“IFA Paris helped me to understand my passion for all things digital and e-commerce!”
Ukraine born polyglot Valeria Bondar who graduated from IFA Paris with an MBA in Fashion Business, joined the British online ecosystem and “technology platform for luxury fashion” Farfetch, a global digital marketplace covering 13 languages and available in 190 countries worldwide, 1000 fashion brands and creators in womenswear, menswear, kidswear, vintage, fine watches and fine jewelry.
Michel Temman: You speak Chinese and became an affiliate and China based marketer of Farfetch. Let’s talk about it. But first, tell us who you are? Where do you come from? What is your academic and professional background?
Valeria Bondar: I come from Ukraine but consider myself to be half Chinese by this point, as I have spent almost 8 years working in China and studying, and most of my professional experience comes from the Chinese market background. In 2016, I graduated from IFA Paris’ MBA Fashion Business program and I currently work as an affiliate marketer for Farfetch (over a year to date) and was happy to witness the company’s New York IPO and many of the exciting changes pre- and post-IPO. Before coming to Farfetch, I used to work for VIP.com as well as a Shanghai designer brand named Helen Lee, both times in the digital marketing and e-commerce related roles. I have a degree in Chinese linguistics and could have become an interpreter if I weren’t so fascinated with fashion. Actually, speaking the language gives a huge advantage in this job market, but I wouldn’t say it is the most important skill. I’ve found a combination of knowledge of the local culture, language and market insights with a Western mindset very helpful in all of my past professional endeavors, as that way one can truly become the bridge between the East and the West – either for Chinese companies who are looking to expand overseas, or for Western companies looking to enter China.
M.T.: When was the click? When did your fascination for fashion or luxury start? How did you get into it and about which fashion are we exactly talking about?
Valeria Bondar: My mother used to be a seamstress, so I grew up surrounded by fashion magazines, fabrics and sketches. I was also scouted at the age of 6 by a local kids modeling agency, so I guess that pretty much determined my path in life. Modeling since early age helped me get to know many people in the industry, but wasn’t of much interest to me as a full time occupation. So I turned to fashion business instead, and that’s how I decided to pursue a degree in fashion.
By the time I interviewed for IFA Paris’ MBA program with Jean-Baptiste Andréani (Managing Director of IFA Paris, ndlr), I had industry connections and some experience, mostly in China, but didn’t know where I exactly belonged: buying, merchandising, PR, digital or elsewhere… By the way, I still owe Mr Andréani a big thank you, since it was him who directed me towards the Fashion Business major instead of Luxury Brand Management: half a year into my classes I realized I made the best choice possible, as LBM had a slightly different focus on hard luxury, as opposed to designer and contemporary fashion. IFA Paris helped me understand my passion for all things digital, and e-commerce in particular. Before I even finished my Capstone project, I landed a job at Helen Lee, which I still think was a super ambitious step for me. I helped the brand establish their e-commerce operations from scratch starting with packaging and ending with customer service. Fashion also fascinates me because it is one of the few industries where women have such amazing career opportunities and such a large share of voice – something that many companies, even larger ones, still struggle with.
M.T.: Farfetch is known, when it comes to human resources, for “empowering individuality.” How did you actually join Farfetch a year ago?
Valeria Bondar: In fact, it wasn’t my first time applying for a position at Farfetch, but I guess the most successful one in the end. I was at VIP.com at the time, and although it was a great company to be in as well, as soon as I saw the opening at Farfetch, I knew I had to try again, especially since the position was a perfect fit for what I did already. So after 4 months and numerous rounds of interviews, I relocated back to Shanghai from Guangzhou.
M.T.: What is your title, your role and what exactly are your missions there?
Valeria Bondar: My title is Senior Affiliates & Partnerships Executive, which is a complicated-sounding title to many who are not familiar with e-commerce. This division of marketing is very young and immature in China (unlike the West), which probably explains why this position was not filled for more than a year before I was hired. In a nutshell, it is a type of partner digital marketing, that helps both you and your partners generate revenue in sales and commissions, so your partners are always motivated to perform better because their very own earnings depend on it.
It’s a win-win situation. I absolutely love it because first and foremost, unlike many digital marketing disciplines, it’s about building trustful close relationships with your partners and affiliates – only that way they are bound to be profitable. Strong offline partnerships in combination with smart data usage and continuous tech innovation make this discipline super challenging and exciting.
M.T.: How did this top-notch marketing experience with Farfetch change your vision about the fashion planet? And what did you learn the most?
Valeria Bondar: I guess my biggest learning in my current role – and previous ones as well -, is the way offline interactions still impact us in the digital age. Data and technology are indeed very directional, but fashion in itself remains a product of creativity – something algorithms cannot replicate. At the same time, no matter how innovative the company is tech-wise, interpersonal communications and team execution remain keys to success. It is a true blessing to work alongside so many brilliant people collaborating, generating ideas and executing them on so many levels. I am convinced people working in fashion are some of the most motivated and passionate, because the industry is a huge and constant source of inspiration in itself!
For more information on Valeria’s program at IFA Paris, please see: MBA in Fashion Business