Natalie Massenet made headlines in 2015 when she jumped ship from Net-a-Poter, the e-commerce giant she founded 15 years prior. The move, which set the fashion industry abuzz, came just ahead of the finalization of the merger of Net-a-Porter and fellow e-commerce site Yoox, which joined to create the multi-billion-dollar online retailer giant known as YNAP. In the wake, Massenet joined former rival FarFetch and as she confirmed this week, she has another job on the table: Co-founder of a buzzy new venture capital firm Imaginary Ventures, which she launched with New York-based investor Nick Brown.
Imaginary Ventures will spend its initial $75 million in funding on “early stage, direct-to-consumer brands at the intersection of retail and technology.” So far, the brands on the receiving end of Imaginary Ventures’ cash – which was raised in a closed round from the likes of Tom and Ruth Chapman, co-founders and joint chairmen of Net-a-Porter competitor Matchesfashion.com, and Rick Caruso of the Caruso Real Estate Group – are beauty, wellness, food and beverage, lifestyle and fashion companies.
You probably know some of their names. There is direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier, the eco-apparel startup Everlane, Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede’s denim label Good American, buzzy sustainable fashion brand Reformation, and Farfetch.
The latter two brands serve as the latest reminder that the fashion industry is an increasingly small circle run by the same handfuls of individuals and firms. In terms of Farfetch, it seems that Massenet is keeping her friends close, as she currently serves as the co-chairman of the board for the London-based e-commerce site, alongside Farfetch founder Jose Neves. As for Reformation, it is one of the brands that has received investment from Miroslava Duma’s Future Tech Lab, the board and advisors for which read like a who’s who of the fashion industry.
In the relatively recent past, the Los Angeles-based brand, which was founded in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, also landed capital from 14W, a New York-based venture firm that focuses on consumer tech in the fashion and e-commerce sectors, where Imaginary Ventures co-founder Nick Brown was a partner. As noted by TechCrunch, in his time at 14W, Brown’s investment deals included: the shoe company Allbirds and the eyewear company Warby Parker. Others of 14W’s many bets include Reformation, Moda Operandi, Goop, The RealReal, Maple, Lola and Outdoor Voices.
It will be interesting to see if any of those other brands, such as luxury consignment site The RealReal or upscale pre-sale company Moda Operandi, are also brought under the umbrella of the brand new Imaginary Ventures.