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Season 4 - Episode 10:

A Fearless Future with Rebecca Minkoff

A Fearless Future with Rebecca Minkoff

Episode Summary

If you’re a designer who’s just launched a blockbuster handbag—the kind that’s been snapped up by celebrities like Halle Berry and Jennifer Lawrence—you’re probably not content to rest on your laurels. Rebecca Minkoff launched the Morning After Bag in 2005, and while it quickly became a staple for the young Hollywood set, Rebecca wanted more. She’s since branched out into shoes, apparel, even perfume, all designed to appeal to a rock-and-roll bohemian aesthetic. This week we talk to Rebecca about working with family, growing past a signature product, and why we should all be more fearless.

Episode Notes

For Jewish girls, the bat mitzvah is a pivotal moment of becoming a young adult and joining the adult community. For Rebecca Minkoff, who had been designing and sewing clothes since she was eight years old, the celebration was also a chance to showcase her fashion skills—and her “newly budding rack.” Pulling inspiration from the 1700s (think Bridgerton), Rebecca designed a square-necked, Empire-waist number that checked her boxes (and her parents made sure it stayed PG-13). For Rebecca, this was a foundational step in the lifelong process of becoming a fashion mogul. Now, in 2021, Rebecca Minkoff has flagship stores in LA, Hong Kong and New York City, among others; she’s also distributed by more than 900 companies worldwide. 

While Rebecca has enjoyed early boosts to her brand—Jenna Elfman wore her “I Love New York” shirt on The Jay Leno Show in 2001—Rebecca has also worked hard to cultivate her business’s profile. For example, when she launched the Morning After Bag (also known as the M.A.B.) in 2005, she leveraged her industry connections, working relationships with Hollywood agents and stylists to ensure that the highly photographed celebrities of the early aughts all had a Rebecca Minkoff bag on their arm. 

But getting there wasn’t easy: she’s navigated debts, doubts, and setbacks along the way. For example, Rebecca tells us she was once fired from a job after the CEO pulled her aside and told her that  if she didn’t start channelling the passion she was putting into her own side hustle into the CEO’s fashion business, she’d be let go. Rebecca countered with, “I don’t honestly think I can do that.” At the time, Rebecca had small collections in only a handful of New York City stores, but her dedication to her own vision meant letting go of her main gig. “There was no safety net,” she recalls. Rebecca has since been in the CEO’s position, and she’s made the same tough call. “When you’re half-assing two things, you’ll never be able to fully focus on either.”

When the M.A.B. took off, Rebecca sensed her company’s reputation was starting to hinge on a single product. So she quickly escalated production on a range of offerings, from jewelry to clothing. “We knew we wanted to be a lifestyle brand, and the only way to do that was to go full-force and launch these other categories.” Her company president at the time was from the apparel world, and Rebecca herself had experience with women’s clothing design. She also brought on a shoe expert who could take them from design to manufacture. “We kept finding best-of-breed partners.” Unwilling to do a licensing agreement, she entered into manufacturing agreements—very normal in fashion—and she encourages people to explore different types of partnerships for themselves in their own businesses. 

One of her most important partnerships is with her brother, who joined the company full-time in 2011. He had loaned her seed money for M.A.B. launch years earlier, and their partnership over the years has had ups and downs. Rebecca tells us that when things get really intense, she and Uri “hired a business mediator to help us when we get those critical impasses:” someone to “unsnarl the tangles” when the business and personal relationships become complicated. 

Since 2018, Rebecca has also been channelling her creative leadership energy into the Female Founder Collective, a network for female business owners that offers education and resources. She’s also recently published a book, Fearless, that walks readers through her 21 steps for bravery in the face of business uncertainty. “My goal with the book is to throw out the rules: know you’re going to be scared, but do those things anyway.” She knows, from long personal experience, that taking risks is not a fearless endeavor, but moving through fear is a key step for success.


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