Millennial fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff: 'Our consumer chose us'

Millennial fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff: 'Our consumer chose us'
Millennial fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff: 'Our consumer chose us'

She's a millennial, designing for a millennial.

Rebecca Minkoff calls her eponymous company the largest global brand in fashion with a designer the same age and sex as her main consumers.

"I'm going through the same life moments that my exact customer is going through," Minkoff told CNN's Poppy Harlow in a new Boss Files podcast. "If she's on the younger side of the millennial, then I know what she's about to go through. I'm so much closer to it than someone who might be older and kind of designed for a different generation."

She's disrupting the fashion industry, merging tech with fashion, and building her company with her brother, Uri Minkoff.

Minkoff, 36, leaned on her brother for support, after being turned down from her father, when she launched the company in 2001.

"I was at that point where I was like, 'I can't fund this with my odd jobs anymore.' I was a stylist as well. And so that is when I called my father, and I said. 'I finally am on to something. I've got real orders, there's a heat behind this. Will you help me?' And he said, 'no, but try your brother,'" Minkoff said.

Minkoff wasn't an overnight success. She said it was a major challenge to get recognized in the industry, which she has described as a "dictatorship."

"I think that when we first started out, there were 10 key buyers, 10 key editors, and if they deemed you the right designer, the most talented, then you became part of the circle," Minkoff said. "I think that we're here because of our consumer, our consumer chose us. I began to talk to her online when no one else would."

Listen: Download Boss Files on iTunes

Early on, the designer connected with her customers in blog posts and later on social media -- building a following that was coined "The Minkettes."

But Minkoff got some pushback from players in the industry who advised her to not engage with the people blogging and talking about her brand on social media.

"We had sit downs with heads of department stores saying, 'Don't talk to these women. That's beneath you. You should be in your ivory tower.' When we first started working with bloggers, [we said] we actually think that there's something here, and we think that this is probably how fashion and storytelling and content will actually evolve," Minkoff said.

Today, the brand has more than 800,000 followers on both Instagram and Twitter, and Minkoff said theirs was the first fashion brand on Snapchat.

Minkoff became the first designer to live-stream her fashion show in virtual reality, and she incorporates drones to get aerial footage of the runway.

And Minkoff designed wearable technology like device charging bracelets, and built in a self-checkout option in her retail stores.

More recently, Minkoff installed interactive "smart" mirrors in stores' fitting rooms "to give customers an e-commerce experience in a brick-and-mortar environment." Users are able to adjust the lighting to match the time of day they plan to wear the item. Radio Frequency Identification tags on each item prompt the system to automatically pull up other items of interest on the mirror's screen with the hope consumers will click and try on additional items.

"We as a retailer can look in and see what didn't she buy? What is pairing with what? Is there a fit issue? Is it a fabric issue? And you get enormous intel into what's going on in there without cameras," Minkoff said. She said the brand's sales have been up 30% year over since that implementation.

More Boss Files: Spanx founder says it's fun to make money and to give it away

Minkoff is committed to motivating girls and women in tech, partnering with Intel on STEM initiatives, joining boards of female-led companies and launching a venture capital firm to invest in more female entrepreneurs.

She said she and her brother wanted to "put some money down and get our skin in the game and help these companies actually get started."

Sixteen years in -- many in the fashion world are asking if going public is the next step for Minkoff's company.

"We're not ready or even close to being ready to go public. I think that we're still on a great growth journey," Minkoff said. "There's still so much we haven't done."

CNNMoney Sponsors