Rebecca Minkoff can tell a compelling story, that was clear as the designer held sway at an intimate lunch for media at Ogilvy’s Tudor Hall last week. That storytelling knack is certainly one key to her company’s success.
A California native who burst onto the scene in New York with a version of the “I love to New York” T-shirt in 2001, Minkoff really made her mark with the Morning After Bag (M.A.B.) in 2005.
Speaking at the lunch, Minkoff told the story behind the bag’s name: It was all about the Sex and the City lifestyle in New York at the time, about encounters, about dancing the night away – and having a handbag with room for your dancing shoes when you headed off to work the morning after.
Aside from providing accessible product and the bohemian rock styling that lures a certain consumer, aged 18 to 35, Minkoff has been an early adopter of technology and social media. She was among the first designers to adopt the “see-now, buy-now model” and has no plans to abandon it. “She just wants it now,’’ Minkoff said, adding that it would be “suicidal’ not to provide instant access.
“I’m the same age and sex as my consumer. I still know how to connect with her and talk to her on that same level – versus someone who is maybe far older.’’
And she also pioneered the use of bloggers and influencers in her shows, casting 11 influencers in her last presentation. “The consumer doesn’t care about models,’’ she said. Now, like other brands, the company is engaging more micro-influencers, those with perhaps “only 20,000” followers on Instagram, along with superstars like Aimee Song (4.6 million followers) and model Coco Rocha, in her February show at The Grove in L.A.. The consumer feels they’re more authentic than the mega-stars of social media, Minkoff said.
The company does not disclose figures, but Fortune and other market watchers put sales at over $100 million in 2014. To have achieved all this so far, Minkoff has her brother Uri at her side as CEO, private investment and a president whom she says can sell anything.
And while the company is known for its bags, a lifestyle empire is emerging, with shoes, apparel and jewelry, and a watch collaboration with Movado in the works.
So far, there are just four company stores, with more to come in test markets (Venice, Italy, for instance), more than 900 points of sale worldwide, and an online store that does about 40 per cent of company sales.
The Mini M.A.C. (morning after clutch) is the company’s most popular style.
“Mini M.A.C. sales keep the lights on,’’ Minkoff said.
So what’s in a bag – aside from those dancing shoes? Minkoff shared her take on the bag phenom, which has been driving luxury sales for years.
When you look at trends in apparel, they can flip quickly, going from minimalist to embellished in six months, Minkoff reasoned. “A bag lasts longer, you can wear it every day and it’s not like wearing the same T-shirt every day. A bag and shoes are one size fits all. It’s far easier for a woman with any body type to invest,” she said.
Bags are also celebratory purchases and mark occasions like job interviews or promotions: “There’s also an emotional attachment to that experience she has with that bag.”
Asked if she has hopes of becoming the next Donna, Calvin, Ralph, Tory or Michael, Minkoff said she was unsure that kind of reach would ever be achieved again. There are so many direct to consumer brands today, she noted.
“We hope to be a contender to be one of the last ones,’’ Minkoff said.