Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
LA-faved designer Rebecca Minkoff is certainly no stranger to technology; her Melrose flagship boasts digitally-enhanced dressing rooms (no sales associate needed and flattering, adjustable lighting) and cash wrap-free checkouts. But creating a store that helps us shop better and smarter isn't the only way she's empowering women.
Recently the handbag (and more) goddess partnered with Intel to kick off "Unleash Your Creativity With Technology," a college-touring panel of experts that tackles topics including the wage gap, approaching investors, and the best advice for a woman just starting out (Minkoff's "No is just the beginning of yes," is one pearl of wisdom we're keeping in our back pocket).
Tuesday night at The Radisson Midtown at USC, Minkoff and a crew that included Intel's Senior Research Scientist Delia Grenville, Laurel & Wolf CEO Leura Fine, and The RealReal founder Julie Wainwright, spoke to a crowd largely filled with female engineering students (yas queens!) then broke off into small group sessions where they intimately discussed trends in technology, what it's like to be a female in corporate America, and networking like a pro.
We were luckily enough to steal Rebecca for a few minutes to ask a few of our own questions, including the technology she relies on daily, what customers love most about her hi-tech store, and which women are most inspiring her right now.
Obviously we're obsessed with all the tech advancements in your Melrose store. Which has been most beneficial for you?
The idea of "fitting room abandonment" has proven to be very helpful for us because at any time you can log into the dashboard and see [for example] 40 jackets were tried on, but no one bought them. Why? With online shopping, you can see the shopping cart was abandoned but this allows us to address whether or not there's a fit issue or some other explanation. We can see which products got taken into the room and what their purchase rate was. This really allows us to have a lot of data about our customer instead of just, here's a pile of clothes that they ended up with.
In terms of the customer's perspective, what are they most enjoying about the interactive experiences in store?
The best part for them is that you no longer need an associate to get a dressing room, and the lighting. The lighting is blowing people's minds. Why didn't anyone ever put a dimmer in the room that you can move up and down? Even when we did our initial tours and I had very skeptical fashion editors, the minute I showed them the lighting they were like, "oh I need this!"
In your day-to-day life, name one form of modern technology you can't live without.
My calendar. I used to write down everything by hand and I got real joy out of checking it off—which I do miss. And I communicate a lot via pictures. I know I'm not not really saying anything that's blowing anyone's mind but for me it's the simple things, the basic things that are most helpful.
What's a technological advancement in fashion that you can't wait for?
It's more personal to me, but how to make less waste with fashion. I think there are brands that do a great job but getting to the level of, when I ship you a bag, how can I eliminate some of the plastic and other things that wrap it? When we finally get as big as we want to get, the next phase is how to make things as clean and green as possible.
What's the best part about being a #girlboss?
Being an example. That other girls can say, "She did this, I can do it. And she's telling us and wants us to know how." There are other bosses who are like, "I'm not going to talk to you, I'm not going to help you, I'm not going to empower you."
What that an experience that you personally had?
I think in the fashion industry, it's "I'm going to step on you to get ahead." It's very competitive and there's the whole male-to-female issue, but there's also female-to-female and that's not being talked about. And maybe in our world it's we who are holding each other back.
Who is a contemporary leading woman that's an inspiration to you?
There are a lot of them! I was on [Marie Claire's The Power Trip] with about 200 women. They had 100 women from New York and 100 from San Fransisco meet up for two days and had panels. Everyone from Drew Barrymore to Gwyneth Paltrow was a panelist and you'd turn to someone and ask "What do you do?" and they'd be like "Oh, I run Google.org, no big deal!" Or "I started 23 and Me," and I'm like, "um, I make crossbody bags." I think being part of that group of women was really inspiring so I'd say anyone on that list.
What advice would you give to a young women—like the engineering students who attended tonight—who are looking to get to where you are in your career?
I think that if they stay with the studies that they're currently in, they are in the Gold Rush. They don't know it yet, but this next group of graduates and what's happening with technology, this is the next maker movement where they can all go create whatever they want after this. She might not be able to sew but man, she can create a universe! There's nothing that they can't be the creators of.