LAUNCHPAD: Condé Nast buys stake in fashion site

Vogue's parent company is getting into online retail. Is this the beginning of a trend for publishing companies?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 20 Sep 2013
Condé Nast, the company behind Vogue and GQ, has bought a stake in Vestiaire Collective, the French online marketplace for luxury second-hand clothes. The publishing house is part of a consortium of bidders including Balderton Capital, Ventech and Idinvest Partners, which has made a $20m investment in the firm.

Make no mistake, this is no Oxfam: second-hand designer clothes and accessories – particularly handbags – are seen as highly collectible by members of the fashion glitterati, and some of the vintage pieces on the site go for hundreds of thousands of pounds. At the moment, a white gold and mother of pearl Van Cleef Alhambra necklace on the site will set you back £6,500, while an Hermès Kelly bag costs just under £5,000.

And the site is incredibly discerning about what it offers up for sale: it rejects almost half of the items people offer to weed out poor quality and bootlegged items.

It may seem like an odd fit for a company that has built its fortune on magazines, but Condé Nast has taken a strong interest in technology startups. It’s set aside $500m to invest in small firms, and over the past couple of years has bought stakes in dress rental site Rent the Runway, and Farfetch.com, which allows people to buy from boutiques on the other side of the world.

In fact, the company argues that the line between online retail and editorial is becoming increasingly blurred.

‘There is a whole new world arising in ecommerce. There’s a huge opportunity to expand our business,’ pointed out Mortiz von Laffert, Condé Nast International’s vice president.

Just look at the likes of Asos, which is essentially an ecommerce site, but also has its own in-house magazine, while parts of its website offer trend advice to readers – just like a fashion magazine. So wide are consumers’ choices on the site – it has about 60,000 products – that its magazine is just as comprehensive as any of its rivals.

The Devil may wear Prada, but in the not-too-distant future, it’s going to be what she’s selling that counts.

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