Retail is Not Dead, Long Live Startups

15 years ago none of us could have even imagined the displacement of the No. 1 global mobile phone manufacturer coming. But Nokia was edged off their seemingly immovable perch. The truth is, no one is guaranteed to be around for the long-term. History is littered with examples from Kodak to Blockbuster to Blackberry and more recently MySpace and Yahoo!

As stores across the US close at a seemingly alarming rate, all we can really say about the future is that it’s uncertain. Rather than try to make any mystical predictions, I’m going to focus on learnings from the present.

At Twinery – the innovation arm of MAS, a leading apparel manufacturer, we focus on how we can empower humans to have a better quality of life. We do this by developing and partnering on creating new technologies for apparel and soft goods. We also invest in startups at the cutting edge of textile-based innovation including smart clothing.

Let’s take a closer look at a few current start-ups that are disrupting industries.

Me Undies

me undies

Me Undies

Now, being caught with your pants down is totally acceptable. Me Undies have made it cool to wear undies with unusual prints by making it fun and easy to shop and also offer matching pairs for your partner, via subscription box services. Naturally, they’re eco-friendly and ‘softer than soft’ too!  In fact, why wear anything over ‘em when lounging at home? The brand is able to charge $20 for men’s and $16 for women’s per pair.


No one had innovated in the menstruation space in years until Thinx came along and totally disrupted it with a freshness in terms of product, tone and aesthetics. They really broke through with a new type of product, a powerful political feminist brand targeting an early adopter audience and a social cause to help African girls go to school through their period. A pure e-commerce play with underwear selling at $34 a pair.


Experience is king here for this brand that excels in customization at the mass manufacturing level in both sizing and print. The UX of their app is so beautifully done- a sensual and enjoyable experience, maximizing the touch functionality of your phone.

Futurecraft 4D + Adidas

These 3D printed sneaker sole collaboration are a game changer that ticks all boxes. It means soft goods, as well as hard goods, can now be 3D printed making localized manufacturing a reality resulting in personalized and on-demand printing.


This aimed-at-millennials brand has shown just how easy it is to buy and deliver the undeliverable – by shipping a quality mattress in a box to your door so you can try it out in the best way possible – by sleeping a night on it. In fact, you can sleep 100 nights on it.

These start-ups show us about really listening to the pain points of, let’s call them citizens, rather than consumers and solving them in the simplest way possible. They demonstrate the importance of the retail mix – powerfully branded pop-ups coupled with quirky content and rich e-commerce experiences.

Disruption is not only coming from the start-ups. The big guys are shaking things up too. No one more so than Mr. Bezos with his Amazon Go concept – smart cashless shopping, making it easier than ever to shop with no lines at all. And Lululemon with their prototype public Labs for getting feedback on new collections and their experiential stores extending that elusive average visitor time with in-store yoga and more.

So retail’s really not dead. It’s just how and what you sell that counts. Old school brands are getting a wake-up call…

Niki Gomez