In March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was beginning to wreak havoc on lives and businesses, Rebecca Minkoff was feeling the impact on both fronts, dealing with the challenges of her children’s remote learning while facing down a 70% erosion of business due to canceled orders.
“It was the scariest time we’ve ever had as a company,” Minkoff said recently in an exclusive interview. “We had all the inventory and were ready to ship. We had inventory coming for days. To have all those outlets go up in smoke….
“The only outlet each day was the web site, and how much we [sold] every day determined the pay roll,” Minkoff added. “It determined how we did business, and how much inventory we needed. We started paying attention to our own back yard. Before, everything was do or die with our wholesale partners.”
Minkoff said consumers appreciated her honesty, as she shared some of the challenges she and her family were facing, including moving in with her mother in Florida so she could get help with her children.“It’s not ideal that I’m sleeping in a bunk bed with my daughter, and my husband is sleeping in a king size bed with our two boys.”
The renewed focus on e-commerce gave Minkoff the opportunity to connect more deeply with customers. “There was no pretending I was making pumpkin bread in my penthouse,” Minkoff said. “The consumer saw that the [e-commerce site] wasn’t a strategy. It was just being real. Everyone was some place. The gloss comes off. Our e-commerce business was up 10% over the year before. It was fantastic.”
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Minkoff has attracted a loyal following for her unvarnished approach, and for her affordable luxury handbags and and accessories, and ready-to-wear with a modern Bohemian vibe. She’s always connected with customers through special events, panels and podcasts, such as the 2018 Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff series, which told stories of resilience, failure and success of Katie Couric, Bozoma St. John and Jessica Alba, among others.
The designer and her brother and business partner, Uri Minkoff, are usually early adopters of technology, launching an OnlyFans page as a lead in to New York Fashion Week in February and testing TikTok.
“I get asked similar questions about business and my career,” Minkoff said, noting that the OnlyFans channel bowed with 28,000 subscribers. “I have a platform to share learnings and interact with the community. I’m releasing a video for $9, where I teach how to get a job in the fashion industry. It’s another revenue stream.”
Minkoff also spreads her knowledge on Clubhouse, where she discusses the importance of women owning their own journeys, adding that it’s clear her customer wants to see her on designer social media. “We’ve also done a lot of testing with TikTok” she said. “The biggest views were my closet and essentials. That’s good because I don’t have to do any more dancing.”
The designer partnered with Christian Siriano and Jason Wu to stage a fashion show in September for New York Fashion Week, which was sponsored by home improvement giant Lowes LOW . “I was a of the mind that we can get back to work,” Minkoff said. “We can do this safely. Enough of this fear, the virus can’t get through windows.”
Minkoff participated in another fashion show in February that garnered an impressive amount of earned media impressions. “It was significantly higher than the previous year, pre-pandemic,” she said. “We’ve seen huge growth in new categories such as loungewear, which is something women want, and jewelry. We had a very small jewelry line and sales spiked in May.”
The brand has a bevy of projects on the front burner. Minkoff will soon be launching home products through a licensing partner, and will begin selling a new product category on QVC QVCA . “We have incredible survey data that they want to see loungewear and home, Minkoff said of clients, adding that her second fragrance will launch October.In spite of the pandemic, Minkoff found time for new goals. “Apparently the pandemic is a good year to right a book,” she said, of “Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage and Success,” which will be published in June.
Minkoff is offering those who purchase the $25 book on her web site, a shopping credit for the same amount. A preview of the a preview the first half of the book to read as well as a preview of the audiobook will be available in May. Minkoff said she’ll add book buyers’ names to a guest list for a free event with fearless female leaders.
“I wanted to tell the story of my last 15 years in business, but wanted to say, ‘We only got here because we broke a lot of the conventions and rules of fashion,” Minkoff said. “Each chapter of ‘Fearless,’ is an entertaining story, and each chapter ends with a rule to follow, one that I had to break.”