Natalie Massenet: Creating a Legacy
By Yasmin Jones-Henry
In Platforms and Protégés, I noted the need for philanthropy to move out of the realm of celebrity donations – and into the realm of corporate culture and everyday life. Taken from the ancient Greek words ‘Philo’ (love) and ‘Anthropos’(mankind): the love of mankind should be standard practice for every citizen. The notion of philanthropy stems not from wealth or fiscal bounty, but from a person’s intent. If you have read my story, you will know the degree to which promoting platforms that support the next generation of talent is a personal passion. I have been the recipient of benefactors and mentors and as I have stated many times before – but for their support I would never have plucked up the courage to pursue journalism or to build this website in 2016.
When it comes to a person’s legacy, my father would always tell me as a child to be mindful of what history will say about me when I am no longer here. What difference did you make? Did you leave the world in a better place than when you found it? Or did you simply pursue the common quest for accumulating material possessions? This question ‘What will history say about you?’ is where the hashtag #CreateYourLegacy originally came from. Yes. Once again – I am borrowing phrases from my parents. As it happens – they are full of useful oneliners – but I digress. My intention from the inception of @Workinfashion.me was to create a resource that reminded people (not just millennials) to be mindful of their contribution to the universe.
Fashion – as I’m sure you all know by now (I say this in every article) is derivative of the latin ‘Facere’ meaning ‘to do or to make’- the word is much more expansive than people realise. What are you making? Who are you creating it for? Who will benefit from it? Artists create art – first, for themselves (it is after all the epitome of self-expression) but also for the edification of the viewer. I would like to think businesses work the same way. Entrepreneurs often stumble across an idea or a solution to a problem – that also benefits the consumer. In a world of capitalism that is defined not by greed but by ethics, this forms the perfect equilibrium of functionality and the aesthetic.
I find beauty in problem solving. I find beauty in the hustle. I love watching people who are able to create. My interest in art and fashion as a child stemmed from an attraction or perhaps even an admiration for the creative inventiveness with which people can reinterpret and reconfigure the world around them. At school, I had as much passion for art as I did for economics. To me they are one in the same. So, when I heard that Natalie Massenet, founder of Net-a-Porter and co-Chairman of Farfetch was launching a new venture capital fund supporting early stage start ups within the retail and tech hemisphere, my heart skipped a beat.
I make no apology for being a fan of Massenet. As an entrepreneur and visionary she has changed the face of fashion forever. In 2000, the concept of using the internet to purchase the clothes you see in Vogue was nothing short of revolutionary. The arrival of Net-a-Porter dragged both the luxury retail houses and publishers into the 21st century. We the consumer have benefited from her willingness to explore new territories, finding new solutions to enable consumer comfort. Next time you order your new pair of Jimmy Choos online – spare a thought for the pioneers who spent time and money working out the logistics to make that possible.
At the time she stepped down from her role at the Net-a-Porter group, the group recorded net revenues of just under a $1billion. Many would have been content to retire with those accomplishments and accolades. But in February of last year she announced she was joining Net-A-Porter’s rival Farfetch in the capacity of non executive Co-Chairman. She supports its founder Jose Neves in his mission to grow the global brand. Speaking at an fdi event in London last summer, he too expressed a devotion for creating platforms that supports the artisan and improves the consumers shopping experience.
This need for accessibility seems to be one of the driving forces behind Massenet’s latest creation Imaginary. The $75 million venture capital fund is focused on supporting early stage direct to consumer businesses. With her partner Nick Brown, Massenet is moving into the realm of sustainability as they both find new ways to utilise their hard won industry knowledge to support the next generation of entrepreneurial talent.
By creating an ecosystem of new, eclectic and diverse ventures that range from fashion retail, food and beverage to lifestyle, the Imaginary portfolio begins to paint a picture of what the global economy could look like if more benefactors adopted this concept of looking to the future.
“Online discovery and distribution platforms have made it easier to launch a business, but equally it’s made it even more challenging for them to thrive in the long term.” Massenet explains, “The businesses that will endure, will be those that build their strategies around an authentic understanding of their consumers and never lose sight of them as they grow. This is at the heart of all the emerging brands, platforms and retail solutions that we are investing in.” The desire to create sustainable long term success in business – illustrates a mentality that is philanthropic at its core. Their ethos benefits not only the investors but society as a whole, as they supply the consumer with a wider selection of companies that have an ethical basis.
Changing the culture of business from the root, by default changes the economy. Many are content to moan, complain and protest about the state of the global economy, others choose to invest in change. Just as Sarah Mower’s collaboration with Liberty’s in London provided a visual paradigm of what society ought to do in context to creating new spaces and platforms supporting the next generation; with Imaginary, Massenet looks to set a new trend. Once again, as with Net-a-Porter, when the history books are opened on the pages covering those who redefined this new era in commerce, next to the name ‘Natalie Massenet’ will feature these words: “After she won, she changed the game”.
For more information about Imaginary visit: https://imaginary.co/
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