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Today Federico Marchetti presents his book at the Emporio Armani Café in Milan; tomorrow he will be in Breganze (Vicenza) to talk about it with Renzo Rosso. There is nothing accidental: Giorgio Armani (who also signs the preface) and the founder of the Otb group are among the most cited people in The adventures of an innovator (Longanesi), the biography that Marchetti – known above all as the founder of Yoox , the first truly European and global fashion e-commerce site – wrote with Daniela Hamaui. The title is almost misleading, because the book starts from his childhood in Ravenna, where Marchetti was born in 1969, and reaches the present day, building several bridges towards the personal and professional future of a 54-year-old who seems to have retained his curiosity and resourcefulness of the child who ran to the newsstand to buy the new “Mickey Mouse”, devoured it and then resold it to friends. Two characteristics tempered, not already blunted, by his “adventures as an innovator” and to which Federico Marchetti combined first of all a very solid education (degree from Bocconi and master’s degree from Columbia in New York).
He says he has had the myth of the United States and the American dream since before university, without perhaps knowing what it would have meant to him. But if by American dream we mean achieving exceptional goals (the «New York Times» defined Marchetti as «the man who brought fashion to the web») without shortcuts or acquired privileges, the definition fits perfectly. The invitation repeated countless times in the book to young people, understood as people who are thinking about how to build their independence, primarily economic, is not to be afraid, to remain foolish (in memory of Steve Jobs, obviously) and at the same time focused on a goal. A meritorious and certainly sincere and heartfelt invitation, but it is as if Marchetti – he himself admits it in a passage of the book – had never left behind the “impostor syndrome”, that sensation whispered by internal, rather than external, demons of don’t really deserve what you’ve earned. Instead he seems to be able to say that the founder of Yoox is the living example of how meritocracy exists even in Italy. Born in 2000, taken to the stock exchange in 2009, then merged with the then main competitor Net-a-porter into Ynap and finally sold to Richemont, the third largest luxury group in the world after LVMH and Kering, Yoox is the fruit – perhaps unrepeatable – of enthusiasm, curiosity and trust in people, as well as in innovation (“I have two souls that coexist with serenity – he writes -. I believe in technology and in a new humanism”). However, courage, coherence and, yes, greatness of soul and, last but not least, self-irony are also part of alchemy. Even on this characteristic Marchetti takes refuge in understatement, attributing the ease in personal relationships to his being from Romagna. While empathy has been carefully cultivated: the list of gifts with which Marchetti presents himself at important meetings is amusing, from the one with Johann Rupert, president of Richemont, to the birthday one for King Charles III.
The book describes in detail the period from 2000 to July 2021, when the founder of Yoox left Ynap, of which he was CEO at the time, but many of the facts mentioned are known to those who have followed the history of e-commerce in fashion. Even more interesting are the (few) lines dedicated to close encounters with Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Sergio Marchionne and others: Polaroids that tell more than a thousand news articles or stock market news. Then there are passages that concern people about whom those who work in fashion – and not only – already know a lot, from Armani and Rosso to Franca Sozzani, from Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to Anna Wintour. But it is a discreet and at the same time profound and, once again, human look. Marchetti admits all his mistakes, small and large, identifies the wrong matches and what he defines as “lack of timing”, but does not seem to feel resentment towards anyone, nor regrets, perhaps even more importantly.
Except one: that Elserino Piol, the man who first financed Yoox’s “crazy idea” and for whom he says he owes the greatest debt of gratitude, has recently passed away and cannot read the book. Marchetti was also a pioneer on sustainability, when no one was talking about it. He shares the dream of a fashion that is more respectful of the environment and people with King Charles. Let’s hope his alchemical touch turns the dream into reality.