Rebecca Minkoff On Her ‘Superwomen’ Podcast And Her Plans To Drive Change For Women

Rebecca Minkoff On

Her ‘Superwomen’ Podcast And Her Plans To Drive Change For Women

Designer Rebecca Minkoff sensed a disconnect. She had realized that she had found herself in a silo of all things fashion instead of a kaleidoscope of all things entrepreneurial. She began hosting dinners to fill the gap, bringing together entrepreneurial women from different lines of work all at one table. “The fashion world was very insular, and I wanted to just gather more women from different areas of entrepreneurship and business and have them come together and share their challenges, their successes, their fears.”

“In a way,” Minkoff says, “that began to feel insular in terms of this wasn’t helping my customer.” So, once a month, Minkoff began hosting what she calls fireside chats. The events were held at her stores and were an immediate success. Soon, she started an Instagram account to really profile and showcase these female entrepreneurs.

Minkoff continued to say, “I began to think, ‘What’s another layer that we can tell these women’s stories and show that success can be contagious and we can all bring each other up together?’” That, Minkoff says, was the inspiration for launching her brand-new podcast – Superwomen with Rebecca Minkoff. The evolution was incredibly organic, Minkoff says, and she hopes the podcast becomes a place where “women identify, where the listener really identifies, with the stories that are told, and the lessons that are learned, or takes the advice. I end every podcast with, ‘What’s one thing you want someone to come away with in that day that can affect change?’”

Minkoff describes the podcast as a relaxed informal dialogue with an interview style. “I feel like it’s like listening to your two friends talk. It’s done with an approachable view, so I think that probably is more powerful than someone talking and you feeling disconnected or like they’re not in your same kind of zone.”

She hopes that if someone comes away and does that, change will be made. Whether the changes Minkoff herself is aware of or not, it’s always nice, of course, to hear that her dream for the podcast is actually a reality. Minkoff says she has had women approach her after attending a fireside chat and say, “Hey, thank you for doing this. Because of this, I decided to quit my job,” or “I started my new venture.” Minkoff hopes that her “podcast just spreads even further because I can reach so many more people.”

Through the dinner, the chats, and the podcast, Minkoff made a fascinating discovery. Women will talk about sex with their friends very freely, but the same can’t be said about money. “We don’t talk about it with our friends. We don’t talk about it with our colleagues.

So, then we don’t talk about it at work [either].” This, she says, made her want to ask more women more questions about what else is not talked about. “What is uncomfortable that we can sort of begin to talk about and how do we sort of begin to get that less uncomfortable?”

Thus far, on the podcast, Minkoff has spoken to – Hillary Kerr, the founder of Who, What, Wear and Clique Media; Eden Grinshpan from Eden Eats and DEZ Restaurant; Lauren Chen, plus-size model, journalist, and plus-size clothing designer; Michelle Lee, Editor in Chief of Allure Magazine; Sallie Krawcheck, the founder of Ellevest; and Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the Olympic medalist who became particularly famous for wearing her hijab while fencing. “It’s a wide, very diverse bunch of women,” she says. “But that was kind of my goal in showcasing that.” In other words, the podcast is not just women who have started businesses necessarily, it’s more women who are breaking barriers and standing up for themselves and doing new things.

Minkoff also recently launched the “I Am Many” collective during Fashion Week 2018. For the collection, Minkoff “partnered with complex, diverse women who are making a difference while staying true to themselves.” But just because Fashion Week marked the launch, does not mean the effort is a flash in the pan, Minkoff explains. “As we began to look at how most women are messaged and marketed to, it’s really the “be one thing – be bold, be brave, be fearless” and I think that women have many facets to their personality and many parts of them that they can bring to bear when needed.”

So, she says, “I Am Many” is really about two things – “Really celebrating the many different parts of you that you are. You’re a mother, a wife, an activist, a sister, a daughter, a volunteer, a caregiver, and so on. By really celebrating that, but also taking solace in the fact that there are many women like you and there is power in numbers, and there is strength in numbers. Celebrating both sides. We launched it obviously very strong and powerful for Fashion Week. But it’s going to be an on-going campaign that will go through different twists and turns as we go.”

Rebecca Minkoff

Minkoff says “I Am Many” relates back to the podcast because it looks at the multi-facets of the women that she’s interviewing and “how those different parts of them have informed their success or their speaking or how they approach stuff. The two are very much tied together.” Minkoff says the key to creating an authentic campaign like “I Am Many” is to be sure it’s not self-serving and that you actually do it from a genuine place of care; of wanting things to change; and of wanting conversations to shift.

