The future of fashion: how Vanity Clothing uses tech to keep up with trends

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Vanity President and CEO Mickey Quinn

Mickey Quinn is no stranger to the ever-shifting tides of the fashion industry. Working in the retail operations department at Coldwater Creek in the late 90s and early 2000s, she watched as the women’s clothing line grew from the pages of a catalogue to a nationwide chain of more than 400 stores.

“Retail was the black sheep of the company in the early years,” Quinn said. “It became kind of a necessity because people kept coming to knock on the corporate door.”

At that time, anything that had anything to do with retail– HR, finances, information technology, loss prevention, real estate– was relegated to her department. She had a lot to learn in little time, and the challenge helped prepare her for her latest role: President and CEO of Vanity Clothing.

Quinn was recruited as Vice President of the Fargo-based company in July 2013 by former Coldwater Creek colleague and then-president Mike Feuerer. When Fuerer stepped down in 2014, the chairman of the board asked her to fill the position. Last March, she completed her climb up the corporate ladder and took on the role of CEO.

When Quinn rose to the presidency in 2014, Vanity was already in the middle of a big transition. Through a series of customer focus groups and surveys, Chief Marketing Officer Mary Miller had found that the company’s target customer was no longer a fashion-forward teen but a 20- to 35-year-old young professional.

“Our customer had evolved and grown up,” Quinn said. “It all coincided really well that we were dropping the teeny bopper look and growing up as a brand, too.”

Building upon the work that had already been done by Fuerer, Quinn led the company through its growth spurt. The brand’s logo was transformed, the stores were given a facelift, a new website was launched, and the tides shifted once more.

“We have seen growth and a shift to our web business,” Quinn said. “It is growing as a percent of the total business… The technology of customer-facing applications is really important because right now, the U.S. consumer is very savvy, and she demands easy access or else she’ll go somewhere else to spend her money.”

Ecommerce gets the product into more hands

The task of revamping Vanity’s online presence fell to Matt Williams, VP of Ecommerce Technology and Customer Acquisition. Williams and his team rebuilt the site from the ground up, transitioning from an out-of-box platform to an in-house built one. They changed everything from the layout to the colors, but the biggest switch, according to Williams, was to a responsive website– one that could support any device type.

“Most people always think of it as desktop, mobile, and tablet… we consider it to be screen size,” Williams said. “We handle five different sizes of screens, and the site will respond based on those screens so that we only have to develop one set of code.”

The new site was launched in 2014, and it has continued to evolve as trends have changed and technology has improved. Williams and his team have been constantly adding new features: a better search bar, an in-site denim guide, a store locator, integration with the company’s Instagram– anything to make the website more user-friendly. The result has been an increase in traffic not just on the website itself, but in Vanity’s physical locations.

“If you’re selling your product to customers, ecommerce is just the way to get it into that many more people’s hands,” Williams said. “We have around 140 stores, but we’re not everywhere. [Ecommerce] allows us to be everywhere and sell to those folks that are interested in our brand, and even those who stumble on our brand… can still find us and learn about us through the site and then hopefully convert and make a purchase.”

From catalogue to in-store, and in-store to ecommerce, Quinn has borne witness to the evolution of retail– an evolution that, she says, won’t be slowing down anytime soon.

“It’s never ending, and when you sit still is when you’re going to fall behind,” she said. “You have to keep moving, have to keep pushing forward, in any new technology.”

Katie Beedy

Katie Beedy

, E-commerce