Rebecca Minkoff And The ‘Store Of The Future’
As the Millennial-favorite label looks to launch a fashion-tech VC fund, its founders discussed why investing in in-store experiences makes sense of retailers of all stripes.
Designer Rebecca Minkoff is set to launch a fashion tech venture capital firm with Quotidian Ventures in order to identify new tech talent — a move likely aimed at nurturing the kind of startups and tech enterprises that enabled Minkoff to create the Rebecca Minkoff connected flagship stores back in early 2015.
Rebecca Minkoff and CEO & co-founder Uri Minkoff, her brother, took the stage alongside Quotidan Venture’s Pedro Torres-Mackie at the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” to discuss the new project. But while a fashion designer entering the world of tech funding might seem unorthodox, the project was actually born out of the same struggle facing physical businesses of all stripes: How can retailers create a store experiences that truly engages today’s connected consumer?
Minkoff, a Millennial herself, may have found part of the answer in her connected “store of the future” concept. The privately-held company operates fewer than 20 stores worldwide — though accessories are also sold through some department stores — allowing a more narrow focus on designing immersive digital experiences.
The connected stores feature smart walls that suggest new styles when customers enter the space, smart mirrors in dressing rooms that allow shoppers to browse for other sizes or save their shopping activity for the future, and more. The Minkoff siblings developed the store concept a little over two years ago, likely in partnership with the same kind of tech entities that the new VC fund hopes to back.
“Back in 2014, we [tried] to ask, ‘what will the store of the future be?’ How could we take the best of the ecommerce experience and bring it into the store?” Uri Minkoff explained in the panel discussion. “What were the human elements that were uncomfortable shopping in store that [are solved] online? The first part [we came up with] is that everything was RFID tagged. Basically, when you walk into the fitting room, everything that you brought into the fitting room is there on the fitting room mirror. You can order things brought to the fitting room right from in there; all the communication is done via touch.”
As “traditional” brick-and-mortar retailers revamp their physical spaces and build omnichannel strategies in hopes of reversing a sales downturn and achieving the sort of success experienced by online-to-offline pioneers — like Blue Nile, which created physical showrooms with digital “extras” from the best of its ecommerce experience — it’s possible that more will turn to partnerships with the sort of retail-focused, connected tech startups that the Minkoffs are fostering.
“It’s really been a phenomenal experience for us for the last two years,” Uri Minkoff said. “We’re looking forward to the [next] step.”