Rebecca Minkoff is the latest designer lending a hand to emerging fashion technology programs with the help of a venture capital fund.
Minkoff, alongside brother Uri Minkoff, CEO and president of her eponymous brand, announced the effort yesterday at the National Retail Federation’s Retail’s Big Show conference in New York City, in partnership with Quotidian Ventures, a venture capital firm based in New York. The brand is joining several fashion entities that have developed incubator programs in recent years, allowing them to simultaneously identify new talent that will be advantageous to their business and give them an edge as digital harbingers.
“We met [Quotidian Ventures] a couple years ago and were interested in working with [the] firm,” Uri Minkoff said during a panel discussion at the NRF conference. “We thought about how we could work together, how we could partner and create an outlet and opportunity for these emerging startups that have amazing technology and experience.”
Uri Minkoff said the brand was inspired by the influx of technology companies that began reaching out to them following the implementation of Rebecca Minkoff’s “store of the future” concept in 2014. The tech-savvy stores integrate smart dressing rooms and advanced mirrors from which consumers can request products and save items to their phones to later purchase online. In addition, the brand began offering self-checkout capability in brick and mortar locations at the end of 2016 to allow shoppers to streamline their retail experience.
While the brand has not disclosed the dollar amount of the fund, Uri Minkoff announced plans for its first investment in 42 Technologies, a data platform that works closely with fashion brands.
In addition to large incubator programs like the New York Fashion Tech Lab and XRC Labs, which help cultivate designers and technology companies through providing access to resources and funding, designers like Eileen Fisher have also led programs to identify leaders in evolving areas like sustainable fashion.
Rebecca Minkoff, who has been an outspoken advocate for female leadership, said she hopes to use the VC fund as a way to leverage female entrepreneurs in STEM fields.
“There are not enough female engineers and coders working in the tech space to bring their user experience to the conversation when it comes to design,” she said. “As females, we have different user experiences, and so the opportunity to invest in those that have a company that serves women by women, is what excites me the most.”
Pedro Torres-Mackie, founder and managing director at Quotidian Ventures, said his firm is particularly interested in advancements in areas like virtual reality and wearables, and he anticipates a rapid growth in these two sectors in 2017 and beyond. In essence, Torres-Mackie said the program will serve as a talent funnel to help identify companies and resources that would best benefit the Rebecca Minkoff brand and the industry at large.
“We’ve reached the point where a virtual augmented closet will be an inevitability, and the reason we’re here is to make it happen faster,” Torres-Mackie said.