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CSA Exclusive: Innovation takes center stage at Perry Ellis International

Perry Ellis International has a new executive steering the fashion retailer’s path toward innovation, and the company is moving full steam ahead.

When Isaac Korn joined Perry Ellis International in 2014, he came aboard as the director of sourcing. While Korn was responsible for anticipating new fashion trends and finding new fabrics and vendors, he always kept his eyes open for opportunities that could drive innovation across the company.

Looking beyond his responsibilities, Korn began pitching more creative, technology-based ideas to the company’s CEO Oscar Feldenkreis — many being solutions that could drive a seamless shopping experience. Impressed by his ideas, Feldenkreis created a role where Korn could better leverage his passion for technology, and named him director of innovation and automation in January.

Korn discussed his new responsibilities and Perry Ellis’ newest endeavors with Chain Store Age.

CSA: What are your main responsibilities in the newly created position?
Korn: I’m focused on innovating within the company by improving product development and consumer interaction. I also integrate different technologies to further streamline internal processes and improve consumers in-store and online experiences.

CSA: Being a 51-year-old company, did Perry Ellis struggle when adopting more innovative solutions?
Korn: At any established company, procedures and perceived preferences can lead to pushback whenever changes are made. However, as soon as team members see how much easier their lives are made by a new piece of technology or new program, they immediately embrace it.

CSA: What was your first innovation-driven project?
Korn: My first project was our “smart wallet,” a product I worked closely with our CEO in developing. We got the idea after attending the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas in January 2017. While the event isn’t necessarily directed at apparel brands, it really opened our eyes to the endless ways we could incorporate tech into our company. It also led to an idea to produce a Bluetooth-enabled wallet that safeguards consumers from losing it.

Our Perry Ellis Tech Wallet is a slim leather billfold wallet embedded the thinnest Bluetooth tracker, Chipolo Card. Customers can download the Chipolo app from Google Play or Apple’s App store, and then track their wallet’s location via their smartphone.

The wallet launched earlier this year, and it is now for sale in Macy’s and Perry Ellis stores, and on our e-commerce sites. It’s been very popular amongst consumers.

CSA: What does personalization mean for Perry Ellis?
Korn: Historically, brands and apparel companies dictated consumer fashion trends. Now consumers communicate directly with brands, and tell them exactly what they want to buy and see more of.

That’s why we’re making a concerted push to create personalized products, as well as provide much more personalized experiences with consumers online and in-store. For example, we utilize 3D technology for samples, which allows us to bring products to stores faster, and hit on trends more quickly.

We are also improving communication with our customer base, as well as how we identify and predict new trends. For example, we are working to integrate new back-end software which monitors customers’ online searches and purchase history, giving us a real-time look at what customers want and need.

CSA: What is Perry Ellis’ take on smart technologies that leverage the Internet of Things?
Korn: Smart technologies that allow consumers to interact, shop, and share with friends are the future for retail companies. Before virtual assistants really blew up, the Perry Ellis brand exclusively developed a skill for Amazon Alexa, a first-of-its kind personal stylist that gives on-demand fashion advice and allowed users to shop various looks.

CSA: What is the next big project that you are working on?
Korn: We recently launched “Pitch to PERY,” a Shark Tank-style pitch competition to align with companies disrupting the fashion, retail and tech industries. The competition ran from January to April.

We had hundreds of applications from companies around the world, each bringing something different to the table, like software for trend predictions and back-end analytics, as well as new services for Perry Ellis customers, among others. I am currently exploring opportunities for partnerships with three companies embracing the digital age and addressing retail’s challenges in vastly different ways.
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