It’s time to cut the fluff. That was one of the underpinning themes that emerged at this past weekend’s Girlboss Rally, which requires getting to the root of what Millennial and Gen Zers want out of their brands: a community experience, rich in authenticity and maybe a little unpolished. The spacious Knockdown Center warehouse in Queens, N.Y., was furnished with unpretentious signage of minimal lettering atop plywood and flanked with geometric pastel fixtures, was rather a physical iteration of a long-enduring digital presence.
Already in its second year, Girlboss Rally NYC welcomed more than 1,000 attendees from 31-plus countries and 100 female speakers. This year’s partners included Uber, Shopify, BlackRock, T-Mobile, Calvin Klein Women and J. Crew, among others.
Perhaps in reaction to digital natives, retailers have long been maddened to figure out the right way to execute meaningful branded experiences. But trying harder to build these experiences could appear fluffed with inauthenticity and may be better satiated by the work of many hands — their community.
And Girlboss, a digital media community for ambitious young women, with a recent 3.5 million investment led by Initialized Capital’s Alexis Ohanian, who previously cofounded Reddit, is betting on the spirited ambition of theirs, with already 13 million-plus using the hashtag #girlboss on Instagram to date.
A few firsts include the break into two-day scheduling including panels, meet-ups and activities such as a shopping bazaar highlighting a regional assortment of woman-owned, and majority New York-based vendors. Alongside vendors, Millennial-friendly experiences included tarot card readings, a meet-up lounge and a tattoo artist offering Girlboss-inspired flash tattoos — real tattoos, speaking of the permanence of both experience and community.
“The future of retail is experience; I came here to see what other experiences they are offering [at Girlboss],” said Morgan First, founder of Rosé Wine Mansion, an educational wine-tasting pop-up experience, to WWD when asked of her reason for attending.
“They want community, people, a memento or social proof,” First reiterated.
Gaining insights from the Girlboss Rally, while also substantiating her own largely female Millennial community, the taste for rosé and a larger trend toward experiences represented 80,000 tickets sold in 14 weeks for Rosé Wine Mansion.
The voice of a community through Girlboss editorial, radio and video among other means, Girlboss Rally culminated in one theme: “ambition as religion,” said cofounder and chief executive officer Sophia Amoruso in an interview with WWD.
Despite being a New York Times best-selling author of “#Girlboss” and celebrity in her own right, Amoruso speaks on stage with a certain softened wisdom, trial and error that marked her early career but did not define it.
Now, she’s giving the reigns to her Girlboss community, who eagerly use the rally as a networking platform, a conversation starter where they can ask important questions and shop with purpose.
Melissa Butler, founder and ceo of The Lip Bar, who spoke for the first time at the rally on “The Future of Retail” panel reiterated this movement at Girlboss Rally as “not the typical fluff” but instead women who have “banded together” to capture their careers, their money and create their community.