Less than a year after Condé Nast relaunched Style.com as a fashion e-commerce site, the company is closing the business and forging a new strategic partnership with Farfetch. Style.com will discontinue operations, effective immediately, and the site’s URL will redirect to Farfetch.com. Farfetch has acquired Style.com’s trademark, intellectual property and customer database.
“As an early investor in Farfetch, this partnership is the next step in our evolving business relationship. It further unites two leaders in their respective sectors, combining best-in-class content with the world’s leading online luxury shopping destination,” said Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive of Condé Nast International, who is joining the board of Farfetch.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed and the fate of Style.com’s 75 employees — including the company’s president Franck Zayan and fashion director Yasmin Sewell — could not be reached, though it is expected that most of them will lose their jobs. Some will have the opportunity to interview for open positions at Farfetch.
Condé Nast had planned to invest $100 million in the new Style.com over the first four years of the venture but this recent news reflects a major reversal for the media giant, which has been trying to create new revenue streams in response to declining print advertising sales. Style.com employed a marketplace model, providing a platform for brands and shoppers to connect, without taking on the risk and expense of buying inventory. But the company has faced serious challenges and industry observers have questioned both its underlying business model and execution, noting the number of major brands missing from the platform.
Condé Nast’s new e-commerce strategy seems to underscore the challenges legacy media players face in building technology companies from scratch. By partnering with Farfetch, a leader in e-commerce and technology, Condé Nast appears to be embracing a new approach by which the company is able to focus on its core competency in content, while selectively investing in and forging partnerships with e-commerce companies.
The publishing powerhouse was an early investor in Farfetch—as well as Moda Operandi, Rent The Runway and Vestiaire Collective—leading at $20 million in investment in Farfetch in 2013, and participating in subsequent funding rounds as Farfetch went on to raise more than $300 million. The new partnership with Farfetch, a platform that connects consumers with a curated network of boutiques and brands, is the first sign that the company’s strategic investments in tech companies are paying off.
Condé Nast says it continues to believe in Style.com’s fundamental vision to integrate content and commerce, harvesting the purchase intent generated by the publisher’s hundreds of style-focused media titles with a seamless path between inspiration and transaction. The partnership with Farfetch aims to seamlessly connect Condé Nast’s digital and social media content with products from boutiques and brands on the Farfetch platform.