How much did we love finding this on Rebecca Minkoff’s Pinterest wall (www.pinterest.com/RebeccaMinkoff/words-of-wisdom/):
It’s so totally her sentiment and ours too! That’s why we were so excited when our own Zara Puskuldjian had the opportunity (as part of her Lynn University class) to interview Rebecca at Bloomingdales in Boca Raton prior to Rebecca doing a meet and greet there. (Who knew the Furniture Department could actually double as a private classroom!). We love Rebecca’s inspiring words. She is truly a leader to look up to. Welcome to The Fit List, Rebecca Minkoff!
Rebecca Minkoff was born in San Diego, California. Growing up she always had a passion for sewing and creating new things. After she graduated high school, she picked up and went to New York to pursue her career in design. By 2001, she had released a small apparel collection; her own version of the “I Love New York” tee shirt as a 5 piece collection. It aired on the Tonight Show, and she was an overnight sensation. By 2005, she began designing handbags. She created the “Morning After Bag” which was a smash hit. She then launched Rebecca Minkoff LLC with her brother Uri Minkoff. High-end department stores starting carrying her items, and she gained popularity all over the world! One of the things that made her so unique early on was that she started to bejewel her bags with studs, which then grew in popularity across the fashion world. In 2009, four years after she began designing handbags she returned to apparel and introduced her first ready to wear clothing line collection. Today, Rebecca Minkoff is best know all over the world for her hand bags, shoes, apparel, jewelry and even men’s goods, sold under the Uri Minkoff brand.
How old were you when you first went to NY?
What inspired you to become a designer instead of being something else?
By the time I was 8, I really wanted to sew, and I loved creating my own clothes. When I was 12 , I was awkwardly skinny. I couldn’t fit into anything, and I hated how clothing looked on me. I found that I had the power to make myself feel better! I could make my own clothes – something that would fit me. That was a very empowering moment for me to be able to be like, “Oh this doesn’t fit. Okay, cool, I can actually fix that myself!”
What 3 things can you not live without?
The sun, growing up in California and Florida, I always need the sun, and when I’m in NY for the winter, I have to escape somewhere warm, most likely back home to Florida. My children; I have a 4 year old and a 1 year old, and finally my husband because he is my stable partner in this crazy game.
Did you feel like it was necessary to move from CA to NY?
Yes I did. I feel like if you are serious about fashion and you want to be in that industry today you can actually go to LA and do it, because LA’s fashion scene is really exploding, but I still think you need to go to NY. You can always move somewhere else after or do something else after, but I think you will have a lot of credibility if you work in New York and have been in the industry there to see what goes on there.
What was the inspiration for your “Morning After” bag?
When I created the “Morning After” bag, I was 25, and I aspired to have a certain life where I could stay out all night if I wanted to and have clothing for the next day or shoes in my bag for the next day hoping something fun would happen that night. So it was a bag that could hold what you needed for the next day but also still be cool enough that you could go to work and go out afterwards. In NY, bars are very packed, so I wanted it to be something that was slim enough that you wouldn’t get tossed around by your bag, and classic but still on trend. I wanted it to feel like a girl invested in something. “I only have a certain amount of money, and I want this to last but still feel cool.”
Out of all the bags you have created which is your favorite?
Back to “The Morning After” bag! I would have to say that is my favorite, because it started everything. Our cross body clutch mini bag is also one of my favorites, because that is the bag that spread like wildfire and made the brand very well known. So I have to love that bag for helping me do that.
Where are your bags produced?
In China and NYC.
Who are some of your celebrity clients?
Reese Witherspoon, Jessica Alba & Kylie Jenner.
I know that you said some of your personal experiences were inspiration for some of your bags, but what other inspirations do you have?
Today our most talked about inspiration is our customer: Who is she? What does she want? What is she looking for? What can she afford? What excites her? I think we spend the majority of the time on that, and I say we, because we are now a team of people,. It’s not just designers. We have a team of 2 merchandizers and our designer saying, “What does she want? What’s her life style?” and really making sure we fit things to the customer’s life style. So if it’s a tote, it’s got to be the cool tote. It’s not a hard conservative tote. If it’s a cross body, what it going to do? If it’s one of our wearables, how does that fit into her life?
What is it like working with your brother?
So we like to be honest when we answer these questions. We get along. We fight. Sometimes we fight like brother and sister. Sometimes we fight like business partners. I think the nice thing though when you are working with your family, at the end of the day, you can always trust them. And I think we have a tight knit family overall, so even if we are fighting or disagreeing, we try and put those things aside, so there’s not drama affecting things.
Was it a far away dream to be the designer you are today?
