Carmen Busquets is a Venezuelan pioneer luxury and fashion entrepreneur. She is involved with Internet fashion and is known for being a co-founder investor, and board director of Net-a-Porter until 2010, when she sold the majority of her shares to Richemont Group. She is also the founder of CoutureLab. Busquets retains a 2.3% stake in Net-a-Porter; she is also a board member and investor of Astley Clarke and an early investor of Moda Operandi, Maiyet, The Business of Fashion, Lyst and ASAP 54.
Carmen Busquets was born in Venezuela. She was educated in Venezuela, England, Canada and the United States, and she majored in science and arts before studying marketing and advertising at the University of Miami.
In 1990, Busquets opened a high fashion boutique in Caracas, Venezuela called Cabus. Following a 10-year ban on foreign imports, it became the first store in Venezuela to stock Europe’s top designers and rapidly developed a prestigious international client base. Busquets then began to sell couture from photographs taken at European catwalk shows to private clients in Venezuela and across the globe. Her success was such that it propelled her interest in e-commerce and the Internet.
In 1997, at the beginning of the dot-com bubble, Busquets started to build her small private stock-portfolio of Internet investments. She also co-founded two private online start-ups during the Internet bubble, an experience that taught her the importance of being a responsible investor and only partnering with other responsible investors.
Busquets was a co-founder investor and an original board director of Net-a-Porter, investing an initial £250,000 in 2000 against the opinion of her advisers. While backing Net-a-Porter, Busquets personally vouched for its creditworthiness to designers with whom she had long-standing relationships. Over a five-year period, she increased her stake to £5.9 million. In 2003, realising the importance of securing a strategic partner for the company, she temporarily gave up her pre-emptive investor rights in order to let Richemont Group become a co-investor. She gained her rights back once Richemont had invested in the company. For seven years, Busquets and Richemont remained controlling co-investors, each with a 30% shareholding and both playing a pivotal role in growing the value of the company. In 2010, Busquets exercised her controlling rights and was instrumental in the successful sale of Net-a-Porter to Richemont Group for £350 million. She retains a 2.3% shareholding in the business.
In 2006, Busquets founded CoutureLab as a “laboratory of ideas” and a brand focused on supporting craftsmanship and heritage. CoutureLab is an e-commerce gift website, which sells rare products from around the world, made by specialist craftsmen, artists, designers and brands. Busquets’s aim is to offer a unique selection of expertly curated products, to support some of world’s top creative talents and educate consumers about the story behind the product.
CoutureLab has an extensive international clientele and a global reach. The company delivers to over 128 countries in 72 hours (or less), processing payments in multiple currencies. CoutureLab works with more than 100 designers and 80% of the products are handcrafted. The integrity of the brand has earned CoutureLab strong customer loyalty, with return rates as high as 60%. The CoutureLab website receives over 25,000 visitors per month from 65 countries worldwide. In 2008, some first-time buyers were spending £10,000, and the value of the average order was £1,000.
In April 2012, CoutureLab launched its gifting service GiftLab, increasing CoutureLab’s range of products and establishing several key distribution partnerships online.
In May 2011, Busquets won the Individual Outstanding Achievement at the Luxury Briefing Awards. The award recognized her vision to invest in selling fashion online in the early days of the Internet, her substantial value addition to Net-a-Porter culminating in its successful sale, and the creation of CoutureLab, with its focus on craftsmanship. In 2012, Busquets was a member of the jury at the 16th annual Luxury Briefing Awards held at the Corinthia Hotel London.
On 11 November 2011, Busquets spoke at the International Herald Tribune’s Luxury Business Conference at Hotel Unique in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Busquets discussed how her Latin American background has equipped her with the skills required to achieve commercial success and her views on the union of sustainability, community and luxury.
On 19 March 2012 at the Sommet du Luxe et de la Création in Paris, Busquets and other notable figures from the luxury trade industry discussed the tension between global brands and luxury labels.
In July 2008, the New York Times quoted Busquets who was discussing Net-a-porter at Paris Fashion Week: “I never invested in Net-a-Porter with the thought that I would be one of the major investors. I was quite open to being one of the minor investors. But since nobody believed in Internet companies after 2000, it turned out that I had to be the major investor, because I was the only one to believe in it.”
In August 2012, Wallpaper magazine published an article by Imran Amed, founder and editor of The Business of Fashion, reviewing London’s growing technology and fashion scenes. Amed identifies Busquets as being among a handful of investors who: “cashed in during the UK’s Internet 1.0 wave and are now actively investing in the next generation of start-ups.”
In September 2012, the New York Times published Fashion’s New Order, a select list of 37 individuals including designers, retailers, editors and stylists who have “changed the way we see fashion in the 21st century”. Busquets was included in the Fashion’s New Order list alongside Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet and fashion mogul Bernard Arnault.
In May 2013, Vogue profiled Busquets in an article written by Elisabetta Tudor regarding her investment in pre-owned fashion marketplace BuyMyWardrobe
In May 2013, The Business of Fashion published an article titled “Carmen Busquets Enters Fashion ‘Re-Commerce’ Space with BuyMyWardrobe Investment”
In May 2013, Styl.sh published an article titled “Carmen Busquets invests in BuyMyWardrobe”
In May 2013, WWB published an article titled “Carmen Busquets invests in BuyMyWardrobe”
In September 2013, The Business Of Fashion featured Busquets in the BoF 500: a list of the 500 most influential names in the global fashion industry. This new list was described as “an innovative, multi-channel initiative, exploring the people shaping the global fashion industry, curated by the editors of BoF and powered by social media.”