Op-Ed: What the FarFetch and the Matches Deals Really Mean

Last week marked not but two major fashion e-commerce deals, in which FarFetch and Matches found new owners. FarFetch was bought by Coupang, aka the Amazon of South Korea, and Matches was bought by Frasers, a large British mass market retailer. Both deals were an embarrassment for the luxury e-tailers, valuing them at a fraction of what they were worth not so long ago. In essence, they were rescue operations. This prompted a slew of reflections from the fashion commentariat about the death of luxury e-commerce. This is wishful thinking, of course, but the two deals mark a good time to reflect on what’s going on in the retail segment of the fashion industry.

How Luxury Fashion Killed the Joy of Shopping

This past summer I went to an Hérmes store on rue St-Honoré in Paris, with the idea of buying a cardholder. The one I wanted was sold out, so I decided to browse the store, which was already full of shoppers at ten in the morning. I was almost on the way out when a thin black leather cuff with a matte black leather buckle caught my eye. Attracted by its subtle elegance, I bought it on the spot. By the time I was done with my tax refund process, the sales associate who was helping me magically appeared at my side, with the cuff gift-wrapped and swaddled inside the iconic orange shopping bag. This was one of my most pleasant shopping experiences of the past several years, and an increasingly rare one.

Op-Ed: Fed Up With Fashion? Try This.

“The real issue is that in the fashion business, it’s almost against the law to tell the truth, and anyone who steps behind the silk curtain to show how raw the business is can expect a rough time. Designers go to grotesque lengths to exaggerate their concepts to the press. And the press is just as guilty when it swallows the bait and spews forth huge headlines. The self-importance of our profession is appalling.”

So wrote John Fairchild in his 1989 biography, Chic Savages (quoted in Teri Agins’s book, The End of Fashion). Fairchild being the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Women’s Wear Daily for decades, I see no reason not to believe him. Another reason not to believe him is that over the past ten years I have increasingly come to feel the same.