Rebecca and Uri Minkoff on the Importance of Being Nice in the Fashion Industry

For many people, the idea of working day to day with a sibling--let alone running a business with them--is less than appealing. But Rebecca and Uri Minkoff (designer and CEO, respectively) have perfected their system, growing the Rebecca Minkoff label from scratch into a global powerhouse brand. At Fashionista's conference on June 21, editor at large Lauren Sherman sat down with the sibs as they presented their story and strategies, and shared invaluable advice with the audience.
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For many people, the idea of working day to day with a sibling--let alone running a business with them--is less than appealing. But Rebecca and Uri Minkoff (designer and CEO, respectively) have perfected their system, growing the Rebecca Minkoff label from scratch into a global powerhouse brand. At Fashionista's conference on June 21, editor at large Lauren Sherman sat down with the sibs as they presented their story and strategies, and shared invaluable advice with the audience.
Photo by Ashley Jahncke for Fashionista

Photo by Ashley Jahncke for Fashionista

For many people, the idea of working day to day with a sibling--let alone running a business with them--is less than appealing. But Rebecca and Uri Minkoff (designer and CEO, respectively) have perfected their system, growing the Rebecca Minkoff label from scratch into a global powerhouse brand.

At Fashionista's conference on June 21, editor at large Lauren Sherman sat down with the sibs as they presented their story and strategies, and shared invaluable advice with the audience.

Rebecca moved to NYC at 18 to pursue fashion design, but even with a side job in styling, paying the bills eventually became too tough to manage alone. An appeal to the folks was out of the question: "My parents said, 'We're not helping you, but maybe your brother will.'" Uri believed in his sister and the market opportunity that she saw, so he agreed to manage the business end of the company while she took care of the creative side.

Since the brand's inception, Rebecca and Uri have skillfully tapped into the wild power of social media. A friend who worked for Daily Candy ("the height of social media in 2005," according to Rebecca) wrote about the Morning After Bag and it promptly sold out in stores. This instantaneous success gave the Minkoffs the confidence to exit the apparel business altogether (which they later resumed, of course) and focus solely on accessories.

Before the widespread use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest of today's infinite social media platforms, the Minkoffs found ways to reach their customers outside of traditional public relations or word-of-mouth. A photo of Sienna Miller carrying one of their bags could inspire hundreds of thousands of women to buy it immediately, so Rebecca and Uri learned where to get these celeb photos and where to post them online to ensure maximum reach.

Lauren, Uri, Rebecca, and Leah.   Photo by Ashley Jahncke for Fashionista

Lauren, Uri, Rebecca, and Leah. Photo by Ashley Jahncke for Fashionista

They also knew when to cut out the middleman and engage directly with their customers. To put their customers "front and center," Rebecca would answer their questions online and ask for customer feedback for two hours every night.

The Minkoffs credit much of the brand's success to these relationships, and as Lauren pointed out, "The customers aren't only buying bags--they also love you." Rebecca definitely did her part to earn this love IRL, too. During the early trunk shows, she traveled to every city--even the small ones that bigger designers felt weren't worth their time to visit. And it paid off: later, when she made store appearances in those cities, hundreds of loyal customers would show up at even the smallest events.

What other advice would they give to those trying to make it? It's simple really: Be nice.

On friendliness, the Minkoffs explained that not only do you need to know your customers, but it's also crucial to have a genuine relationship with the buyers and boutique owners who carry your product. Uri said, "If you have a shortcoming but you have a relationship, you can have a lot more forgiveness." He referred to a commencement speech by the writer Neil Gaiman, who identified three keys to success: 1) Have great product, 2) Be on time, and 3) Be nice. At any time, you must have two of these, and the only one you can always control is being nice.

In an industry where "niceness" can seem like a mythical quality and an era when relationships feel more and more superficial, it looks like the Minkoffs are onto something.

Thanks to all our sponsors and gift bag donors for making Fashionista’s first conference happen. JewelMint, Maybelline, TRESemme, Skinn Cosmetics, Evologie, Iokai, Essie, School of Style, Zico and BluePrint–we couldn’t have done it without you!