Indie Designers At Local Malls Could Soon Be The Norm Thanks To Initiatives From Simon, Birchbox, And More

You head to the mall for new sneakers, major sales, and your once yearly Cinnabon allowance. But now, you can score swag from indie designers and start-ups at your local shopping mall, thanks to initiatives like Simon Venture Group, a feat usually achieved after hours spent perusing Etsy and flea markets, or, if you're lucky, the occasional rabbit-hole internet find.

Why the sudden change of heart? It's simple. The shopping landscape is changing, and I don't just mean renovations; malls are facing some very real trouble. That whole "shop til you drop" phenomenon is no more, because you can now shop anytime, anywhere — from your office desk (ahem, I would never), during the previews at the movies, or in between crunches at the gym — all thanks to e-commerce, handy mobile apps, and same-day delivery.

And back in the physical realm, pop-ups and shop-in-shops are pretty ubiquitous: Birchbox pop-ups in Gap, House of Harlow, Paper Crowns and Revolve at the Grove in LA... I could go on and on.

Meanwhile, many of the staples of mall shopping have gone under (pouring out some glitter for my homies Delia's and Deb) while others are struggling to stay afloat.

But in their effort to adapt, malls and department stores are finally turning their attention to makes shoppers tick - namely, start-ups and indie fashion. And it's not shoppers that could benefit; investing in new ventures like apps, websites, and designers could be the big bailout that these retail giants need.

Last month I told you about Nineteenth Amendment's upcoming partnership with Macy's, which will bring the start-up's portfolio of up-and-coming designers to, and now Simon Property Group is stepping up to the plate, bringing a much needed breath of fresh air to brick-and-mortar shopping. According to WSJ, Simon Venture Group (an arm of Simon Property Group) has poured nearly $20 million into 18 different startups, including a $1 million investment in Union Station, a bridesmaid dress rental service that had been solely operating online.

Simon and Westfield Corp, another mall developer, are both backing Deliv, which contracts out drivers for same-day delivery for marketplaces like Amazon (which, besides the word "pizza", is pretty synonymous with same-day delivery at this point) and now, malls.

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Simon has already made a killing investing in and then selling shopping-loyalty app Shopkick Inc., and Fashion Project, which accepts clothing donations which it then sells online, has been doing well, too. Gently worn clothing is either dropped off participating malls (hello, foot traffic — "Oh, let me just stop into this store while we're here") or sent in via pre-paid labels and giant, sturdy bags that make shipping a no-brainer. In turn, qualifying donations are rewarded with a gift card of your choice for retailers like Nordstrom. (Hi again, foot traffic. See the pattern here?)


It's great to see giants like Simon, Westfield, and Macy's finally embracing tech, start-ups, and indie designers. In a day and age where you can take a dressing room selfie with your watch, or submit requests via a touchscreen mirror like at Rebecca Minkoff stores, there's no excuse for empty store fronts and mall tumbleweed anymore!

Image: Getty Images(1)