The early Rebecca Minkoff days were “the ramen days,” according to the mom and mogul who heads up her eponymously named fashion empire. "I worked out of a walk up and it was a real hustle.”
Most people know that Rebecca started with one bag: her iconic Morning After Bag (M.A.B for those ITK), but she’s been making clothes and sewing from a young age. At eight she asked her mother for a dress, a request that was refused but met by a challenge: she’d teach her daughter how to sew. So the budding designer-to-be went to sewing camp. Then she went to performing arts high school, where she got a taste for design in the drama costume department. Eventually landing an internship for a designer in New York where the CEO taught her the ins and outs of every department.
Fast forward to 2001. She took her scrappy approach to fashion and business and launched her eponymous label. She used the last of her savings to make her first bag without any assurance that she would succeed. A little over ten years ago, in 2005, it was just Rebecca and an intern. Her brother Uri mortgaged his home and maxed out his own credit cards to keep the business from going bust. Today the brand sells to over 900 retailers, has over 10 stores internationally, including four stateside, and is looking to open more.
From day one she’s been a staple in her company. “Early on, I was told by retailers not to have a direct dialogue with my customer,” says Rebecca. “They thought I was cheapening myself by being accessible. I decided not to take their advice - which as a very young brand was a risk. But I know that decision had a huge part to play in our success.”
Even as the RM brand has grown exponentially the way Rebecca conducts business has remained constant. “I've always had my hand in everything,” the fashion mogul shares. “I'm in the office every day.”
She counts her mother and brother Uri, who has stayed on as CEO, as tremendous influences. She also “hugely admire[s] women like Jessica Alba who have built incredible businesses for families.”
Rebecca is a mom herself to daughter, Bowie, and son, Luca. Striking a balance every day is “impossible,” but she handles her mom-boss status by way of “trial and error, and more than anything trusting myself. Knowing when to step in and knowing when it's okay to step back.” She works out twice a week with a trainer, admitting “the two sessions are all I have time for, but my trainer makes it worth my while.” And on the weekends you can catch her spending time with her family, having a glass of wine with her husband or escaping to Quogue. “I’m pretty bomb in the kitchen,” the CEO adds.
While she certainty doesn’t pretend that her day-to-day is effortless, Rebecca manages to handle her career and motherhood with grace. Even in moments of doubt and financial distress, she never gave in. Even in the beginning when a factory put another, very successful brand’s logo hardware on her bags. “Occasionally there are moments when you need to reflect and ask, 'OK, how am I doing?,” she says. And, “What needs to change so that I can get through this?” But got through it she did.
With a fashion empire and a family, she still finds time to host a salon series. “I do a fireside chat with a woman I admire. We'll talk about her successes and discuss the different challenges we've had and really just share stories.” For her female empowerment is about “championing each other and rooting for each other - rather than always trying to come first and comparing yourself to someone else.”
If you're looking for a female role model in business, the designer of the M.A.B is as F-A-B as it gets.