able to see innovation and evolution as it happens and when we see something that we think will enhance the consumer experience or address a clear need, we move quickly to pilot it on the FARFETCH platform. This allows us to test and scale new ideas both on our platform and with our brand partners.

KK: We are constantly listening to and analysing consumer trends to assess where the market is heading. What customers really want lends to our DNA and what is authentic to FARFETCH and, as such, we ensure we always keep the customer at the heart of everything we do. When it comes to online shopping, customers are more hyper connected than ever and always ahead of retailers and as a result, we are focused on constantly innovating and evolving our online customer experience and user journey to ensure the needs of our consumers are being met.

Diversifying our business is also crucial and so that we can take bets on certain trends and be able to offer our customers an unrivalled assortment from the best brands and boutiques around the globe.

We have a number of different avenues when it comes to engagement and retention which are also key. We do look for opportunities where we can bring the offline experience to life by immersing our customers into the world of the many boutiques that sit on the platform and through consumer facing events where we can connect with the FARFETCH community.

How does your role impact innovation at FARFETCH and what are the key goals to lead the charge in terms of innovating in the luxury market?

CH: The luxury industry is all about creativity and beautiful experiences and what is truly exciting is the emergence of technology as a new pillar. We are seeing a new wave of digital experiences driven by the incredible evolution of AI, content creation, and immersive technologies amongst other evolutions. These digital experiences are allowing us to create multisensory luxury experiences that can truly enhance the traditional luxury experiences we know and love.

At FARFETCH, we are on a mission to support and collaborate with the best startups in these areas, who are building the future of luxury experience. By working together, we hope to develop and shape what innovation means for the luxury industry, today and tomorrow. We want to ensure that the sector creates its own innovative future, one that is truly inspiring and pushes the boundaries of what’s possible.

Our goal is to launch new, cutting-edge experiences on the FARFETCH platform that will not only delight customers but also inspire them to be part of this new era of luxury experience.

KK: As Chief Platform Officer, one of the roles that I hold is bringing new requirements and functionality to the platform for our clients. The key goal here is to always add value and, as I mentioned earlier, the client and the customer should always be at the heart of all the decisions on what gets prioritised.

With new trends or technology that appear, it is always important to ask how that maps back into your strategy.  Just because it’s the ‘new thing’ does not mean it will always work for your business or strategy.  We always ask ourselves: what is the benefit that this can bring? Does it solve a problem? Does it unlock a benefit?  If these questions do not have an answer, then it’s probably not the right time to be focusing on that particular initiative.


What are the core pillars/DNA of FARFETCH and how do they relate to your team?

CH: FARFETCH is a values-based company and at the core of our work as a team are two key values: “Be Revolutionary” and “Be Brilliant.” We strive to disrupt the status quo and embrace innovation with a curious mindset. We make courageous decisions and constantly search for new ways to shape the future. Additionally, we strive to be unrivalled in everything we do, with passion and ambition. We don’t let ambiguity or complexity stop us from going the extra mile.

These core values are deeply ingrained in our work and guide us in creating innovative solutions. By staying true to these values, we continue to push boundaries and set new standards in our industry.

KK: Customers are a big part of our DNA and one of our core company values. This is one of the  biggest values for my team, FARFETCH Platform Solutions, as our main focus is to deliver white label technology solutions for brands and retailers utilising the platform capabilities we built for FARFETCH. Therefore, everything we do is about delivering on customer promises.

Being global is also part of our DNA. FARFETCH was global from day one, shipping from 5 different countries into every country around the world.  Global is a big part of why brands and retailers partner with FPS.  Not only do we have the global capabilities but it’s also inherently how we think, how we operate and how we strategically add value.  It’s also not just being able to ship globally but how we are able to localize in different markets and how we are able to drive demand through our digital marketing capabilities, meaning we create the demand in those markets

Innovation is also a core pillar at FARFETCH.  Because our platform runs the marketplace, FF.com, we never stop innovating into our platform as it’s the core piece that sets us apart from our competitors.  We put the customer at the heart of innovation, so we are building features and functionality that ultimately benefit the customer.  We are customer centric.

How does FARFETCH innovate when it comes to content and social and what are the next milestones?

CH: At FARFETCH, we see exciting opportunities for the future of digital experience in luxury. One area of focus is content and social, specifically looking at how user-generated content will evolve for luxury and how it can merge with the current digital shopping experience to drive new ways of shopping and inspiration. Another area of focus is digital fashion, specifically looking at 3D assets and fueled experiences to make the shopping experience more immersive and tactile, such as Virtual Try-Ons and AR experiences that we have launched in recent years. We also see AI-supported shopping as a key area of growth, where AI tools can support human-led shopping and styling services, and there’s even more to come.

What innovation has changed the game in your life, career or business and how so?

CH: I grew up in the 80’s and 90s in a small city in a small country, with a love for fashion and technology but with no realistic opportunity of entering the fashion world, let alone being able to combine these two different interests. I’m so grateful that the evolution of the internet and web-based strategies changed everything for me. It’s amazing to think about how much has changed in such a short period of time and it continues to do so. The work I am doing now did not exist a few years ago and it is inspiring to know that I am a part of this ever-changing cycle of innovation.

I would say that innovation, particularly digital innovation, has changed everything in my life and continues to do so. It has given me the opportunity to pursue my passions and dreams and has opened up a world of possibilities. And the best part is, this is just the beginning.

KK: I’m not sure there is one piece of innovation that I would say has changed my life. It is more about how innovation is adding ease to my life. Everything from smartphones to wearable tech to better apps make one realise how much innovation impacts our day-to-day lives. I am also a big fan of connected homes and how seamless the tech behind this is. For me, it’s more of the mindset of innovation that has changed as well. It used to be tech for tech’s sake or tech to wow. Nowadays, the most valuable innovation has a purpose, it solves a problem and quickly becomes invaluable

What or who is innovative to you and why?

CH: Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with some truly remarkable thinkers and builders, from Jane Shepherdson at Topshop to Natalie Massenet at Net-A -Porter to José Neves at FARFETCH. They have taken their love for our industry and created new ways of thinking and opportunities through their entrepreneurship and unwavering passion. To me, they embody true innovation, not just thinking about it or talking about it, but actually creating it. They have inspired me to understand that innovation is 99% about execution and that it requires hard work and commitment. As Natalie always said, “if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” Their dedication and leadership have been an inspiration to me, and I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work with them all.

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Images: Supplied

– For more on luxury lifestyle, news, fashion and beauty follow Emirates Woman on Facebook and Instagram

Images: Supplied