Rebecca Minkoff Reflects On How She Made It Big

by The Daily Front Row

(NEW YORK) At Marie Claire‘s recent Power Women luncheon, the room was full of the most creative and entrepreneurial female minds in the country. The Daily sat next to designer Rebecca Minkoff, who dished on how she founded her booming biz and what she was up to before it all took off. Turns out Minkoff originally moved to the Big Apple to become a dancer. Details on the designer’s en pointe past and more, right this way! 

How did you get started as a designer?
I’ve been sewing since I was eight, but I was in love with dance! I am 5’9” and in pointe shoes, I’m about 6’2”. That is not pretty and I couldn’t be partners with any boys. At age 16, I was 5’9” and the boys hadn’t even gone through puberty yet, so I moved here to be a dancer from Florida. I was interning for a designer and then going to dance class at night. I thought I would take my chances on design.

What designer did you work for?
Craig Taylor. He was really big in the Nineties; he was doing things like men’s shirts for women. He created the boyfriend shirt before there was a boyfriend shirt.

When did you decide to do your own thing?
When I was 21. I had a five-piece collection!

How did you build up the courage to just go for it?
I was just going crazy. I felt like I needed to do this and that I was missing out if I didn’t just do it now.

Were you selling bags?
No, it was clothes. It was just five pieces, but I would go to all of the little East Village boutiques and they would do it on a consignment. I did that for 4 years on my own and then I did the bags and the bags took off.

When did you feel like you’d arrived in the industry?
I still don’t feel like I’ve arrived!

How did the bag take off?
A friend of mine wrote about it in Daily Candy, which was like social media back then, because there wasn’t Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I remember how powerful it was: if Daily Candy wrote about you,  it was like The New York Times wrote about you.

How did you complete the orders?
I had showrooms and Japanese buyers. I mean, it wasn’t a million orders, but 75 bags was a lot of bags to make at the time.

Was it your classic bag?
Yes, it was ‘The Morning After Bag’, but at the time the body was canvas and the trim was leather.

Was the MAB the same price back then?
It was more expensive. I was making everything in New York and it was $595, which was cheap then. Back then, that was a really great price for a bag. Then, the recession came. Retailers said that if there was a ‘5’ in front of a bag’s price, they weren’t buying them. But I also wasn’t allowed to change the leather or the quality of the bags. So my brother said we are just going to do the Wrigley’s model, no margin and sell a lot.

When did you relaunch the clothing?
We relaunched the clothing in 2009, the minute the bag took off.

How has the brand been growing lately? I’ve expanded to Korea, and I’ve opened a shop in Los Angeles. We have a space in New York that’s going to be our first freestanding store here. The landlord is trying to get some answers on the landmark finishes; it was originally an office space. It’ll be located at 96 Greene Street. 

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