Photo Credit: Ellinor Stigle

By Victoria Garcia

Rebecca Minkoff strolls into her New York City flagship store with comfortable ease and a wide smile on her face. The bustling Soho location doesn’t open for another hour, but its vacancy of customers puts emphasis on the brand’s merchandise and the inventive technology spread throughout the entire store. With a quick scan of the space, it’s easy to recognize this isn’t a standard brick-and-mortar shop, and Minkoff has taken the aesthetic and presence of her brand far beyond the norm, a characteristic the designer seems to attribute to everything she does. As we sit down in the back of the store to discuss her newest eyewear venture, Minkoff explains what it’s taken for her to get to this stage in her career.

At 18 years old, Minkoff moved to New York City determined to begin her journey in the fashion capital of the world. She started as an intern for a designer and was hired full-time for three years. Then in 2001, she designed a version of the I Love New York T-shirt as a five-piece capsule collection that appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” which was the catalyst to the launch of her career. “In 2005, I decided to have one accessory launch as part of the clothing collections I had been designing,” says Minkoff. “I was styling on the side to pay the actual bills, and that handbag took off. Back then, fashion was a lot slower. I could do one bag a year, then two bags a year, then four. Women wanted something that was cool but still had classiness to it.” The bag she is referring to is the Morning After Bag (the M.A.B.), which is still sold today in various colors, prices and sizes, proving the longevity and demand for her designs. Once this item became a household name, Minkoff put a hold on her clothing collection and focused on designing more bags and other accessories, but in 2009 she was ready to launch her first ready-to-wear collection.

With its statement-making leather, studs and elaborate hardware, the Rebecca Minkoff brand has gone far beyond her first successful designs. The brand is now sold in over 900 stores and has four domestic and eight international locations. Her product range covers ready-to-wear, jewelry, tech accessories, luggage, footwear, handbags and the recent addition of watches and eyewear. Men’s accessories including leather goods, bags, shoes and watches can be found under the Uri Minkoff label, named after her brother, Uri. The siblings act as co-founders but also play vital roles in each brand. Rebecca is the creative director for the women’s line, while Uri acts as the CEO for both brands and the creative director for the men’s collection.

Ever since its inception, the Rebecca Minkoff brand has taken a nontraditional approach in building and expanding its presence. Minkoff was always adamant about speaking and interacting directly with her customers, a tactic unheard of a decade ago in the fashion industry. The brand has also successfully adopted the “see-now-buy-now” approach, which gives customers the option of purchasing accessories and clothing straight off the runway, rather than waiting several months for products to be stocked and available in stores. “The first time we did it, we were definitely scared out of our minds,” says Minkoff. “We took it upon ourselves to do it right here on Greene Street and invite 500 members of the press and media, and 2,000 additional people. But it was incredible, and it was one of the highlights of my career.” The brand made an impressive decision to incorporate fashion bloggers into their runway shows, inviting them to walk down the runway instead of having them sit front row. This direct-to-consumer mindset has given the brand a likeable accessibility that sets it apart from its competitors.

The early acceptance of social media and technology has also aided in the positive relationship the brand has with its customer base. The Rebecca Minkoff Instagram account enhances this relationship by seamlessly combining the brand’s products, as well as offering insight to Minkoff’s personal life. On the technology side of the business, the brand’s Soho store includes advanced technology enhancing and elevating each shopper’s experience with interactive mirrors, text alerts and light variations. Each mirror can be used to request a dressing room, add items and as a television screen where inspirational videos are played. The connected mirror can recognize what items are brought into the dressing room and can request additional items from sales associates and stylists. There are no cash registers, and customers can begin the checkout process in the dressing room, creating a “smart shopping” experience for anyone who steps into the store.  

