The designer and entrepreneur gives her candid take on the future of fashion and fostering growth for women in business
“Jessica Alba is someone that I can swap war stories with. As great as you think her life is, I’ll see her and she’s like, ‘F—k, it’s hard.’ I really admire her career that she’s built. It’s been from a really authentic place,” Minkoff tells PEOPLE at the 5th annual Beaches Resorts Social Media on the Sand conference in Turks & Caicos.
The designer turns to other inspiring women in the industry, too. “The founder of Birchbox, Katia Beauchamp, is a good friend and we can get really honest with each other in times of crisis or hard business,” Minkoff says.
Now, after nearly 15 years of shaking up the fashion world with her game-changing approach (like her “See Now, Buy Now” fashion show model), Minkoff is using her platform to help other aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition to paying it forward by sharing wisdom at female-focused conferences like Social Media on the Sand, the star created the Female Founder Collective, an organization that raises awareness of women-owned businesses and provides them with more opportunities and tools for success.
“It’s a community of over 6,000 women-owned businesses, and the seal is on over 2.5 million products to date,” she says. “We’re building a platform where the women can engage, share resources, tips and tricks with others going through the same thing.”
Read on for more on how Minkoff balances running a global brand, raising three young children and pushing for change in the fashion industry.
This is your second year in a row speaking at Social Media on the Sand. What do you get out of this conference?
I met a lot of women last year and was really inspired by their careers. You get to see what’s happening all over the United States which is really interesting. And then, the resort is amazing. I brought my kids [Luca Shai, 8, Bowie Lou, 5, and Nico Valentine, 1½] and they’re really happy. This literally made a great vacation, too.
How has social media impacted the growth of your namesake label?
We were probably one of the first fashion brands to adopt social media. We had interventions 15 years ago with every major department store you can think of saying, “What are you doing talking to your customer being in social? This is beneath you. A designer should be in their ivory tower.” We had to get through those conversations, which was interesting. But we’re here because of social. It’s been natural as I’ve grown up with it. We’re doubling down on it now too, and video is something you will see a lot more of from us.
On the flip side, social media can be addicting. Do you take digital detoxes?
I realized something was wrong when a few months ago I was walking through SoHo in N.Y.C. and my phone died. I looked up and was like, “This is a beautiful part of town.” I was just noticing how gorgeous SoHo is, where I had also lived for seven years. I was like, “This is a problem.” I try to keep my phone in my bag while I’m walking down the street. My kids also hate me taking pictures of them and I think it’s because maybe it’s the opposite effect starting to happen. They’re like, “Get that thing out of my face. Be here with me in the moment.”
Do you experience mom guilt when you’re working?
All the time. It’s hardwired in our uteruses to feel that way and it’s a work in progress.
Has being a mom changed your approach to business?
I definitely am more empathetic towards working moms and feel more for what they’re going through, like when they return to work or if they have stuff at home. I think I just have more compassion.
What was one of the biggest business risks you’ve taken that paid off?
Transitioning to the See Now, Buy Now model. So bucking the industry when people poo-pooed the concept. I think staying strong with that and seeing the results has been good.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s advice that I struggle with because I don’t know if I would be where I am if I took that advice. But slow down a little bit. Maybe take a few more breathers and give yourself more rope. I was always like, “I have to do this now.” When I look back at my 20s and I see 20-year-olds now with balanced lives, I realize I didn’t have that. I was working all the time. I could have had a little bit more fun.
The fashion industry has evolved so much since you launched your label in 2005. What do you hope for the future of fashion?
I’d like the conversation around women and equality to be gone by the time my daughter enters the workforce. I don’t want that to be even a question or a struggle. And I hope people look back at what me and my brother [her Rebecca Minkoff label co-founder, Uri Minkoff] have done and be like, “They were pioneers in ushering in technology within fashion, and using social to transform their company.”