The Gospel of Rebecca Minkoff


The designer Rebecca Minkoff opposes the widespread self-care image: the turmeric lattes, the face masks in the salt bath, the aromatherapy and massage, as she says.

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

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

Ms. Minkoff’s expertise in burnout and lattes comes from her work in the fashion industry for two decades. In 2005 she founded her label with her brother Uri after designing a handbag called Morning After Bag. The popular carryall became a fixture in countless paparazzi photos from the mid-1980s hanging on the spindly forearms of starlets in low-slung jeans and with Starbucks cups.

Since then, Ms. Minkoff’s line has expanded from boho party girl accessories to a full collection of clothes and shoes at affordable prices. It has maintained a constant presence in American department stores and built a reputation for leveraging new technology – futuristic twists and turns in catwalk shows (e.g., with drones or virtual reality), the sale of wearables (before the Apple Watch), and the opening of a smart store. In 2019, before Covid-19 turned the fashion industry on its head, the company claims it brought in more than $ 100 million in retail sales.

However, a few years ago, Ms. Minkoff was afraid to return to the office after taking maternity leave. People told her she had burnout (a “pseudo-diagnosis,” she writes). Her solution: After a brief introspection of where her passion really lay, she immersed herself even deeper in her work.

“I’ve experienced burnout when I hate what I do,” Ms. Minkoff said in an interview last month at her office in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, near the Home Depot, where she once bought brass parts for the morning According to Bag.

So she created rule no. 19 of her 21 rules “for the development of creativity, courage and success”, which is 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 who reads Rules 1 through 18, which describes how she built her business without formal design training – moving from Florida to New York after high school with no significant connections or financial support from her parents – and how she dealt with criticism and apathy from the “elite fashion clique,” ​​an amorphous but influential group of editors, designers, buyers and executives who hold power in the industry.

Once the owner of a popular showroom gutted the morning after bag while meeting Ms. Minkoff.

The owner, Cynthia O’Connor, told Ms. Minkoff it was the wrong size, made from the wrong materials, and the quality didn’t 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 tough” on handbags.)

Ms. Minkoff reports on these setbacks with humor and openness. But one aspect of their lives is neglected: their membership in the Church of Scientology, which was based on another self-help book, L. Ron Hubbard’s “Dianetics.”

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

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

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

Like other prominent Scientologists – some, like actress Jenna Elfman, are mentioned in “Fearless” as early supporters of Ms. Minkoff – the designer refers to “appalling misinformation” about the Church and its belief system, which she regards as “more of a philosophy of Self improvement “.

But her interest in self-improvement is also part of the reason her book exists, with assurances like, “Fear can be overcome. You have the power to take action. “

Over the years, Ms. Minkoff has embraced the world of entrepreneurship, gradually identifying herself more as a woman in business than a woman in fashion – the kind of woman who does her tough “real talk” with business school vocabulary and Girlboss-Aplomb met.

She hosts Superwomen, an interview podcast with guests like Jessica Alba and Barbara Corcoran, and in 2018 co-founded a network of business owners called the Female Founder Collective. She once tried unsuccessfully, as she writes in her book, to create a label to stamp products made by women, inspired by those who have certified products as cruelty-free or organic. (When efforts stalled in the state government, she said, she eventually created her own icon through the Female Founder Collective.)

In 2018, she also launched an advertising campaign on the empowerment of women featuring the organizers of the Women’s March, actress Zosia Mamet, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson and, somewhat controversial at the time, Melissa DeRosa, a top assistant to Governor Andrew Cuomo ., were represented.

Ms. Minkoff is still the creative director and face of her brand; She oversees the design of all collections, models products on Instagram and writes online marketing. (She took on the copywriting role in the pandemic after the company laid off half of its employees in March 2020.)

But other than planning New York Fashion Week events, which she oversees completely, she isn’t involved much in the day-to-day decisions. Instead, her brother Uri Minkoff runs the company as managing director. And he shares a similar sense of pride in how they survived the chances of being the overlooked kids in the fashion industry’s cafeteria.

“There weren’t any editors or businesses standing in line to spot us as the next big it thing. We had to go to the party and stay at the party because we performed and because it was successful, “said Mr. Minkoff, who came into fashion from the tech world and the conversations with quotes from Marc Andreessen and” Animal Farm. “In retrospect, there was this ordeal by fire every step of the way and the battle with teeth and claws.”

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

Because of this, she believes that burnout can be eliminated through harder work. Because of this, when this showroom owner tore up the Morning After Bag, Ms. Minkoff did not defend her artistic vision but instead followed Ms. O’Connor’s advice and made changes to her design. Because of this, she turned to entrepreneurship, a world where being cool was less important than having ideas and confidence.

For this reason, she has titled her book “Fearless”, although she is still afraid of fashion weeks and the future, is raising three children in a pandemic and the growing cultural backlash against female founders.

“My opinion, when I call it ‘fearless’, is not that you are not afraid,” said Ms. Minkoff. It’s more like, “’I’m scared. I am scared. But let’s go. ‘”