Last Updated Nov 24, 2010 11:03 AM EST
She's an indie accessories designer. It's the largest fashion community on the Web. Together, Rebecca Minkoff and Polyvore.com are going to prove that its takes a (sizeable) village to unlock the potential of the future of design and fashion retail. But they'll also show how crowdsourcing eliminates some costly guesswork.
This week Minkoff teamed up with Polyvore to give millions of users a chance to redesign her signature Morning After Clutch (aka the "MAC" to those devotees of fine leather goods). Minkoff is providing the Polyvore community with digital images of the leather, hooks, tassels, studs, zippers, straps, to create their own twist on the bag. Users will have until Nov. 29th to design their version.
Minkoff will personally select her top ten submissions then turn the final decision over to the crowd. Finalists will be posted on her Facebook page for voting. The Polyvore + Minkoff bag will be named after the winner and made available for purchase in March 2010.
Though combing through hundreds of entries to determine the top ten might sound tedious, for Minkoff it should prove to be an exercise in getting a real sense of what the community is clamoring for.
With over 20 million "sets" or digital fashion collages have been created by Polyvore users to date and over 6.5 million unique visitors discover the site every month, it's no wonder the designer called this initiative a "no brainer" in a statement.
Though Minkoff's also become a favorite of celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Reese Witherspoon, her brand is far from the name on everyone's lips (or tucked under their arms, as it were). There's certainly room to push the brand further into the collective eye. Indeed, Minkoff's CEO Uri Minkoff noted that linking up with Polyvore, "creates an innovative bridge between Rebecca, her fans and core customers while also broadening both the Rebecca Minkoff and Polyvore consumer base on a national and international level."
Polyvore's consumer base is currently a strong one. A spokesperson for Minkoff told me that contrary to popular belief the site is not overrun with teens taking turns playing at designer. She informed me that only 20 percent of Polyvore's users are between the ages of 13-17. The rest range in age from 18 to over 50.
Perhaps the most interesting point she mentioned was that people who spend between $200 and $499 online are six times more likely to be on Polyvore. The MAC typically sells for $295, making the clutch hit the spending sweet spot for e-commerce shopaholics.
This isn't Minkoff's first foray in collaborating with the new influencers of fashion. For her Spring 2011 ready-to-wear collection, Minkoff designed the "Rumi Dress" after Fashiontoast blogger and model Rumi Neely. But the Polyvore collaboration has the potential to be much more successful in terms of scale.
However, the biggest payoff for Minkoff may come from knowing in advance how many people are interested in purchasing the chosen bag. Earlier this year, Coach (COH) employed a similar strategy when it enlisted the design talents of four influential fashion bloggers to create limited edition bags. Frenzied fashionistas hungry for snapping up the style of their favorite trendsetters made the Coach bags fly out of the warehouse.
Though Facebook favorites are hardly an exact science, Minkoff can get a reasonable idea of how many bags to produce based on how many fans respond. In this way, she can head off a potentially costly mistake at the sourcing level. That's especially important as the cost of raw goods, including leather, continue to spike. Some estimate as many as 87 percent of the leather garment manufacturers in China will increase its export prices across the board.
Image via Polyvore.com