We caught up with the down-to-earth designer at a recent event with Tresemmé — who, with lead stylist Jeanie Syfu, have been the masterminds behind those gorgeous hair looks backstage at Minkoff's shows for the past four years — and got the chance to ask her all of our burning questions. From why she won't tolerate fashion Mean Girls, to how she deals with backstage crashers and the scoop on whether a Minkoff beauty line is in the works, read on to learn more about this lovely lady.
How do you describe the Minkoff girl, and what is her beauty philosophy?
"We call her a sexy tomboy. I never feel like she's the type of girl who has a fancy, complicated updo. Our girl aspires to live downtown, if she doesn't already — or if she doesn't live near a city, her dream is the downtown cool girl. There's an ease to that girl, where you can do it yourself — although it may look better if someone helps you — but you're not getting crazy-perfect ringlets or fancy updos with a big bun. That's not who I am. I like a more relaxed look, so I think that's reflective. Last fall, we had a really messed-up bun and I kept telling Jeanie, 'Make it more messed-up. Make it more imperfect.'"
You've been at the forefront of livestreaming shows and giving those outside of fashion's elite the ability to participate. How do you strike that balance between accessibility and exclusivity?
"I think that we always try to push the boundaries in some form. Because it's the Wild West out there, we are constantly experimenting. We did a #VineWalk at our show, which was the very first one. We're just trying to be flexible and remain open-minded. If something works, great, but if it backfires on you, then we tried and at least we paved the way for others to be bolder in their decisions. One of the things I liked about having live music at our show was that if you're not there, you don't get that experience. That's important to me. If you come because you were invited, that there's still something that you get that not everyone else gets to experience."
Speaking of music, what is your process when you're deciding on the soundtrack for your show?
"I try to make it music that I love and hopefully other people love, too. So, because musicians are always on tour, or the Grammys are the same weekend as your show, we have a wishlist of artists we start thinking about two months out. We were two weeks out with Wild Cub [the live band who rocked her fall show]. We had to talk them out of cancelling a tour date, and then they weren't going to make it because of the storm, so we had someone whose job it was to watch the flight and make sure they got from the airport to Lincoln Center. Ideally, at the end of the day, it would be perfect with a year out [to plan]. But, it doesn't work that way because musicians' schedules are insane. I reached out for a band for this show a year ago and they were already booked on tour."
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This season more than prior ones, we've been noticing the atmosphere backstage has started to get downright crazy. As a designer, how do you deal with the madness?
"I try to remain calm. I feel like there are enough people that aren't remaining calm or have enough stress, so why do I need to add that element in the mix? Everyone's there to help me. So, being bitchy, how does that help anyone — other than those people I have to throw out. There was someone back there and I have no idea how he got back there. He kept saying he was a photographer, but he didn't even have a camera, so I was like, 'Where are your credentials?' Finally, I had him removed. I mean, we had people that had fake NBC cards made up and they got backstage. They were interviewing me, and I was like, 'These people are not from NBC at all.' So, I had them removed."
Your team is pretty tight-knit. What do you look for in your employees?
"I look for entrepreneurship within each person — where I don't have to micromanage them and they run their own areas and think out of the box on their own. And, I don't allow divas in my office. If they are being mean to someone else, it doesn't fly with me. Just because it's fashion, that doesn't mean you have to behave in a mean way. One person who works for me now, worked for another designer and said they would throw a shoe at her when she did something wrong. First of all, you can get sued for that, but why would you even treat someone who is working for you like that? That's just not my style."
Can we expect Minkoff beauty and fragrance somewhere down the line?
"We have to become way bigger. The number I've been told by beauty and fragrance is they like the sales of the company to be around $100 million, because then they know that the name is strong enough that it can support fragrance.
Is that something you want to do for the brand?
"Definitely. I think, in addition to the scent, I am going to concentrate on the packaging and design, because there are so many hardware elements [in my line]. Sometimes I'll buy a beauty product just because I like the outside. Guerlain makes that lipstick with the mirror. [I bought one] and it wasn't even a color that looked good on me, but I carried it around in my bag just because I could put my lipstick on and use the little mirror. For me, packaging and outside will be really important. I have my idea of the scent and what I think it should smell like."
"You'll have to wait to smell it."
What else is coming down the pipeline for the brand?
"We're opening our first flagship store in late August, early September — on Greene Street between Prince and Spring. And then we are moving our offices. When we moved in, we thought it was so big, but now we have people sitting so close to each other that they are literally getting their periods at the same time. So we're building a new place from the ground up."
Finally, as a (relatively) new mom, how do you juggle your personal life with your work life?
"It's a constant juggle. I'm still figuring it out. I think it was easier when it was just my husband and me. I could be like, 'Okay, I'm going to work late for the next five years,' and he understood that because he's an entrepreneur as well. But, now that we have a baby.... You're juggling, you know? I try to make sure that I'm there to be with him from when I get home at 6 p.m. to when he goes to sleep and maybe I'll go back to work after. On the weekends, I am hands-off with work, so I see him as much as possible."
Photographed by Maia Harms