Rebecca Minkoff with styles from her Spring 2010 collection
After having done some research on handbag designer Rebecca Minkoff, I learned she was a designer around my age that had grown up in San Diego, moved to New York with a designer's dream, and had put in her time as an artisan starting at the bottom with little other than the love of her craft. This realism and relateability can be hard pressed to find in the fashion industry, and made me that much more excited about meeting her in person at a trunk show held Thursday night at Saks in Chicago.
As soon as we arrived, SCS managing editor Carol Calacci and I wasted no time perusing Minkoff's Spring 2010 collection, which was brimming with rich, buttery leather. We took note of the tough, rocker chic accents like mixed metal studs, fringe and zippers, that graced the leather satchels and hobos and decided immediately that we loved the aesthetic. Once we were able to speak with Rebecca herself, who was warm, engaging, and surprisingly tall (!) we learned that she had first developed a clothing line back in 2001. She sold the apparel out of her apartment in New York for a few years to moderate success. It wasn't until a family friend-actress Jenna Elfman propositioned Minkoff to create a bag for her upcoming movie did she really strike gold. Minkoff said she approached creating her first handbag design with the same fundamentals as her clothing in terms of versatility and comfort. What she ended up with was the clean and classic "Morning After" bag, which continues to be a bestseller to this day.
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Needless to say, word of her handbag innovations quickly spread and Minkoff soon had more orders than space. At one point, she tells us, she gave up her desk for a co-worker and found herself sewing on the floor. She said she immediately called her brother and business partner and told him plainly, "I'm on the floor. We need to get a bigger space." As Minkoff's business expanded, so did her line of wares. She added a variety of shapes like satchels, hobos and cross-body pouches. Her Spring 2010 line, which she was in town to promote, was inspired by a motorcycle jacket, hence the metal studs and fringe. Minkoff, clad in a chic motorcycle jacket herself, explained that she wanted to put a twist in some of the classic shapes through the hardware, as well as with bright, punchy colors and patterns. A few of the bags appear to be tye-dyed fabric, but by touching them we find out that they're the same decadent leather as the others. Minkoff explains it's a new process of hand-dying she's found that's done in Ethiopia. We're as good as sold.
Talking to Rebecca Minkoff was one of those rare experiences when you feel like you're chatting with a friend and forget who they are, only to look around and be floored by the amazing pieces she's responsible for. The luxe quality of her bags, as well as the mid-range price point have wooed customers and celebrities alike throughout her short career. Today she stands out as a household name in the fashion scenes of both coasts, truly a difficult feat to achieve. Her bags have been worn by style icons like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jessica Simpson and are sold in luxury retailers like Saks, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus. And yet she stands in Saks, smiling and posing for our pictures and seems even now, that she can't quite believe it herself.
Me with Rebecca (I'm so small!)
Carol's favorite bag in the collection, the snakeprint Chainlink Convertible Clutch
My favorite in the collection, the Studded Leather Satchel
Shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and online for Rebecca Minkoff handbags.
Photos: Second City Style