It was extremely far away , and the one thing that I will tell all of you is that when I went to the pattern maker for the first time to make the hand bag, and I sat there, and I had enough money to make ONE sample, and that was the last money I had to my name, before I was going to be surviving on Raman noodles. At that moment, this seemed like the most far away thing I could think of. You need to know that you have to work your ass off to get to this point. You can’t just nod your head, and suddenly have hundreds of employees. I think it’s blood, sweat and tears. It’s working nights. It’s working weekends. It has to be all consuming; because there are always going to be other competitors that are as fired up and as excited, so if you were just hoping you could cross your fingers and get lucky, that’s not happening! I think that’s a hard thing to learn if you don’t approach it correctly and you don’t have that mentality. There are people that got lucky – people that were in the right place at the right time, but if you’re not lucky you have to go about it a different way. You have to be prepared for it. You have to sacrifice things in order for it to really work.
What motivates you as a woman in business today?
There is a movement right now of female empowerment, and I feel like it’s becoming this unstoppable moment where we want to get 50/50 equality among women and men in the work force, in pay and in job titles. I think there is a ground swell of people taking this on as a passion. It’s one of my passions to empower women, and to elevate them. I think our company is the opposite of what is typical as far as composition of the workforce. There are probably all of 10 men in our company right now, so we are already there as far as women being well represented. I think different and more diverse industries need to put women into their thoughts and into the forefront as leaders. So I think that the thing that I can do is to be inspiring. When I take a grander look at my legacy, is it just going to be a bag? No, I’d like it to be that I helped to get more females in leadership positions in whatever they do.
When you have an idea what is the process of getting from idea to a product? Is the initial idea that you have in your head how it always comes out?
I have to make inspiration or mood boards that communicate my idea to 18 different people who are part of the design, product development and sample making team. They need to understand my exact inspiration and be able to pull it from my boards. They then go do their research and make their own boards. There are 2 sketch reviews and a production review before the samples come out.
Not everything is always what you want; we are happy when it is, but we also cancel a lot of things, which is normal. The whole process of getting the item on to the floor takes about a year, so when it comes out, and you’re excited about it, know that I’ve looked at the bag for a year and heard everything that’s wrong with it or right with it, what went wrong with shipping and all that stuff!
For girls who want to go into the fashion industry and have their sights set on NY , what is your best piece of advice ?
Apply far and wide. Don’t just narrow your applications down to one company you hope to get picked by, because you never know where you’re going to end up and where that path can lead you. Maybe there isn’t an exact opening in what you want to do, but you are just starting out, and there is so much you can learn by not being in your area of expertise. Be willing to be open to trying new things.
What kind of qualities do you look for in interns?
Hunger, passion, willingness to do anything and always going above and beyond and being one step ahead. Someone that is always trying to improve herself and do more.
What would you say stands out when you are interviewing someone or looking at their resume?
I think what stands out is a hand shake. If it’s limp, it’s not a good way to start – so firm hand shake!. Thank you notes are good, as is looking someone in the eyes even if you’re nervous. If someone is nervous in an interview that means they will be nervous at the office or nervous in saying an idea or trying to get something across. So even if you have to hide it, do it. It’s an interview for both sides. It’s not a one way street, so know what you want to get out of it too. Is this a right fit? Make sure to ask those questions about what is important to you.
Is it a red flag for you if someone has tattoos?
No! A red flag for me is if you come to an interview, and you are in a suit, very conservative, buttoned up collar and some fancy belt and weird pumps. That’s a red flag for me. It shows me you didn’t do research on what the company is and what the aesthetic of the company is. I always tell people if they’re interviewing, research what the company aesthetic is. Maybe you cant afford everything, but if you can look the part, then at least you will demonstrate that you know a little bit about the brand or who you want to work for. Tattoos are great to me. I wish I had the guts to get them.
How do you balance mommy life, being a wife and having a job?
Before I had kids I worked till 11. My husband and I both were building our own companies, so he was cool with it. I worked weekends. Nothing mattered. The day that I had my son, or actually, the day that I went back to work, I said “You know what? Things have got to change. I have to learn how to delegate.” It’s okay that my inbox is not empty. Those are the sacrifices that I decided to make. So I really try, (and its not perfect) at least 2 or 3 nights a week, to be home at night, around 7, so I’m with them. I also purposely trained my kids to stay awake late, so I can see them when I get home. And then I think the there are nights you have to work and weekends you have to work, and so it’s trying to know that in a given week you might not be able to see them much, but I make up for it on the back end. For example, when I travel, if I’m gone for more then 5 days, one of them comes with me. I also don’t take a meeting before 9am, because I want to take my son to school, and while people may think, “Oh she’s such a diva!” I’m just like, “No. I need to see my son and take him to school.”
My husband and I are really good partners. He’s building a company too, so he understand and needs to travel, so we’re juggling it together.
Rebecca Minkoff , you are Fit to Lead, and we are honored to welcome you to our Fit List. We love your chic yet edgy taste, your youthful, hip and stylish pieces, but most importantly your huge influence in the fashion world and your commitment to empowering women!
Welcome to the Fit List, Rebecca!
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