How Rebecca Minkoff Keeps Disrupting the Fashion Industry

September 6, 2016, 10:35 AM UTC
Apple Store Soho Presents Meet the Designer: Rebecca Minkoff
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 15: Designer Rebecca Minkoff attends Apple Store Soho Presents Meet the Designer: Rebecca Minkoff at Apple Store Soho on February 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Santiago Felipe/Getty Images)
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

New York Fashion Week is here, an event that’s brazenly showcased Rebecca Minkoff LLC’s innovations.

But I’m not talking about its fashions. Last year at this event, Minkoff became the first designer to broadcast her runway show in virtual reality. Last spring, the fashion house introduced a “buy now, wear now” format—showing spring and fall collections in the spring and fall respectively, a seemingly logical decision that stirred a bit of a revolution in the fashion industry, where runway fashions are usually not widely available in retail until several months later.

“The minute Instagram … became important, the consumer was getting frustrated and angry because she sees something but is confused she has to wait this long” before it’s available to purchase, Rebecca Minkoff explains. “Or a fast fashion retailer knocks me off [a] couple days after [the] show. Both ends of [the] spectrum—between frustrated consumers and the fact its copied right away, that cycle was definitely not going to be fixed by doing it the old way.”

See also: Rebecca Minkoff on High-Tech Fashion: It’s Not Just ‘Tech for Tech’s Sake’

Ahead of Fashion Week, I spoke with Rebecca and her co-founder and brother Uri Minkoff about disrupting the industry—or what he calls “taking on the dictatorship”— and their embrace of technology, be it by leveraging social media from its earliest days, or by introducing more recent innovations, like interactive mirrors and fashionable wearables.

You can listen to the Fortune Unfiltered episode here, where we discuss a number of issues, including:

The challenges and opportunities of running an independent, family-owned business: “Whether you’re best friends or close relations, you have to know your strengths and weakness and know you’re joining forces someone with the opposite skill set so you have [as] a complete package as possible,” Rebecca says. ” You have to make sure communication is the number one priority, because there are tough moments and you’ve got to figure out how to get along. So many companies break up because people disagree and can’t get through it.”

Uri, the firm’s CEO, echoes those sentiments and reflects on the early days, when he maxed out his personal credit cards and took a second mortgage on his house in order to help his sister’s business get off the ground. He also talks about mixing the “art” of fashion with the “science” of running a data-driven business, and how these entrepreneurs stay out of the “land of hopium.”

How the firm is evolving with its core customer: “We have built the largest business in fashion with a female millennial designer,” Uri says. “[Rebecca] is a best friend and mentor to millennial women. Having a designer the same age and sex as our consumer … gives us a competitive edge–there’s a deeper meaning and connection between us and our consumer.”

How the tragedy of 9/11 gave Rebecca her first big break: Uri’s chance encounter with Jenna Elfman led Rebecca to send her an “I Love New York” T-shirt, which the actress wore on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I had made that T-shirt at her request on September 9, 2001; I shipped on the tenth,” Rebecca recalls. “She wore the shirt, Jay asked her about it… She said my name and it was like lightning had struck.”

Listen to the podcast episode to hear more about “how that horrible event helped” the business and how Rebecca believes she was “karmically rewarded” for her decision to donate all proceeds from sales of those T-shirts to the 9/11 relief efforts.

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