“You can’t go ‘Hey, we need a catchy sales campaign. What’s gonna drive revenue?’ If you approach it like that, you’re dead. You really have to approach it with what is actually, in the long-term, a more important conversation. [We have to ask], what’s a more important conversation than selling a bag? Hopefully, when I’m sixty-five, this isn’t something we’re all still talking about. I think if you come at it from the place that the ROI isn’t a profitable company, it’s more women, it’s the economics of equality and change, basically.”

It’s clear that Minkoff is dedicated to using her success and influence to affect change and how she came to that success is pretty straightforward, she says. It was “part naivete, part ‘if I’m gonna work this hard every day I don’t want someone else, frankly, telling me what to do.’ I think that definitely played a role in it.”

Minkoff also credits her mom for both her success and with making her the strong Feminist she is today. Her mom didn’t know she was having a girl until Minkoff was born. So, Minkoff explains, “When I came out, her number one thing was, ‘I’m gonna raise a really strong daughter who’s not afraid to fight back.’ I think that’s what she instilled in me, for sure.” That, plus teaching her that if she wants to make things happen, she needs to look to herself to blaze that path.

When Minkoff wanted to do or have something when she was a kid, her mom would compel her to figure out how to make it work. “I think that that really gave me a feeling of ‘I just have to figure it out.’ It didn’t become this overwhelming thing that I didn’t know how to do because I was like ‘Oh, I’ll just figure this out.’”

Her mom wasn’t the only one she credits though. Many women are responsible for her success and her Feminist outlook she says. “The women who helped me didn’t have to. [For example], when I first launched, my friend was a writer at the New York Post and she would take me to all the parties she would get invited to, and she didn’t have to do that. She was essentially acting as my publicist. That was incredibly helpful.”

Minkoff says that all throughout her career there have been women who have been champions of the brand and of Minkoff herself and that was essential. “I definitely wouldn’t be here without them.” In order to make that experience true for all women, we need to promote an environment of working together rather than competing against one another. To do that, we have to start early on, she says. “I think that competitiveness is sort of pushed onto us early on. It is how we raise our children, both sexes. There are plenty of people that have worked here, and they immediately assess the political chessboard, and they play it.”

It’s a very specific woman or man who does that Minkoff says, and there’s no immediate way to change it. “But,” she says, “The more you can stand up and say, ‘Hey, that’s not how this works here, everyone can win’ [the better],” Minkoff says that as leaders it’s key to squash that behavior as much as possible, as soon as possible.

Still, despite all of her success, Minkoff says that being a good person and a successful businesswoman isn’t enough these days, not with the state of the world we’re currently living in. “You can’t just live your life, especially these days, by just being satisfied with your own level and your own sort of world. I think there’s just an innate part of me that feels like there has to be something beyond that and [we have to] do better, and leave it a better place than [we] came to it. I think it comes from that. There’s just more to be done. I can’t just sit back and hope someone else takes the charge and sort of leads with it.”

And, Minkoff says, everyone can affect change even if it only reaches as far as one’s own circle of friends and even if the act is something as simple as wearing a t-shirt. “Wearing a t-shirt is a level of resistance. Using your voice in your community is a level of resistance, and I think the more women can, again, be open like we were talking about earlier, and talk to each other and not just go, ‘This is such an overwhelming situation. There must be nothing I can do.’ I think you can take small steps and figure out where your immediate world is fair and unfair, or unjustness, and inequality, and take those steps immediately to do it. Don’t look at what’s happening at a scale that might be overwhelming.”

As for herself, Minkoff says she wishes she could go to Washington and lobby. But she adds, it’s ok if that’s not your role to play. “That might be way too outrageous for some people. But they can definitely affect their communities or their friends or their immediate circle, and that will probably have a greater effect on their life than what’s happening in Washington.”

More than anything, Minkoff wants women to know that “we are capable of making tremendous change.” The trick is to start, even with the smallest of steps like wearing a t-shirt or posting something on Instagram. “I think that’s a way that you can immediately start to have an effect on and to change your community and your immediate life. If you know someone who’s not able to speak up or doesn’t have a voice, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help amplify and give them that voice?’ Don’t sit back. Don’t do nothing. Until we’re making 100 cents on the dollar and more women are in leadership positions, the work is not done.”

Jenny Block

JENNY BLOCK is a frequent contributor to a number of publications from Huffington Post to Playboy, and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Solo Sex, and O Wow: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm.

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