Q&A with Fashion Designer, Rebecca Minkoff

Sunday, January 04, 2015

I'm still playing catch-up on my blog, and I wanted to share my casual Q&A conversation with Fashion Designer, Rebecca Minkoff when I attended her luncheon at Neiman Marcus last year. She's super nice and easy going! It was yet another exciting moment for me in the year 2014. I sat right next to her during the luncheon and myself and fellow Houston Fashion Blogger Heather Petrey took advantage of the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her Spring 2015 collection, her career in Fashion, and being friends with none other than top blogger, Leandre Medine from Man Repeller. Throughout the luncheon, looks from her Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 collection were modeled for the attendees. To see more details on the event, or what I wore to the luncheon, check out my previous blog posts, here & here

Rebecca Minkoff (RM): Everything you saw prior to this is currently available at Neiman Marcus, and this is a little preview of what's coming to Neiman Marcus for spring, so everything you'll see from now on  is from our Spring 2015 Runway show. 

Shalanda Turner (ST): When will the Spring 2015 Spring collection be available at Neiman Marcus?
RM: They'll be available in February.

Heather Petrey (HP): What inspired this collection?
RM: This Spring was inspired by a photographer named Deborah Tuberville. She was really influential in the '60s in changing photography. It was all very stiff and in the studio and very posed and she changed it be more of what we look at now as photography.

ST: Who's the women you envision when you design your collections? Who do you see wearing your clothes?
RMI would say the girl I have in mind, is a sexy tomboy. She doesn't like to show too much skin and if she does it's in a subtle way. There's always a little bit of a rock and roll sensibility but since my roots are from California, there's also a casual element as well.

HP: What made you get into Fashion Design?
RMI got the bug when I was about 8. I wanted a dress; it was just a simple T-shirt dress, and my Mom said, "I'm not going to buy it for you, but I'll teach you how to sew". So we went and bought a pattern and fabric, and she showed me how to sew.  Since then I was hooked. I saved all of my baby-sitting money for a sewing machine and made my bat mitzvah dress.  I sewed all through high-school. I would literally rip clothes apart and put them back together.

ST: That's a great way to learn! I've always wanted to learn how to sew. This is intriguing to me that you started off with making your own clothes, because your company grew on your handbag collection first, right? When did you know that it was time to transition from just handbags to also incorporate clothing?
RMI had a very small apparel line before the bags, so I knew what I was doing in terms of clothing. But when the bags took off, we said, "let's focus on this, get it really well known and then come back to clothing". To do clothing you need a lot more infrastructure and it's a lot harder to fit clothing to people and make that work. So we said, "let's shut the clothing down until we have the finances to do it right". You never have to worry how someone's butt looks with a handbag!

ST: You got that right! I wanted to ask you about Leandre Medine (Man Repeller)! I know a few of us here are Fashion Bloggers, and I know you are really good friends with her and I remember she walked in one of your earlier New York Shows! Did you know her prior to that?
RMI knew her before. She was just starting to get big then, when she walked in my show.

ST: That was really cool to see and  very inspiring to the rest of us fashion bloggers.
RMShe's awesome. She's so smart, in addition to her ability to dress incredibly, she's really savvy.

Luncheon Attendee (LA): Are you currently based in New York City?
RMYes, I'm in Brooklyn. I used to be in the city (Manhattan), but with two kids...

ST: I love Brooklyn! Last September I went to Brooklyn for the first time, and it's amazing In fact I want to go back to New York City, just to spend more time in Brooklyn!
RMI'm finding that a lot of people are starting to do that. They've done all of the touristy things that are there to do in Manhattan and now when they go back they want to go back to explore Brooklyn.

ST: That's definitely me! What inspires your collections every season? I know you were inspired by a photographer for Spring 2015, but how do you keep it fresh every season?
RMIt's not easy.

ST: It amazes me how designers can come up with so many ideas, especially now since, most designers are doing more than just 2 collections, right? 

ST: Yes! So many! I can't imagine trying to come up with fresh ideas for that many collections every year. 
RMI think, for me, the inspiration is the most important part because it sets the tone for everything. For next season I happened to be reading a book by Patti Smith, and I was completely inspired by her life in the '70s in New York, and who she was around and who she was hanging out with. She would be sitting with Jimi Hendrix or Mick Jagger, and I was like, "What would she wear?" or let's look at all the photos of how great she dressed. If you looked at her history she would wear what we would wear now.  

ST: Fashion seems to be cyclic a little bit! So how early do you start thinking about the next collection? Are you already thinking about 2016?
RMSoon! We're almost done with 2015. All of the designs for Fall next year, everything that would be in the stores this time next year is done.

LA: Wow! That's so hard to believe that you would plan that far in advance?
RMIsn't it crazy, and bigger companies actually plan 2 years in advance.

ST: How do you know that far ahead, what will work? Obviously you need to stay true to your own design aesthetic, but it's also a business and you need to generate sales. 
RMYou cross your fingers. I think it's also remaining nimble. Which is why we make a lot of stuff in New York.  If you see something last minute that's a trend, you can really make it quickly. The pinstripes you see, we bought locally, because I saw a pinstripe trend coming, and we didn't think that, that would happen. We went to our local fabric vendor and got that last minute. 

LA: Did you say that all of your clothes are made in New York? 
RMNot all of them. About 20% is made in the US between LA and New York and the rest is made overseas. 

LA: How do you determine the trends?
RMIt's really a mixture and doing a lot of research and a little bit of street style. I go to Europe to see what's happening there. What usually happens there is followed here. I also look at the Couture shows, that show in June in Europe. When Karl showed sneakers, you knew that sneakers were going to be a trend, but my customer is going to adopt it a little later, because it hits designer first. So knowing to have sneakers, we had sneakers selling out. Other times it's just a feeling, and sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong. 

RMSo do all of you blog full-time?
ST: I wish! I'm actually an engineer during the daytime, and today was my Friday off so it worked out! Normally these events are when I'm at work and I can never come! 

LA: How often do you travel?
RM: A lot. I had the last 6 months off because of the baby, but normally every other week I'm traveling.

ST: Is this your first time in Houston?
RM: Yes

ST: Oooh. Are you able to stay awhile and explore the city?
RM: No, I flew in yesterday and I have to fly out tonight. Have to get home to the family

ST: Aww, but understandable
Cindy Nguyen: How were you able to get ready for the Fashion Houston Show in such a short amount of time?
RM: All of the hard work, to get all the looks together we did in September for the New York Show. So it's already kind of done, everything is already chosen, so it's just a matter of making sure it fits the models. So I have 3 people from my team here, the brunette and the two blondes. So they brought the clothes and tried them on and made sure they all fit. I didn't have to worry about it. We also did a show in Korea a week ago, so we did the same thing, flew in, and tried it on the models. So there's really no stress at this point, because we already went through all of the stress for New York.

ST: I actually first saw your collection, in New York, because I was there for MBFW, but I really love that designers are willing to come to the local markets and showcase their collections. It makes us feel involved even though we are so removed from New York!

ST: How would you describe you own personal style?
RMI think it's similar to what I described for the woman I envision. I try to design for our customer, but also what I would want to wear too.

ST: Makes sense! You have to want to wear your own clothes!
RMIt would be bad if I didn't!

Website: www.rebeccaminkoff.com
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