Rebecca Minkoff’s Gospel


Designer Rebecca Minkoff takes issue with the widely held image of self-care: turmeric lattes, face masks in salt baths, aromatherapy and massages, as she puts it.

“Work can also be self-care,” she writes in “Fearless,” a business advice book she wrote during the pandemic, published last week.

She is particularly resistant to the idea that self-care can solve burnout – the feeling of acute exhaustion that has gained more attention recently. “There is no scented candle in the world that will make this feeling go away.”

Ms. Minkoff’s authority over burnout and lattes comes from her work in fashion for two decades. In 2005, she founded her brand with her brother Uri, after having designed a handbag called Morning After Bag. The popular backpack became a staple in countless paparazzi photos in the mid-years, hanging from the slender forearms of starlets who wore low-rise jeans and accessorized with Starbucks mugs.

Since then, Ms. Minkoff’s line has grown from bohemian accessories for party girls to a full collection of clothing and footwear, at affordable prices. It has maintained a constant presence in US department stores and has built a reputation for embracing new technology – putting futuristic twists on the runways (using drones or virtual reality, for example), selling clothing (before Apple Watch) and opening a smart store. In 2019, before Covid-19 disrupted the fashion industry, the company said it had more than $ 100 million in retail sales.

But a few years ago, Ms Minkoff was dreading returning to the office after maternity leave. People told her she was suffering from burnout (a “pseudo-diagnosis,” she writes). Her solution: after a little introspection on where her passion really resided, she plunged even further into her work.

“The times I’ve experienced burnout is when I hate what I’m doing,” Ms. Minkoff said in an interview last month at her office in Manhattan’s Flatiron neighborhood near the Home Depot where she has already bought some brass material for the morning. After the bag.

This is how she created rule n ° 19 of her 21 rules “to unlock creativity, courage and success”, presented in the new book: “Go beyond burnout”. Self-reflection cures burnout, she argues, not self-care.

Ms Minkoff’s position will come as no surprise to anyone reading Rules 1-18, which tells how she built her business without any formal design education – moving from Florida to New York after high school without any significant ties or financial support from her parents. – and how she handled the criticisms and apathy of the “elite fashion clique”, an amorphous but influential group of publishers, designers, buyers and executives who hold power in the industry .

The owner of a popular showroom once gutted the Morning After Bag during a meeting with Ms. Minkoff.

Owner Cynthia O’Connor told Ms Minkoff that it was the wrong size, made with the wrong materials, and that its quality did not justify the $ 600 price tag. (“I literally tore up her bag with my words,” said Ms. O’Connor, who admitted 15 years later that she could “be a little harsh” about handbags.)

Ms. Minkoff details these setbacks with humor and frankness. But one aspect of his life is not covered: his membership in the Church of Scientology, which was based on another self-help book, “Dianetics” by L. Ron Hubbard.

Although she has never spoken about it publicly before, Ms Minkoff said she does not hide her beliefs. “I am totally open,” she said. “But it’s not my job to proselytize.”

Over the years, she said, people have expressed the confusion that she identifies as both a Jew and a Scientologist.

“I think there is a lot of confusion when people hear the word ‘religion’ – you immediately hear me praying to L. Ron Hubbard,” she said. “I study it, I take classes and that’s it, and it has helped me stay focused. I don’t have all the answers. When I needed someone, it was a place I went to look for answers.

Like other prominent Scientologists – some, like actress Jenna Elfman, mentioned in “Fearless” as Ms. Minkoff’s early supporters – the designer refers to what she believed to be “horrific disinformation” about the church and her belief system, which she considers “more of a philosophy of self-improvement”.

But his interest in self-improvement is also one of the reasons his book exists, with assurances such as: “Fear can be overcome. You have the power to act. “

Over the years, Ms. Minkoff has embraced the world of entrepreneurship, gradually identifying herself more with a businesswoman than a fashionable woman – the kind of woman who imbues her “real conversation” with love. with business school vocabulary and Girlboss poise.

She hosts “Superwomen,” a podcast of interviews with guests like Jessica Alba and Barbara Corcoran, and in 2018 she co-founded a network of business owners called the Female Founder Collective. She once tried, without success, as she writes in her book, to create a label to mark products made by women, inspired by those who certify products cruelty-free or organic. (When the effort stopped in state government, she said, she ended up creating her own symbol through the Female Founder Collective.)

In 2018, she also launched an advertising campaign around women’s empowerment, featuring the organizers of the Women’s March, actress Zosia Mamet, former Fox News presenter Gretchen Carlson and, somewhat controversial at the time, Melissa DeRosa, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s main collaborators. .

Ms. Minkoff is still the Creative Director and the face of her brand; she oversees the design of all collections, models the products on her Instagram and writes online marketing. (She took on the editorial role during the pandemic, after the company laid off half of its staff in March 2020.)

But other than planning the New York Fashion Week events, which she oversees fully, she isn’t very involved in day-to-day decision-making. Instead, Uri Minkoff, his brother, runs the company as a managing director. And he shares the same sense of pride in how they survived the odds of being the neglected kids in the fashion cafeteria.

“There were no publishers or stores lining up, shining on us like the next big ‘it’ thing. We were able to go to the party and stay at the party because we were playing and because it was a hit, ”said Mr. Minkoff, who has come in fashion from the tech world, and who spices up the conversation from. quotes from Marc Andreessen and “Animal Farm. “” Looking back, there’s been this ordeal by fire every step of the way, and fighting tooth and claw. “

It is this struggle – not feeling “cool enough or connected enough or successful enough or rich enough” to be in the inner fashion circle, as Ms. Minkoff puts it – that has helped her make her l athlete she presents in her book.

That’s why she believes burnout can be eradicated by working harder. Which is why, when this showroom owner tore up the Morning After Bag, Ms. Minkoff didn’t defend her artistic vision but took Ms. O’Connor’s advice in modifying her design. That’s why she turned to entrepreneurship, a world where being cool mattered less than having ideas and confidence.

This is why she titled her book “Fearless”, even though she still feels fear around the fashion weeks and the future, and raising three children in a pandemic, and the growing cultural backlash against the founders.

“My take in calling it ‘fearless’ is that it’s not like you’re not afraid,” Ms. Minkoff said. Rather, “’I’m scared. I am terrified. But here we go. ‘”

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