Starting a fashion venture at the height of a global pandemic is bold; starting one based solely on in-person commerce, even more so.
But Jesse Dong, one mind behind Manhattan-based retailer Two: Minds, lives to tell the tale.
“People thought we were crazy to think about opening something new at that time,” Dong told WWD of when he and cofounder Robert Rosenthal began looking at spaces. “Even our real estate agent was skeptical. We knew we had a small window for a potentially big opportunity.”
A month shy of the concept shop’s one-year anniversary, Dong is ready to level up by entering into the digital marketplace. With the launch of twomindsnyc.com, his vision will be accessible on a national scale.
“To compete at the highest level in this business, I believe it’s crucial to offer both [in-person and virtual] experiences to customers,” he said.
Dong began conceiving Two: Minds shortly after Jeffrey, the multibrand retailer where he cut his teeth as a buyer, shuttered its three locations in 2020.
Nestled in the heart of the Meatpacking District at 34 Gansevoort Street, Two: Minds is the avant-garde store next door. It brings a lighthearted approach to luxury that pops and fizzes like the champagne it doles out to everyone who walks in.
Dong sought to translate the social atmosphere of the store into online, partnering with Lemonade, the creative agency responsible for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, to do so.
“Consistent messaging is really important to us,” Dong said. “We want our clients to be confident they are getting the best of Two: Minds no matter how they experience us.”
Together, they built a multimedia platform that will push complex content like podcasts and styling tutorials and feature an interactive portal for customers to chat directly with store associates. The website will also serve as home base for Dong’s Two: Minds Together philanthropic initiative.
“We will use the Two: Minds Together page to keep our community updated as well as take suggestions or aide requests from outside sources,” he explained. The page is meant to be a platform for open dialogue with our community.”
When it comes to merchandise, Dong’s lean assortment across all women’s and men’s categories differentiates his e-commerce arm from those of big-box retailers. While they bid to see who can provide more options, he is only interested in providing the right ones.
“Our curation is extremely thoughtful,” Dong said. He encourages discovery with a colorful buy that sees Amina Muaddi’s party-ready stilettos cozied up next to architectural outerwear by Rick Owens and uniform basics from the likes of Totême, Fear of God and Courrèges.
Live on the website is the retailer’s spring 2022 campaign. Shot on location in Miami during Art Basel in early December, Dong used the festival to introduce Two: Minds to a new group of jet-setters with the store’s first pop-up event.
He is working to attract a growing customer base with product that cannot be easily sourced anywhere else. In April, Two: Minds is slated to be the U.S. exclusive for a capsule collection courtesy of Thebe Magugu, featuring dresses inspired by eight indigenous tribes in the designer’s native South Africa.
Not one to let things lie, Dong is also planning to build out his physical store network. As for Two: Minds’ next destination? Dong says it will be somewhere on the West Coast.
“Los Angeles is an obvious possible location, but we are also intrigued with several Southwestern cities,” he said.