Perry Ellis is capitalizing on fashion’s fixation on using accelerator programs to identify new talent and cultivate fresh ideas, all through the lens of friendly competition.
The menswear company is teaming with LAB Ventures — the startup arm of co-working space LAB Miami — and angel investor network AGP Miami on a pitch competition where participants will be tasked with finding solutions to a variety of retail-specific business problems. According to Lorraine Medici, svp of marketing and corporate communications at Perry Ellis, the effort will build upon the company’s increased focus on technology by turning to local talent within the Miami community, where the company is headquartered.
“The speed of the fashion and retail industries has been growing exponentially, and we knew that tapping into the local and national startup technology ecosystems would be a great way to find some innovative and out-of-the-box ideas,” she said. “This is the first time we used a pitch-off model, but we’re always looking for interesting partnerships and alignments in order to improve our internal and external operations.”
Perry Ellis is taking a page from the playbook of several other brands that are turning to incubators to either get ahead digitally or use it as a marketing tactic. Recent efforts include Allure’s partnership with Covergirl on an “Allure Incubator” to help the beauty brand find its newest brand ambassadors, and mass brands like Asos hosting accelerators to help funnel investments to emerging retail startups. Others, like Topshop’s Top Pitch and Cadillac’s accelerator venture with the CFDA, serve as ways to project an image of staying fresh and relevant.
For Perry Ellis, the program (titled “Pitch to PERY”, a nod to the brand’s tag on the Nasdaq Stock Index) is meant to be a quick and inexpensive way for the company to pick up its slack on digital initiatives. Participants will be asked to help solve problems in key areas of interest, such as increasing brand awareness, driving e-commerce sales, diversifying the e-commerce experience and introducing forthcoming Perry Ellis products that integrate Internet of Things technology. The winning team will work with Perry Ellis to develop a pilot program to apply the idea to a specific business challenge and will have the opportunity to gain full-time employment with the company, if desired.
In addition to the obvious advantage to the company hosting such a competition, Jackie Trebilcock, managing director of the New York Fashion Tech Lab, said in a previous article that incubators serve as vital opportunities for entrepreneurs. In addition to obtaining possible job offers, they also receive the funding and resources needed to get a fledgling idea off the ground.
“At the end of the day, it’s business development, it’s resources, it’s access. That’s what we’re really doing for them,” she said.
The Perry Ellis competition serves as an extension of several months of investing in tech efforts at the company. In September, it became the first fashion brand to debut an on-demand styling service powered by Amazon Alexa voice-activated technology. Last month, it began selling a Bluetooth wallet that includes a tracking chip to prevent it from getting lost.
For the pitch competition, Medici said the topics were selected specifically based on current focuses within the company.
“The amount of intel we can garner from our clients’ behaviors in store and online is really stunning and led us to identify [the topics] as priorities,” she said. “These different areas are deeply interconnected, and so innovation to our e-commerce platform could potentially have far reaching effects on the other areas. Successful global companies integrate technology into every aspect of their business.”