Rebecca Minkoff: Haute Mama
The designer stops in St. Louis to talk handbags, happy times and what’s in store for next season
Building an empire isn’t easy, but it does have its perks—just ask design powerhouse Rebecca Minkoff, whose talent and good fortune have her rubbing elbows with not only the best in the fashion biz, but also an endless list of celebrity clientele. The new mom, who lives in NYC with her actor/director husband, Gavin Bellour, just might have it all. She took a moment away from fashion and motherhood—in anticipation of her event at St. Louis’ Saks Fifth Avenue on Dec. 12—to chat with ALIVE about her latest collection, great hair and what you’ll be wearing this spring.
ALIVE: How did you start out in fashion?
Rebecca Minkoff: I moved here right after high school to intern for a designer. I worked for him for three years, and then in 2001, I decided I was ready to branch out on my own. I had a small apparel line for about four years, and then I launched one handbag as an accessory to the apparel and it took off. That’s pretty much how it became what it is today.
ALIVE: Did you hit any roadblocks along the way?
RM: Yes, we still encounter roadblocks. It’s never just an easy ride—from trying to figure out how to pay for the production of my first order to trying to listen to our customer and take our prices down so she can still afford our bags. With every season there are new challenges.
ALIVE: When did you feel like you “made it”?
RM: I think there have been several moments, where each time you think it’s the time. When I first got into Bloomingdale’s, I thought I made it, and when I became a member of the CFDA, I thought I made it. There’s this part of Saks Fifth Avenue, right when you walk off the elevators, where I have a full display of clothing and my name is in hard letters on the wall. That just happened over Fashion’s Night Out, so I thought I made it then.
ALIVE: Many of your handbags have gone on to “it bag” status, like the Morning After Bag. What do you think it is about your handbags that keeps women coming back for more?
RM: I think it’s really a comboÛÓsome of them are trend-driven, but a lot of them are timeless, and I try to design an aesthetic that’s around a good bag versus a logo. I think people appreciate the design rather than, “Here’s who I purchased today.”
ALIVE: Celebrities also seem to have a thing for your designs. When you first started out, did you foresee that one day celebs like Jessica Alba or Scarlett Johansson would be carrying your handbags?
RM: It was obviously a wish that I had and a hope. I knew to be successful that I was going to have to get a certain following there, so it’s been a blessing. People admire their style, and it helps to make the brand relevant and validate the consumer’s purchase if they look up to someone whose style they admire and they’re wearing the bag, too.
ALIVE: Your men’s line, Ben Minkoff, is teeming with practical but fashion forward bags for real menÛÓcomputer bags, messengers, weekenders. Does the design process change when crafting bags for men?
RM: It’s not just me that’s involved with the men’s line; my brother is my business partner, too. He has a ton of input on the men’s line, and I think listening to him, it’s really more about function and subtle details, and less hardwareÛÓbecause men are more focused on function and subtlety.
ALIVE: Moving on to clothes, what should women have in their closets right now?
RM: Definitely a good jacket. I think there are a lot of really interesting jackets that people are mixing with traditional woolÛÓand fake or real fur as an element of decoration. I’m all for a mid-heel boot, because it’s something you can wear all day and not have your feet hurt. Also a great “something glittery” that takes you through the holidays, whether it is sequins or a glittery bag.
ALIVE: For fall 2012 you showed a number of layered ensembles; do you have any tips on how to keep layering streamlined?
RM: My approach to layering is moderation. I don’t feel like I ever want someone to layer on 20 things. It should be more like a great fitted blouse with a boxy jacket, paired with tighter jeans. I think it’s important if you have one loose element to make the other more fitted.
ALIVE: You recently launched a new jewelry line, which includes a selection of layerable pieces. Can you tell us more about it?
RM: We were launching it for the holiday [season], so we wanted to make it sparkly and fun. With all of the upcoming events people have during the holidays, the goal was to have it be something that you could layer many elements together with.
ALIVE: Your spring 2013 collection was so optimistic; what was your inspiration?
RM: Spring was inspired by the photographer Slim Aarons who photographed really beautiful people and exotic places in the ’60s and ’70s. It was kind of reimagining that glamorous lifestyleÛÓwhat would the girl be wearing to those events now?
ALIVE: Tell us all about next spring: how do you envision it, what will we be wearing, and what will our must-have colors be?
RM: I think definitely a lot of white, and people are ready for the return of the flareÛÓslight flare, not bell bottoms.
ALIVE: Completely off the subject, you just may have the best hair in fashionÛÓany tips or products you can recommend?
RM: I’m not really a product whore at all. I think it’s because I take a lot of vitamins. I guess I take care of it more from the inside versus using product.
ALIVE: Now that you’ve hit on nearly every facet of fashionÛÓapparel, handbags, jewelryÛÓwhat’s next?
RM: We plan on opening our first retail store in July next year, so that’s our focusÛÓfiguring out what it’s going to look like and getting ready.
Photo credit: courtesy of Rebecca Minkoff