When it comes to tech and fashion, it’s the ideas that are useful to customers that will take off, said Uri Minkoff.
Designer Rebecca Minkoff and company chief executive officer Uri Minkoff are known for being early adopters, with futuristic forays into fashion tech ranging from Google Cardboard to smart mirrors in dressing rooms — but it’s not “tech for tech’s sake,” the ceo said during a discussion at South by Southwest’s SxStyle, which is focused on the future of fashion.
During a talk with Decoded Fashion founder Liz Bacelar on making tech wearable, Minkoff explained how they went from being relative outsiders to being considered innovators in just a few years.
“We really decided to be pioneering in this — to throw it all out there,” he said. They decided to focus on the Millennial customer and to try ways that tech could make life easier for her, even if it meant introducing products or ideas that are still not perfected. (Minkoff likened this approach to thinking like a programmer. Otherwise, he said, “instead of waiting, we might never do something.”)
The company’s smart fitting rooms, for example, let the customer change the lighting or request (and then buy) a different size of clothing directly from the fitting room. “You’re never leaving the fitting room half naked, so you don’t have to put your skinny jeans back on,” Minkoff said.
And the brand’s $120 phone-charging wristlet and wallet, he said, is something the company is having a hard time keeping in stock. The theme of accessories, he predicted, will be even bigger going forward.
“Small leather goods are 20 to 25 percent of sales and that space has gotten boring,” he said. In the future, he sees a need for a cross-body charging bag that holds, for example, a customer’s phone and lipstick, while the credit card is becoming obsolete.
And while LEDs are cool, he said, ultimately, products that function for the customer will prevail over those that are created as an artistic project. He was particularly excited by the ability to use augmented reality during a digital shopping trip, and promised “the coolest fashion experience” in the fall, but wouldn’t reveal specifics.
For the here and now, he did reveal that after Rebecca Minkoff decided to show in-season clothes at fashion week (and include consumers in its audience), that department stores saw a 212 percent increase in retail sell-through and a 150 percent increase in the brand’s dot-com presence.