Designer Rebecca Minkoff on the Secret of Mastering the Millennial Mindset

February 12, 2016, 8:08 PM UTC

Designer Rebecca Minkoff is hyper-focused on the millennial consumer–and that means constantly innovating.

During last year’s New York Fashion Week, Minkoff live-streamed her show and used drones to get aerial footage of the runway. For this year’s NYFW, she is working with a partner to film the show in virtual reality.

“Our goal is to be a pioneer in this industry,” Minkoff told Fortune. “We feel like we’re the brand where tech and fashion merge, and we want to give our consumers a glimpse of what’s to come.”

Giving consumers a glimpse of what’s to come is an underlying mission of Minkoff’s company. Her designs are meant to reflect key moments in a consumer’s life.

“I am the only millennial designer of the same age and sex as her consumer,” she says. “I’m never forgetting ‘What does this 18-year-old want?’ What’s her first college experience, her first job, her first interview, her first break-up, her first marriage, her first second marriage. As my customer goes through all these things, I want to be her go-to place for her no matter what her age.”

Minkoff sat down with Fortune to discuss her vision and share some advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Fortune: What was it like breaking into such a crowded market with so many established designers?

Minkoff: Back then, it was easier to break through because there weren’t as many channels. The only channels that really mattered were magazines. I broke through because I had a sponsor who took me to all of the industry events with her and introduced me to people. I’ll never forget it because I met so many people that I would follow up with and show them my line. Because magazines needed news every month, I was able to take advantage of that, and I became a one-woman PR machine.

Fortune: You started working on your own designs in 2003. And then in 2004, you ran into some financial trouble. What did you learn from that?

Minkoff: I was not savvy about the calculations of what it actually cost to get something made, buy the fabric and figure out the margins. That was not a skill set I possessed at the time. I was selling things for what I thought that they would sell for, and they were costing a lot more. At some point, I had $10,000 saved and I was struggling to pay the bills, and after a while, you can’t win. I just ran into a situation where if I wanted to continue, I needed to figure out something else.

[The Morning After Bag] resonated with people in a way that my tiny clothing line hadn’t. It hit a nerve at the right time. Once I saw that heat, then I told my brother, “Hey, there’s something here. Can you help me?”

Fortune: You were 25 when you launched your company. How has the relationship with your customers evolved over the years?

Minkoff: There is the millennial age group, but there is also a millennial mindset. We never want to alienate someone who’s 50 who wants Rebecca Minkoff or someone who’s 16 who wants Rebecca Minkoff. It’s a mindset in addition to an age. It’s about remembering, “What did I want at 27? What was I going through at 27?” That 27-year-old is going through similar things now. It’s constantly going back and remembering what it felt like for me. As I grow up, I’m having the same experiences, and I can tap into what my customer may be going through now.

Fortune: What do you know now that you wish you had known at 25?

Minkoff: I would’ve started an Instagram account sooner. I would’ve gone on Facebook on Day 1. We were early adopters, but we would’ve adopted them even earlier if we could.

Fortune: Why is that important?

Minkoff: This is the language and the media that my customer consumes, and I absolutely need to be there.

Fortune: What advice would you give aspiring female entrepreneurs?

Minkoff: Find a white space and get a really great support network. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the other women who helped me–just like the woman who took me to all those parties I couldn’t get into or the lady who carried my first clothing line after she got a fax of my line sheet and actually called me back. Develop a great support network with people in higher positions than you that are willing to help you.

This is why we’re working with Intel. In the fourth quarter this year, we’ll have conferences where we’re having college-age women to attend panels and discuss STEM and how they can be motivated to choosing that as their path. I also do a lot of one-on-one mentoring, and I’ve joined several boards of female-led companies to offer advice and help.

This Q&A has been edited for grammar and clarity.