Rebecca Minkoff - Designer and co-founder, Rebecca Minkoff
At age 18, Rebecca Minkoff, inspired by her experience in her high school's costume department, moved to New York City with a dream: To make it in the fashion world. Minkoff interned and took styling side jobs, launching her own company in 2001 with only $10,000 in savings. On the brink of running out of cash, Minkoff used her nearly-depleted funds to design a bag for Jenna Elfman in 2005. Minkoff's creation, which she dubbed the 'Morning After' bag, received a writeup on Daily Candy, spurring a slew of orders - and skyrocketing the brand to success.
That same year, brother Uri Minkoff stepped in with additional funding, co-founding a revamped business and taking the role of CEO. Minkoff branched out from handbags and accessories in 2009, introducing her first ready-to-wear collection. Today, Rebecca Minkoff is a globally recognized brand; it's passed $100 million in gross sales this year. The 33-year-old mother-of-two's array of fashion-forward products - handbags, accessories, footwear, apparel, jewelry and more - are sold at retailers worldwide, and at her stores; the second U.S. location opened doors in SoHo this November.
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson - Co-founder of Gilt Groupe and co-founder/CEO of GLAMSQUAD
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson has built her career where style and innovation collide. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Wilkis Wilson spent time in the retail management world, first heading leather good sales planning for Louis Vuitton North America and then overseeing retail operations at 15 Bulgari North American stores. In 2007, the Harvard grad went on to found members-only, luxury flash sale site Gilt Groupe, along with four other individuals. Gilt, now over 9 million members strong, has since received hundreds of millions in funding, and in 2013, the dynamic platform (Gilt's expanded into areas beyond style) made an estimated ~$600 million in revenue.
On her experience creating the disruptive e-commerce company, Wilkis Wilson penned a New York Times bestseller with co-founder Alexis Maybank. In September 2014, Wilkis Wilson left her primary role at Gilt (she still serves as an advisor) to join GLAMSQUAD, an on-demand, app-accessible hair and makeup service that comes to its customers, as CEO and co-founder. The innovator, clearly passionate about entrepreneurship, is also an active advisor, angel and mentor in the New York startup scene.
Destination - Brooklyn Bridge Park and Rebecca Minkoff Showroom
Rebecca Minkoff and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson met up on a beautiful fall morning in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This wasn't their first time meeting: The entrepreneurs have worked together before. In fact, Gilt Groupe has offered Rebecca Minkoff products via flash sales for years.
As they admire the view, they recall how their business relationship started. 'I remember when we first met: Fall 2007, and we were just getting started with Gilt,' says Wilkis Wilson. 'You were very kind to start working with us pretty early on.' Minkoff chimes in: 'It was early for us, too. We'd never gotten an order that big at that time, so we were like 'Oh, we don't have overstock - we have to make some!''
Beyond this overlap in the world of style, the pair's interests also merge when it comes to tech; both have leveraged technology to improve the shopping experience. Take Rebecca Minkoff's brand new SoHo store, for example. This location is tech-enhanced, featuring a connected, interactive display wall where shoppers can browse lookbooks, order up a complimentary drink and secure dressing rooms. Once inside said dressing rooms (text alerts signify when they're ready), shoppers have digital help at their fingertips when it comes to creating a finished look - the RFID-tagged items are recognized by smart mirrors, which provide styling suggestions. This technology also makes it easy for shoppers to swap out colors and sizes, plus select their fitting room lighting preferences.
Wilkis Wilson, of course, revolutionized e-commerce by bringing Gilt's invite-only flash-sale model to life. Now, as CEO of GLAMSQUAD, she's bringing customization to a new level - by physically delivering services to patrons. In as little as one hour's notice, GLAMSQUAD's trained stylists will make a housecall - to your apartment, office, gym or whatever location's most convenient for you - and prep you for any event. Currently, GLAMSQUAD appointments (opt for a blowout, hair styling, makeup or all of the above) can be arranged via website or app in New York City plus Los Angeles, with plans for expansion.
The pair hops in the car to head to their destination, Minkoff's Flatiron showroom, discussing Wilkis Wilson's new venture en route. On her role at Glamsquad, she remarks, 'I felt like it was time in my career to go back to an early-stage opportunity. Doing a startup the second time around ... in a way it's easier because I've learned so much, but on the other hand, the stakes are higher. I feel like more eyes are watching.'
When they arrive at their destination, Minkoff shows Wilkis Wilson around the showroom, and they talk inspiration - for Minkoff, this space is, in a way, the physical realization of a dream. 'When I first decided I wanted to be in fashion, it was something that was all-consuming,' says Minkoff. 'So, when i moved here, that was my dream, but it was definitely just a dream. I never thought we'd get this far.'