Colour explosion with Rebecca Minkoff

December 21, 2015

Several seasons ago, I attended Rebecca Minkoff’s runway show at New York Fashion Week for the first time. I can still clearly picture it in my head: high heels and leather, faux fur and wool, soft pink with grey and dark teal. London duo AlunaGeorge performed live on stage. The energy was electric, as models confidently dominated the catwalk to the beats. The show embodied New York City — it made a statement, it signalled the trends and it personified funky chic. To top it off, all models had oxblood-coloured nails, adding a sophisticated finishing touch.

Fast forward to a year-and-half later, when I receive a package from Essie, open the accompanying catalogue and learn that Minkoff has been appointed the brand’s Global Colour Designer earlier in 2015. It was an interesting transition into the fashion territory for the renowned international nail brand that has been in business for over three decades, and a logical next step for Minkoff, who has grown her empire to include not just the original “I <3 New York” T-shirt and her renowned The Morning After Bag, but also clothes, jewelry, shoes and even yoga mat carriers.

Soon enough, we had set up a phone interview and on a late Thursday afternoon, a cheerful, energetic and incredibly upbeat Rebecca greeted me on the phone. Here is what we chatted about.

Rebecca Minkoff is on the cover of The Holiday Issuethis month.

Rebecca Minkoff is on the cover of The Holiday Issue this month.

HANNAH YAKOBI: It’s been another busy year for you, Rebecca. Could you tell us about your fashion and beauty projects between November and January?

REBECCA MINKOFF: We had a grand opening for our store in L.A. Pretty much the rest of this year is just normal, as we had all of our big launches already.

For beauty, our winter collection came out [in November] and is in stores now.

On that note, how did your collaboration with Essie start?

I had been working with Essie for several years: they were doing the nails on my runway shows, so it became this really symbiotic relationship. When Essie began to seek out someone to do their global colour design, I was one of their picks and we began to talk about how that could work.

[They were] making the jump to someone not necessarily working in beauty, and I said: “I live and breathe colour all day long, since we are known for colour in our handbags.” I really felt that it helped bring a modern, fresh appeal, but also remain true to the Essie brand.

What has been your favourite colour that you’ve created for Essie so far?

Oh that’s tough, that’s like asking me who is my favourite child! (laughs)

From the winter collection there are two: there is Shall we Chalet?, which is a really beautiful, rich red that I’m excited about. There is also one called Haute Tub, which is black with a luminescent and purple glitter.

I usually like the most current things, because they are newest and fun to look at. So those are some of my favourites, but Leggy Legend is another one I’m really proud of.

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Is there one Essie colour that you personally always wear?

I haven’t been wearing it a lot recently, but Clambake always resonates with me. And I’ve been wearing Russian Roulette a lot.

You work very closely with your brother on the fashion side of the business, so when you told him that you wanted to get into the beauty sector, what did he say? 

I said we have this incredible opportunity, this company is legendary and he said “Great!” But he makes no input on nail colours. (laughs)

In terms of beauty, what about your own personal beauty routine? Are there any tips that you could share with our readers that can be helpful during the cold winter months?

Something I just learned — which maybe for you is like “duh” — is when it gets cold, you never want to use any moisturizer or serum that is water-based, because when you go outside that freezes and creates cracks. It’s essentially like having ice on your face. That blew my mind. We’re not cold yet in New York because of global warming, but I will be switching to a face oil soon.

I try to keep it minimal and use a tinted moisturizer. Getting your lashes done also goes a long way for looking fresh these days. It’s a simple trick. Obviously, it’s a commitment for every three weeks – but for me, I can leave the house with nothing else on and feel like I look somewhat like I tried.

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On the fashion spectrum, we’ve covered your runway show many times in New York. You dress models head-to-toe in your pieces, so how does the relationship with Essie work when you choose the colours to complement your fashion designs? Can you describe this dynamic?

I think it’s a really collaborative dynamic. I sort of say, this is the theme of the collection, this is what we are thinking, and from there I work with one of Essie’s celebrity nail artists. She and I [may] say the feeling is rock-and-roll and mod, so the colours would be taken from my colour palette. If that doesn’t work, then we sort of go into the 900+ shades that we have access to and see what would work best with our theme. And then, we decide on nail art and usually tie it into a print that we’ve done, or the colours of a print that we’ve done. We play around and create a lot of different options.

What was fun with this last runway show was that we actually crowd-sourced the design. We offered five different options and then picked the winner after people voted. I think the consumer really likes being able to weigh in.

Speaking of fashion, what do you think are the key trends for the holidays? Are there any fashion tips you could give our readers for dressing up?

I think right now there is a lot of really incredible knitwear: it’s not just a sweater, I think there are really incredible skirts and dresses too.

Now is also a good time for accessories, there’s a lot of fun, geeky things. There are B-bag charms or emoji stickers, things with glitter accents — I think those are all fun ways to express yourself during the holidays. And, obviously, leather and shearling are also great outerwear materials.

Your brand has been growing exponentially for the past 10 years. What advice would you give to emerging designers around the world?

I think that if you are starting your own business today, you have to be an extremely well-rounded designer. You [can] not be shy, and you have to be savvy with social media. Or, if you’re not, know that you’re not and make sure you pick a partner who is. Things are moving so fast today — if you want to be designing all day, then you have to find someone who can talk the talk, be really multi-faceted and listen to your customer.

And speaking of social media, you’re very active on it and so is your brand. What is your favourite channel and why?

Instagram is by far my favourite. I think it’s what’s happening at the moment, in real time, all the time. You can get a lot of inspiration from the people you’re following and the social events that are going on. I’m a pictorial person, so that’s what resonates with me the most!

By Hannah Yakobi
Photography by Tara West and courtesy of Essie

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  • Essie launches the Gel Couture collection | FAJO Magazine said:

    […] Inspired by the couture world, the line was officially launched in Canada on May 17. The collection features 42 vibrant shades, ranging from soft pastels to deep reds, curated by Essie’s Global Colour Designer, Rebecca Minkoff. […]

  • FAJO Magazine said:

    […] interviewed Rebecca Minkoff twice – once for our cover story last December, and once for our Canadian/American coverage of her most recent runway collection – so it was […]


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