Inside Ron Robinson’s Santa Monica store, an employee zips by on a handless segway called the Duck Duck, passing by smart-sensored basketballs that aim to improve shooting, solar chargers and gadgets to find bluetooth items. The boutique will add wearables to that mix Thursday with the official and exclusive U.S. launch of jewelry line Elemoon.
Wearers of the high-end bracelets can match it to their outfits, create their own designs and patterns to be featured on the bangle’s face and track calls, among a number of other features.
Robinson will be the only U.S. retailer to carry Elemoon, which currently consists of bracelets in white polymer on gold, white on sterling silver, black and gold-and-black on silver in sizes standard or petite. The bracelets retail for $399.
Thursday’s launch party at Ron Robinson Santa Monica includes a discussion between Ron Robinson himself and Elemoon founder Jing Zhou about the future of fashion, retail and technology. It’s a fitting subject for the wearable company and its retail partner, which has created an ecosystem of devices and customer connections aided by social media and the Internet.
“Right now, existing products have forced the marriage between technology and fashion,” Zhou said. “You see a step-tracking device inside a good-looking bangle. But I don’t think that’s the trend of the future. I really think technology can enhance fashion. Fashion is just self-expression. You express what you believe is beautiful and stylish and so with technology and biometric data we can highly personalize the fashion products.”
Elemoon appeared to hit the nail on the head with both form and function for Robinson.
“I have looked at a number of brands within this category,” he said. “I’ve found most of them too inappropriate in design for our customer base. Functionality was limited and lacked a connection to the fashion decision that would be made first, prior to electronics.”
Elemoon’s parent, White Night Technology Inc., is also working on deals to bring Elemoon into Brookstone and a pop-up at House of Fraser’s Oxford Street flagship. Larger chains will likely see buildouts of interactive experiences that will teach customers how the bracelet works in what the company’s calling the Elemoon Magic Box.
“People like to shop and compare prices online and what retail can bring that e-commerce cannot bring is the tactile side, the sensual side,” Zhou said. “You can touch and feel and play with it. I think people realize the value of playing with the product [and] interacting with the product through Apple retail stores.”
White Night Technology last year raised more than $120,000 on Kickstarter to bring Elemoon to the market following about $1 million raised through angel investors. That’s after Zhou poured in about $500,000 of her own money when she hit walls with investors who didn’t see the benefit of her product and only wanted versions of tech gadgets already on the market.
“Very few investors got the idea,” she said. “What I want to build, essentially, is a mini Apple company, with hardware and software services in the form of jewelry.”
The company, which expects to begin selling Elemoon in China next year, is set to begin raising its Series A round and is in the process of prototyping new items aimed at the teen and tween markets.
Zhou, who is originally from China but now based out of New York, is a former reporter at what is now Blooomberg Businessweek and Crain Communications. She later went on to develop a social app aimed at connecting young women with one another, followed by a mobile ad company that was sold for $4 million. A portion of the proceeds from that sale were funneled into various investments in female-founded start-ups before Zhou colaunched the China chapter of Girls in Tech in 2010.
It’s her involvement with that organization that brought a delegation of about 10 from China to Los Angeles. The group will be personally greeted later this week by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who has been a staunch supporter of technology in the city.
Connected items, for Robinson, are just part of the larger conversation when it comes to technology and connectivity in what’s been dubbed for several years now in tech world jargon as the Internet of Things or connected devices in everyday life.
Ron Robinson stores carry about 10 connected devices. But beyond the gadgets, there’s also a connection in-store that’s perhaps the real IoT story in which technology enables and enhances meetings, relationships or even fashion in the real world.
Robinson and Zhou were introduced through Los Angeles entertainment lawyer Ken Hertz, who is himself a tech enthusiast and who Robinson described as a “like-minded cool geek.” It’s also common for Robinson to meet customers in the store daily who said they’ve been following the retailer’s Instagram feed or connecting with the store through its many social events that are only broadcast via social media or word of mouth.
“That’s the difference that we have created in the new Ron Robinson lifestyle concept store in Santa Monica,” he said. “It has been a reality platform of both products that are not typically displayed and meetings between people — a true social connection experience.”
As a retailer, at the end of the day, Robinson sees his responsibility to customers as one of offering an assortment of unique finds.
“[And] put [all of] that into an environment that embraces socialization and culture within a combined platform,” he said. “That’s part of my retail today. I am not interested in what others are doing at retail. This is the entire orchestra, the night club, museum and the coolness market.”