Interview: Rebecca Minkoff

Go steady with Rebecca Minkoff!



Stylemaker:
Rebecca Minkoff

by Julia DiNardo

From “it” bags to organic cotton totes, we all have our own personal favorites when it comes to handbags. And while it’s hard to find a handbag style that immediately resonates on many levels with a variety of women, we haven’t found a single stylish soul who doesn’t lust after the cool, luxe designs of stylemaker Rebecca Minkoff.

And we’re not the only ones. Minkoff’s famously named Italian leather bags (The Morning After Bag, anyone?) have graced the arms of Hollywood fashionistas Lindsay Lohan, Bijou Phillips and Rachel Bilson, to namedrop a few.

kellygolightly caught up with the busy and ever-gracious designer Rebecca Minkoff to learn her style secrets, inspirations, favorite haunts, what items she can’t live without and plans for her burgeoning mini empire.

BB: How did you get into designing handbags?

RM: I’ve been sewing and designing since I was eight. And when I moved to New York City, I was doing clothing.

I was then asked by Jenna Elfman to design a handbag for her next movie, which became the Morning After Bag. I wasn’t initially intending to do much with handbags and then a friend of mine at Daily Candy wrote about it, and it’s really been non-stop from there.

BB: Was it a big learning process to transition from apparel to handbags? What is the biggest challenge with designing handbags?

RM: It is still a learning process — I am still learning things right now.

The biggest challenge is coming up with new and inventive ideas that will translate. You never know what people will respond to, love or not love. It’s really learning how to go with it and realizing if you need to make more or if you should let the market show a little demand first to have people lust over the bags.

BB: Your bags have really taken off. It seems like every hip boutique in New York City has to have them. When did the orders start rolling in?

RM: About a year and a half ago. First, Searle picked me up — that was when I got the line picked up. Orders next came in from Anthropologie (no longer an account), then Bloomingdale’s and it kept going!

BB: How many bags do you think have been made, to date?

RM: I’d say at least 18,000.

BB: What is the inspiration behind your adorable names for your bags? You designed the Morning After Bag for your friend Jenna Elfman. How did you come up with that moniker?

RM: It’s very much a brainstorming activity. We want to have a lot more for the bags than it being just a bag. The Stud is coming out next, which has a double meaning for both a boy and that it has studs on it. I like it to be playful and interesting.

I wanted to capture that in the name and the story of each bag. We do this in our lookbook by telling a story that is an illustration, visualization. For instance in spring ’08, we have a bag called The Steady. The story is about the city and a girl with her boyfriend. The bag gets exposure and there’s also an undertone of a story — it’s not just a bag.

BB: What’s your favorite bag?

RM: : It’s a bag that no one has seen yet called The Steady. It’s coming this spring…

BB: Want to share any little-known secrets about yourself or your collection that not many people know?

RM: There is a little card in each bag that has a cute boy’s picture on it and his number to call. I find cute pics and have them printed on cards and people actually do call! When customers call they hear a guy’s voice and he is French. Some people call and think they met the guy the night before. It’s kind of funny to hear some of the messages!

BB: Where do you go in New York for inspiration?

RM: The New York Public Library. Actually, that is where I get most of my designing done. It’s just so quiet and you can’t use your cell phone in there. That has been my most successful location to work in.

BB: What are your favorite shops, both online and off?

RM: Shopbop.com
— I go on there at least once a day! Also, eLUXURY and I love going on eBay.
Not necessarily to buy, but to see vintage stuff and get styling inspiration. Neimanmarcus.com is also a great site.

As far as stores go, Searle is great — I shop there. Bloomingdale’s as well, and there is a vintage store called Edith Machinist on Rivington Street, which has great vintage shoes and vintage bags. Also, I shop at Poppy all the time and Owl’s Lab.

BB: What have you bought recently that you were totally excited about?

RM:A top from designer Alisha Levine, who makes really great easy, casual pieces, in silk stretch. I ordered it at a trade show, and wasn’t sure when I was going to get it, so I was really excited when it arrived.

BB: What items can you absolutely not live without?

RM: My sidekick, Nars lip gloss, vintage heels (I most recently got my roommate’s Charles Jourdan heels), iS clinical face cream.

BB: What is your favorite color?

RM: Royal blue, from last season’s collection, and a deep red, like the color I am wearing right now on my nails.

BB: Favorite magazine?

RM: It’s tied among W, Bazaar and Vogue.

BB: What is the most rewarding part of running your own company and eponymous label?

RM: It’s great sometimes when I pause and think, holy cow — it’s amazing to have accomplished so much! I put all this work into it, and at the end of the day, it is great to think about all that we as a team have accomplished. We are a team of only five and do everything! I also work closely with Cynthia O’ Connor showroom, that carries other really great contemporary labels as well.

BB: What’s up next for Rebecca Minkoff? Do you think you will go back to doing an apparel line or will you stick with accessories?

RM: Apparel is definitely coming down the pipeline, probably by spring ’09. I will go back to my roots as a clothing designer. And probably keep up doing bags and clothes.

BB: Any thoughts on doing a capsule collection for a mass retailer like Target?

RM: I would definitely consider it if I were to be asked. It would be great to get the name out there to more people.

BB: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

RM: Ten years from now, I would love to have a shoe line. I am way too obsessed with them. Handbags, clothing, shoes — a mini empire. And my own store, a flagship store in New York City and LA, and I would love my international business to grow to the degree that my domestic business has grown. Right now I do have 40 retailers in Japan, one in Russia, one in Paris and a few in Canada.

Find Rebecca Minkoff bags online at rebeccaminkoff.com, shopbop.com,
neimanmarcus.com (and in store October 2007) and bloomingdales.com.

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