While American-born fashion is not known for its cutting-edge qualities, one thing fashion brands are nailing over in the States is tech.
But what has fashion got to do with tech? You ask. Are you talking about light-up dresses and other weird things like that?
Well, there's this brand called Chromat that creates some very cool dresses which do, in fact, light up. But that's not actually what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to talk about the Internet of things, and, more importantly, smart bags.
I'll start with the latter. Along with Kate Spade and Michael Kors, one of the biggest players in America's market for luxury accessories is Rebecca Minkoff. The Rebecca Minkoff brand – and, specifically, its CEO, Uri Minkoff – loves a bit of tech. Take a step into Rebecca Minkoff's Manhattan flagship and you'll be confronted with smart mirrors in the fitting rooms and a self-checkout system powered by iPads. There is even a digitised wall (a smart wall?) which you can tap on if you want to order a drink, or if you feel that the sales associates are ignoring you and you want to command their attention without, you know, actually opening your mouth and asking them.
Antisocial people, tech lovers and world-weary retail staff alike will probably applaud Minkoff's in-store technology; those who like to interact with others (seriously, though, it's 2017... who are you?) might be left feeling a bit alienated by all of the screens. But before you start wondering when, exactly, robots will replace all human beings in the customer service sector, you might be heartened to know that Rebecca Minkoff's latest tech move aims to make us feel more connected. Rebecca Minkoff's solution is a smart bag.
The first batch of smart bags come as part of a limited-edition run but, as of this summer, all of Minkoff's handbags will be smart bags – that is, bags fitted with QR codes that will allegedly improve the in-store experience and, perhaps, your life. Just buying one of these babies enrols you in Minkoff's loyalty scheme, which offers access to private styling sessions and VIP events hosted by the brand, and, if you buy one of the limited edition bags, you'll also be offered an invite to the latest Rebecca Minkoff runway show.
Anyway, here's a bit more about the bags and what they actually do. Take one of them into a Minkoff store and, by scanning its QR code with an app on your phone, you'll be able to use it in conjunction with the other tech on the shop floor. Take one of them elsewhere – well, to one of Minkoff's partner locations – and you'll be awarded with little perks like discounts. The premise of this is that, by carrying a smart bag, you'll be better connected with the world around you.
“What’s the future of a handbag in a digitally connected world in the Internet of things?” Uri Minkoff asked a WWD journalist recently, while discussing the logic behind his 'connected' bags. Uri dismissed the humble, Ordinary Bag on the basis that while, yes, it "holds your stuff and looks good", it simply cannot function within the "larger, connected world that we’re moving into."
Jokes aside, though, he makes a good point. The 'Internet of things' – which, in layman's terms, encompasses the practice of ordinary, non-techy things becoming quite tech-y thanks to tech advances (if that doesn't make sense, think of the number of people in the UK who now remotely control the lighting and heating in their homes with an app) – is becoming more of a thing. We are quickly moving towards a world in which we can connect with just about everything (or optimise our experiences or interactions with it) through the medium of an app, website, QR code or NFC chip.
Whether competitor brands will release their own 'connected' accessories or not, only time will tell. But at the moment, from a tech point of view, Rebecca Minkoff is at the top of its game. Would you invest in a smart bag, or do you think it's just a short-lived gimmick?