Fashion is one of the toughest industries in the world to succeed. And though we get distracted by all the beautiful designs and the glamour, real, gritty hard-working people are behind everything you see. To see someone who has built their career from nothing to something amazing in this cutthroat field is a true rarity. One of those people is Rebecca Minkoff.
After starting her brand back in 2001 (just bags at that point), through innovation, talent and just good old-fashioned hard work Minkoff has gone on to become an internationally recognized designer. She told NBC recently, “A lot of people could reach those inflection points and say, I’m packing up, and each time you dig in your heels a little bit longer and say OK ‘I’m going to fix it, I’m going to work harder, I’m going to figure out what’s wrong, or what am I doing that’s not working?’ You keep at it.”
Keeping at it clearly paid off as her company now makes luxury handbags, as well as accessories, watches, footwear, and apparel. After moving to New York at 21 with fashion dream designs (as do many New Yorkers) she sewed bags during the night when she would come home from her full-time job and then sell them at consignment shops. She diligently followed up on each order and steadily built a very strong network which is absolutely key in retail. Eventually, she left her full-time job and went on her own to start her company. Rebecca Minkoff now has distribution to over 900 countries and flagship stores in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. She also just launched a children’s line, Little Minkoff, to celebrate the brand’s 15 year anniversary.
She believes she made it in this competitive industry because of a combination of “sticking to my brand roots (of a west-meets-east bohemian rocker vibe), as well as listening to my customers, and surrounding myself with a great team of people who help bring to life my ideas and designs. I’ve never given up over the years, and remain determined to succeed.”
Ladders recently caught up with Minkoff after her 2020 New York Fashion Week show to pick her brain about her career and what she looks for in a hire. She says she definitely can tell in a few minutes if this person is going to be a good fit for her company or not. ” I look for people who are excited and knowledgeable about their given profession and the role they are applying for. I want someone who will bring ideas to the table, and motivate others on the team to test different things in order to see what works and resonates with our customers. Personality is key, and making sure the person is truly a team player.”
As for her best career advice, Minkoff says, “Even if your dream seems unattainable, you can achieve it if you stay focused, driven, and diligent. Keeping good people around you—people who love you and have your best interest in mind are incredibly important.:”
A big part of Minkoff’s company mission has always been to support and encourage women to thrive whether it be in their careers, home life or just feeling confident when they go out in the world to take on the day. In her Soho store, she used to hold fireside chats with female entrepreneurs for the public to come in and learn about their career paths, that evolved into the Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff podcast. In January of 2018, she partnered with The Women’s March to launch the social space RM Superwomen as a platform for conversation and events to help inspire women to lead “fearless” lives.
Working and “fearless” women were a huge component of her last two NYFW presentations. Both featured women in office settings working as well as pumping and breastfeeding. “We wanted to expand upon the working girl theme this season, and showcase our girl in every phase and aspect of her life…from motherhood, to multi-tasking, to relaxing. There are so many moments that make up a women’s daily life, and I wanted to showcase that our clothing can and will accompany them on their individual journeys, to help them achieve their goals and dreams,” she told Ladders. “I think that there’s always room for improvement when it comes to large or small corporations catering to breastfeeding or pumping women. That said, I do think that there has been significant improvement in the overall acceptance of looking at these activities as part of a women’s normal life, and of females feeling more comfortable about it.”
Minkoff is also the founder of the Female Founder Collective which is a partner of Visa. Visa hosted a workshop at Female Founders Day, to help female small business founders discuss strategies for loans and capital. According to initial findings in Visa’s second annual “State of Female Entrepreneurship” report, 79% percent of women entrepreneurs in the U.S. feel more empowered now than they did five years ago, yet 66% report difficulty in obtaining the funding they need to succeed.