One of Rebecca Minkoff’s newest ventures is an eyewear and sunwear collection from Safilo. Her brand has dabbled in eyewear in the past with a small sunwear collection, but has now teamed up with Safilo to create frames that are more accessibly priced. “I think we’ve always been known for giving women quality above the price tag, and I felt that Safilo was a great partner for that,” says Minkoff. Last October, the brand launched an exclusive holiday sunglass collection featuring 10 styles available at Rebecca Minkoff stores, the brand’s website and select Nordstrom and Solstice Sunglasses boutiques. Following this launch is the spring/summer 2019 collection, which features a total of 18 sunglass styles and the first-ever optical collection that will launch this spring with 14 optical frames. The collection consists of three inspirational themes expressing the brand’s philosophy of celebrating women’s confidence and multidimensionality. The Strength and Softness theme features styles that mix bold and soft details meant for the wearer to stand out, while the Inner Rockstar theme features design details such as studs, iridescent colors and rainbow-colored lenses. Frames from the Confidence theme are directly tied back to the brand’s other accessories, which this season is heavily based on metallic and leather effects. “I think we wanted to have two things. One that spoke to certain trends that were occurring within just the eyewear market, but then how we would put our twist on it, whether it’s mixed hardware or little bits of details from our handbags and then just an interesting mix of materials and colors.” Frames are designed to be accessible and wearable for all women and are named after strong female musicians such as Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper and Gloria Gaynor. A few frames from the holiday collection are displayed throughout the store, paired with additional accessories to create a cohesive look. “We definitely wanted that if you were going to wear head-to-toe Rebecca Minkoff, the eyewear would definitely complement the fall season. You can see we have a lot of dark colors, a lot of rich browns and leopard. We did the tortoise shell to match the leopard or deeper, darker brown colors to match.” For her personal style, she prefers Wayfarer-inspired and square-shaped frames, which you can also find throughout the collection.

All Rebecca Minkoff designs are created to empower and encourage women to be confident and fearless in their many facets of life. As a wife and mother of three, Rebecca has made sure that she emits this message not only through her brand, but through her personal and professional life. In 2017, she became a member of the first-ever New York State Council on Women and Girls, which is dedicated to bringing women together to enact positive change. Last year, she established the Female Founder Collective, a platform allowing female business leaders and founders from all industries to support each other in various ways. Along with IMG and public women-focused nonprofit groups across New York, the Female Founder Collective invests in the financial power of female-owned businesses, builds awareness of these businesses and creates more opportunities for these founders. A symbol was created for consumers to immediately identify a certain brand as female founded. The group goes hand-in-hand with the brand’s new campaign, “I Am Many.” “We felt as a company that most women are marketed to be one thing,” says Minkoff. “You see it in advertising—be brave, be bold, be ambitious—and we felt like women are many things. We wear many hats, and we have many sides to ourselves.” Proceeds from the campaign’s signature black and white I Am Many T-shirts will be donated to five different women’s charities. In association with this campaign, the brand has also created personalized videos highlighting various women supporting the cause. “We launched a video series of different women who are making positive impact. They are women you might not have ever heard of. Simultaneously we launched with notable celebrities giving their many and encouraging their fan base to share their many.”

Minkoff also recently launched her own podcast, “Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff.” The podcast was created as another outlet to celebrate the many different roles and dimensions women occupy on a daily basis. Every Tuesday, Minkoff interviews “Superwomen” such as Stacy London, model Coco Rocha and Allure’s editor-in-chief Michelle Lee, among others who have found success in numerous industries. Social media hashtags such as #RMSuperwomen, #MyRM and #IAmMany from the podcast and rebrand have prompted women to share their journeys and have created a group of women who strive for empowerment. “In terms of amplifying women’s voices, we have fireside chats once a month or so, where I interview another woman. We have about 70 to 100 women who come, so the podcast was just a way for me to get it out to more than 100 women. I try to keep it fun and conversational, and hear about the challenges they face, and how they’ve overcome them and share advice.” These types of events take place in the New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago stores, and offer yet another channel for Minkoff to connect with her customers.

As we wrap up our conversation about the brand’s new eyewear collection and campaign, Minkoff assures me the new frame styles will showcase all of the individual and unique details her brand is known for. Her enthusiasm is a bit soft-spoken, but I immediately notice how passionate and sincere she is about all of the endeavors she is currently working on. It’s difficult not to stare at the I Am Many campaign wall in the back of the store, signed by hundreds of women who have been impacted by the inspiration and empowerment of the Rebecca Minkoff brand. There is no doubt this message will resonate with even more women wearing Rebecca Minkoff eyewear. •