Ladies and gentlemen, it was Friday the 21st. The time? Just five minutes shy of 1pm. The scene was Neiman Marcus at the Galleria (my first time, incidentally) and the occasion? An informal meet-and-greet with the designer post her Fashion Houston 5 runway show. Yes, I was in the presence of the one and only Rebecca Minkoff. Did I mention I was starstruck? I know I told her, yes, I did. Rebecca was so gracious about it, patting my arm like a BFF and telling me there was absolutely no need for me to feel that way #girlcrush
I recall my initial impression being WOW. Was she the designer or one of the models? My mistake could be easily forgiven given that Rebecca stands 5’9″ in bare soles. Later, I would discover that her dream had been to be a dancer, but height got in the way. That her I Love New York tee shirt skyrocketed when Jenna Elfman wore it on the Jay Leno show in 2001. And that she would spend the next six months madly sewing tee shirts on her living room floor.
Things came to a screeching halt four years later when Rebecca found herself out of money (poor thing). I loathe to imagine the state of the world of accessories had that been the last time the brand was seen and heard. With a helping hand from brother Uri, the Rebecca Minkoff company not only survived, it thrived.
Back to my encounter with Rebecca. We chatted a smidge about the ring I was wearing from her Spring 2013 line. Shaped like a shield, it was Gold Tone featuring Rough Cut Crystals simulating their carat counterparts. That and a Dove Grey Leather Turnkey Cuff Bracelet are the only pieces I own from the brand. I don’t suppose it’s protocol to let on to the designer with whom one’s conversing that you’re a newly converted groupie. But since I’ve never been a stickler for convention, I shared the tidbit. Her subsequent exclamation of happiness was so authentic, I felt as though I’d just handed Rebecca the first item on her Christmas wishlist 🙂 that reaction (and my natural curiosity) led to the question, “What would you say to compel women, like myself, who don’t own a Rebecca Minkoff bag, to purchase one?”
Her response was swift and genuine, “It goes beyond product quality, well beyond aesthetics. It’s the very heart of the brand. I’m a wife, mother (in fact, I was informed by a member of her team that baby #2 spent quite a fair amount of time in the office as he was born just before FW2015 shows began), designer. I can relate to women and their lives, what they’re going through. I go to work in sweatpants and sneakers. I’m no diva. I’m very real.”
This sense of realness is clearly evident in her offerings. For instance, between the ages of 20 and 30, there are a lot of important milestones that a woman will experience. Rebecca has designs that relate to every single moment such as the Lovers Clutch, the Affair, the Swoon, the Luscious, the Devote Tote. Let’s not forget her very first piece, the timeless Morning After Bag (MAB) which has reached iconic levels.
She added, “Most people don’t believe it, but it’s really me on Twitter. I read every single tweet and reply to as many as I possibly can. My customers know I’m listening and responding to their feedback.” Indeed, a huge part of the reason for Minkoff’s popularity is her social media presence. “If someone writes in and tells us the strap on a particular bag isn’t long enough to wear in the winter when she’s wearing a coat, we’ll extend the strap and make it longer the next season.”
The company views Instagram as its number one go-to platform in terms of engagement, leveraging on responses from followers to gauge customer feedback that, in turn, support discussions with retailers. Case in point, “There was a style we loved, but one national retailer wasn’t interested. Until we showed them the thousands of Instagram likes it had received, and the hundreds of comments from followers saying how much they adored it. Ultimately, it was the customer demand which propelled that retailer to buy the product.”
And how often does it happen that a designer listens that closely to her customers? Not often enough, I say.
p/s right after this conversation, I purchased the Finn Fringed Bag in Silver. I am a Minkoff Bag virgin no more.
pp/s In 2009, Rebecca extended her line to offer Prêt-à-Porter and the world is eternally grateful.