With k/lab, Kohl’s Brings Instagram-Inspired Street Style to Millennials


Kohl's k/lab dress

Kohl's k/lab design style millennial womenKohl’s has been fighting the slowdown in US retail sales and losses to e-commerce, just like other traditional department stores and discounters. And it’s fighting back in a variety of ways, both digitally and in the stores.

The latest strategy by the Wisconsin-based mid-market apparel retailer: targeting millennial women with a fresh take on fashion by offering a private label that’s described as “straight from New York City” street style (such as velvet jumpsuits and cut-out shoulders) as designed by its NYC innovation lab by choosing looks that’s informed by data, trends and social insights.

On November 14, the retailer is launching a new initiative targeted at stylish urban millennials called k/lab — a trends-driven collection that’s being produced with a “monthly story” that aims to combine the fast-fashion appeal of an H&M or Zara with Kohl’s affordable price points.

The tagline: “Break hearts, not the bank.” Produced in limited batches to offer quick takes on fast fashion trends, as the k/lab site says: “New looks added every week. When they’re gone, they’re gone.”

The description on its website:

Break hearts, not the bank. Have fun and be fearless with k/lab at Kohl’s. Fashion should speak to you — find clothing pieces ready to mix and match into outfits that show off your particular sense of style. Find k/lab tops, dresses, jeans and more that are ready to help you style your story. Layer camisoles, jackets and more to create outfits for any scene. k/lab jumpsuits and crop tops lend a sassy, flirty vibe to your day or night-time look, while bodysuits offer the perfect fit. Find feminine florals and soft prints as well as denim for days. k/lab at Kohl’s has everything you need for running errands around town, heading to class, date night and more. Shop k/lab clothing at Kohl’s — the catalyst for your closet.

The core Kohl’s customer is women from Gen X to baby boomers, but k/lab is meant to get the millennial cohort into the store who may not have considered shopping at Kohl’s but who are attracted to a younger-thinking collection that mixes sequins, velvet and plush fabrics with edgier shapes such as cut-out back detailing and styling dresses with sneakers.

“Our focus is really on the family, so this is focusing on the family member we kind of forget about — the  millennial, who is still part of that family,” Sofia Wacksman, Kohl’s vice president of trend and part of the team working out of its New York City design studio, told Business Insider.

The k/lab pieces are more fashion-forward than what the traditional Kohl’s customer is used to, even “crazy,” Wacksman said. And in addition to trend-spotting and data-mining, it’s staying in step with its target customer by being active on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.

The k/lab private label collection will be featured online and at in-store boutiques opening on Monday in 21 Kohl’s stores in US cities identified as having larger numbers of the target millennial customer for the line.

The retailer is appealing to an even younger demographic than Generation Y — Generation Z and younger — through another venture.

At its Kids Corner at the Discovery World museum in Kohl’s hometown of Greater Milwaukee, Kohl’s has opened a Design It! Lab — a makers lab that teaches kids (with supervision) how to use tools such as glue guns, heat sealers and vacuum formers to make their own 3D products to take home.

Kohl's k/lab collection ast fashion

One other way to woo younger shoppers, of course: focusing on e-commerce and mobile to promote a seamless shopping experience enable mobile payments, as Kohl’s is promoting with its own wallet, and more high-tech touches (such as in-store pick-up) to create a customer experience that makes it easier, and pleasing, to shop at its brick-and-mortar and e-commerce locations.