Business Leader Q&A: Farly – a sustainable fashion-tech social marketplace

Business Leader recently did a Q&A with Farleigh Hungerford, founder of sustainable shopping platform Farly.

How did you go from inviting friends round to buy clothes pieces to launching Farly?

Farly was born from a reaction to fast fashion and in particular, some fashion waste that I experienced first-hand when creating my own fashion brand.

I used to live in LA where I spent weekends trawling flea markets from Silverlake to Downtown collecting one-of-kind treasures. Clothes, earthenware, cutlery, even skateboards. With zero storage in my one-bedroom Venice flat, I would hang my finds on my living room wall. Before long – friends started asking if they could buy this and that, which inspired my ‘Friday: shop my wall’ project. It was sociable, collaborative and it encouraged recycling. And this is what we’ve recreated, digitally, with Farly.

My impromptu ‘shop my wall’ experience taught me something really important: that we still trust and value our friends’ recommendations the most. That and the belief that it’s possible to own beautiful products and take care of our planet at the same time are at the heart of Farly. It’s our mission to bring you carefully curated products that promote conscious, non-planet littering shopping on a platform driven by the power of trusted recommendations.

This was the start of a new journey for me and the creation of Farly – a sustainable fashion-tech social marketplace.

What barriers did you face when starting your business?

I’ve so far managed to build a solid team around me, have made product developments to the tech side to give a more exciting and creative user experience. The most challenging aspect now is raising investment. Farly has been bootstrapped thus far and whilst pitches are happening, I would like to see more money being invested in women-led start-ups particularly as in 2019, 2.8% of funding went to women-led startups; whilst in 2020, that fell to 2.3% according to Crunchbase figures.

Nonetheless, there is interest in Farly so I am confident that funding will happen soon.

How have you managed to overcome these barriers?

There has been a lot of time spent networking which has been great for spreading the word about Farly. I have met some fantastic like-minded entrepreneurs who have given me some good advice and put me in touch with industry connections and through various conversations, there has been some very positive feedback. In fact, despite the earlier challenges faced, Farly has managed to raise interest from investors so we look forward to being able to announce investment opportunities soon.

Have you seen a noticeable shift to vintage and second-hand clothing over the last decade?

Yes definitely! The results of environmental damage paralleling a desire to protect the planet has also resulted in generations now wanting alternative ways to live sustainably. This has led to an increase in second-hand goods as people try to reduce, reuse and recycle. People are rethinking ways to protect our natural world socially, economically, and environmentally and that includes how we manufacture, shop and interact with products.

Major changes in consumers habits have shown trends are no longer dictated by brands but more by individuals. The impact of Covid and job losses means now more than ever people are starting to value good curation as we start to appreciate a more considered product curation- being influenced by one’s social followers and community is helping drive this. People want to portray their individualism, set their own trends – all while being eco-conscious. We believe Gen-Z’s social shopping habits will continue to grow.

We believe there will be an eventual move away from fast fashion products to more responsibly sourced sustainable products and everyone will want to do more to look after the planet and products we buy. Ideally these changes will dramatically increase the life-cycle of garments, promote a circular economy and reduce carbon-cost-per-use. “

What trends are you currently seeing in the online vintage shopping world?

I’m seeing trends in people looking for logo t-shirts, flares, embroidered knitwear, blouses, and bright colours. Then there are timeless pieces like little black dresses, white shirts, denim, oversized blazers and iconic t shirts which are always very popular throughout the year so there will always be a demand for those.

Has your business been affected by the pandemic?

As a mainly online company, Farly, was not impacted negatively during the pandemic – in fact, quite the opposite as we found that during Covid lockdowns, people found that they had the time to sort out their vintage and second hand clothes and were able to use this to earn extra cash in a year that many people suffered job losses. The number of sellers on the site increased by 20% and we found that people were spending longer on the site too.

Another thing we noticed is that the creative element of the site, where users can design their shop windows how they wish and take advice on how best to take pictures of their clothes has apparently been a good outlet for easing stress or anxiety during lockdown too. So much so that we decided to extend this by making changes to the website to give users even more creative control, giving them time to wind down and be even more creative. The only thing which did affect us negatively is probably not being able to go and visit vintage markets but we are more than making up for this now!

What are your plans for the future?

We would like to continue to build on the Farly platform and give users continuous improvements – such as a better user experience, a strong community, greater user acquisitions and retention, great products and content, and good growth strategies. We also want to expand our team further, collaborate with ambassadors, launch initiatives with charity partners as well as explore new territories so that we reach out to those that have yet to hear about us.

As an entrepreneur, the work will never stop – I will always be thinking ahead of how to take Farly further in all dimensions so that we see Farly pioneering a new kind of shopping online.