When Uri and Rebecca Minkoff began their handbag company in 2005, Uri Minkoff, chief executive officer, said they were outsiders. There were a few brands, editors and stores that dominated their space and he described it as a “dictatorship.”
What the brother-sister duo realized was there was almost a casting system to be carried by stores or featured in magazines. He said there was a total change of guard in other spaces such as film and music, but it hadn’t happened in fashion yet. But eventually, peer networks started to rise in the fashion industry, which would wrest power away from the older guard, said Minkoff, who was the keynote speaker at Collab/17, presented by Bloglovin’.
Minkoff recalled that in 2005, 2006 and 2007, it was the beginning of social media. The Minkoffs would spend a lot of time answering questions on blogs, and stores would question what in the world they were doing and why. The reality was that the power was moving into the hands of its customers.
Minkoff said his company has tried to do interesting partnerships and establish relationships with influencers, such as The Blonde Salad. When The Blonde Salad launched e-commerce earlier this year, Minkoff did some items for the site, which sold really well. He said Minkoff wanted her audience, and they wanted the designer’s audience.
They also started doing events and offering 360-degree experiences that drove traffic. Minkoff described the trajectory of the company’s -see-now-buy-now shows, which “for us, has been the most amazing thing we’ve done.”
“We work in handbags, but we started selling clothing like we never did before,” he said. He said Minkoff has seen “huge spikes around user-generated content,” and the company decided to feature influencers in its shows. “We really see the bloggers and influencers at the forefront of where this industry is going,” he said.
Following the speech, Minkoff told WWD that the company relaunched its web site on Wednesday, using Shopify Plus. “What we loved about it is how easy it is for everyone in the organization to interact with the platform. It’s a lot less complicated,” he said. He said it’s geared toward mobile first and integrates social and mobile pay platforms such as Apple Pay and Alipay. Minkoff’s site, with new creative and back-end, now has a new look and feel to it. “The biggest advantage is our ability to tell a much more constant narrative. Social media has changed shopping patterns, and we’re at the beginning now of how social is going to be integrated more with e-commerce, having a constant narrative.”
In another session entitled “From Blog to Business,” Kate Barnett, president of Man Repeller, and Riccardo Pozzoli, ceo and cofounder of The Blonde Salad, discussed their strategies to grow from blogs to full-blown media businesses. The discussion was moderated by Kamiu Lee of Bloglovin’.
Barnett joined Man Repeller in 2011, a year after Leandra Medine began her fashion blog. Barnett’s role was to monetize the site and she was named president last year. Pozzoli joined The Blonde Salad in 2009, at its inception. He and Chiara Ferragni founded the site together, combining business and content.
“It’s been an interesting revolution. When we started, influencers weren’t a thing. It was a blogger moment,” Pozzoli said. “The blog was the real central business,” he said. Today, The Blonde Salad has a fashion and travel magazine, e-commerce and social media. “Instagram is the real focus of our editorial strategy,” he said.
Talking about how they connect their community to shopping on their web site, Barnett said Man Repeller has built an audience and community where they know Man Repeller and they know each other. “It gives us a sense of what content will and what won’t do well. At this point, we can be pretty tailored…and [know] what products that can drive conversions for them,” she said.
Pozzoli believes that his business is different from Man Repeller in that Ferragni is the personal focus of their network. She has 10.5 million followers on her Ferragni Instagram, and The Blonde Salad has 379,000 followers. Pozzoli said Ferragni is in front of their network, whereas he believes Medine is behind the big media brand.
“Surprising for me to hear that you think Leandra Medine is behind the scenes of Man Repeller. I don’t think of it that way,” Barnett said. She said on social media, Man Repeller has a bigger following — 1.9 million followers on Instagram — than Medine’s personal following. “Man Repeller was Leandra’s handle and a few years ago she created her own handle, too,” Barnett said. They want Man Repeller to last beyond any of them.
The panelists were asked how they plan to expand their brands and become even more of a full-blown media companies while staying true to their brand.
Barnett said when they do something, there has to be a reason that’s authentic and makes sense. For example, they organized a three-day summer camp in the Adirondacks which sold out in two days with 150 people attending. She said it was a way to test a large-scale event and for its community to connect with each other. Man Repeller also launched Podcasts last year.
Pozzoli said that the brand has diversified with a magazine, shopping and a Chiara Ferragni collection. “For us, travel has always been a big thing,” he said. He noted that the travel content has always been appreciated and they’re considering a travel guide.
Barnett said they’ve done a lot of small tests with product, but haven’t quite figured out how to do something at scale that feels good and makes sense for them.
Pozzoli said he got an e-mail on Wednesday from Maison Martin Margiela, which has a store in front of the Chiara Ferragni Collection store it opened two weeks ago in Milan and is suing them. He said the Ferragni store brought 5,000 people into the opening, and Margiela claims they didn’t sell anything at their store.
Asked what’s next for their respective businesses, Barnett said they just launched their first secondary vertical on Instagram for Man Repeller to highlight pieces that its editors love.
Pozzoli said he’s trying to scale all the company’s business units. “I don’t think that the publishing business unit will be $100 million. The Blonde Salad e-commerce can be a $100 million business and the Chiara Ferragni collection is a big thing. We’re going to open 40 stores in the next 18 months,” he said. They will be CF Collection stores, mainly in Asia.