New York Fashion Week is well underway and one of the city’s beloved It girl designers, Rebecca Minkoff, took time from her insanely busy schedule to chat with us about her amazing career, the inspiration behind her cult-crazed crossbody bags, popularizing casual luxury for a new generation, and the two handbags every woman should own.
Here’s what she had to share:
The Lady Loves Couture: Did you always know you would be a designer? What set you on your journey?
Rebecca Minkoff: When I was younger, my real passion was to be a dancer. Unfortunately, my height didn’t agree with that career path!
I was 13 years old when fashion became important to me. I saw a dress that I wanted to wear for my Bat Mitzvah and I begged my mom to buy it for me. Despite my best negotiating skills, this battle was a loss. Being the resourceful woman that she is, she challenged me to make the dress myself. At the time, I was upset but moms do have their special way of teaching life lessons without you even realizing it. So I did it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my own. My idea. My design. My work. I felt like my best self on that day.
I developed an affinity for design in high school and moved to New York City to pursue my dream of becoming a fashion designer at 18 to do an internship with Craig Taylor. At night, I also took design classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but only for three semesters. I realized I knew what to do and while I might not be the best, I knew how to promote myself. You can’t be shy in this industry and I’ve always favored a bold course of action
TLLC: How would you define your design philosophy?
RM: One of my greatest design lessons has been one of my initial impulses as a designer and that was to always listen to my customer and support her wants and needs each season.
TLLC: When did you realize you had made it?
RM: When I was walking down the street and saw someone carrying one of my bags; it was the best feeling and one that I will never get tired of. I experience the same excitement and sense of pride as much today as I did when I first started out. It’s a constant reminder of how lucky I am and validates the hard work and passion put forth by me and my incredible team.
TLLC: As the head of a fashion empire, how do you manage your personal and professional life?
RM: It really is all about balance and prioritizing. Also, loving what I do makes all the difference. Even if I’m up until 1am working, it never feels like a sacrifice. My approach to achieving the balance is varied, but I will sometimes opt to come in late to the office so I can have breakfast with my family, or only commit to going to work events 2 or 3 times a week to ensure I am spending as much time as possible with my family, but continuing to grow my business.
TLLC: You have created some of the most recognizable crossbody bags that have become fashionista cult favorites. Why do you think women love your crossbody styles so much?
RM: I always knew I wanted to create something that really embodied everything that a 20-somehting girl would want living in NYC, going out dancing all night, not knowing quite how her evening would turn out. The crossbody styles are fun and function all in one. What’s better than that?
TLLC: You have been paving the way when it comes to incorporating tech elements into accessories. Can you talk a little bit about what draws you to this, and are there any exciting new elements you’re working on?
RM: As a woman, I understand the stigma that goes along with having my phone out at a dinner or meeting, but the fact is that I still need to be tapped in to a few people no matter what. I designed the wearable accessories with the working professional woman in mind. Our customer comes to us for fashion — and as we look at this fashion-function mix, it’s really where she’s living. We’re added function into very fashionable items she would choose to buy, whether they were tech-enabled or not. Right now our retail store expansion is a huge focus that I’m excited about both here in the U.S. and internationally.
TLLC: You’ve also incorporated Athleisure. What has inspired that, and where do you think we’re headed with this overwhelmingly popular trend?
RM: The Athleisure line was Inspired by my own team who voiced their desire for a “just worked out” weekend look. I really started noticing that our customer wants to have an even more casual approach to dressing, missing that feeling of relaxed, but still keep it chic. Working out is a part of our daily lives now; it’s a part of our girls daily routine. I wanted to make sure that our customer feels great going to and from Pilates.
The line will be updated seasonally and also include 20 bag styles and a selection of colorful, low-top sneakers. We will continue to listen to our customer and design accordingly- new silhouettes, exciting prints and innovated performance. As a lifestyle brand, our goal is to have our girl want to wear us for all of her events and experiences, and this is just another line that can be incorporated into her current wardrobe.
TLLC: How many purses should one woman own? And if she could only own one, what should that be
RM: Every woman needs at least two bags. A structured tote bag in a neutral color; it’s versatile and you can pack it with all the essentials for the day. A black clutch is a must have. You can dress it down with jeans or you can wear it for an evening out. They are all around a great investment and never go out of style!
TLLC: What is the one fashion or accessories trend for spring 2016 that is an absolute “do?”
RM: As you can see from my Spring 2016 runway collection, I am obsessed with fringe at the moment. Fringe jackets, fringe dresses, fringe bags…the more fringe the better!
TLLC: What future plans do you have for the brand?
RM: We have lots of exciting plans for the brand in the future but you will just have to wait and see!