What’s Her Secret? Essie Global Color Designer Rebecca Minkoff

Whether you know her from her to-die-for bags or just her work in the nail colours that are gracing your Essie-coated nails, Rebecca Minkoff is an icon in and of herself. We were fortunate to sit down with the fashion designer and global color designer for Essie the last time she was in Toronto to find out what inspires her, how she keeps the creative juices flowing and how that translated to the spring collection from Essie (while giving us a sneak peek for summer, too).

29Secrets: What is your process of creating a colour collection for Essie?

Rebecca Minkoff: Sometimes my inspirations intersect but for the most part I try to keep them very separate so that I give them their own day in the sun to be inspired. My spring collection was all California, but it was more this idea of two girls taking a road trip down the Baha coast. Really it was this idea of exploring, as millennial women are trying to do. I usually go down a Pinterest hole when I first start my inspiration and I start just building it and I literally do pull the colours from the boards. By the time I’m building the Essie colours I’ve already built my line, so if I know in the market there’s a trend. Let’s say with Designated DJ, I know that plum is a huge trend in the accessories market for spring, so it’s really key to just throw that in there even though it might seem crazy that in spring you have such a dark colour.

Yea, I was just going to say it seems a little darker than I would expect, but I love that colour actually.

Yea, I kept seeing that colour everywhere, whether it was runways or at the leather shows that I get in advance, like the colours that everyone is pushing from a colour perspective and that just kept coming up, so for me it’s just key to listen to that because I feel like girls are wanting to compliment their manicure to their look.

What has been one of the biggest challenges of being global color designer?

Let’s say we have six collections a year, 36 colours on average and then it’s like Don’t do anything you’ve done before, or anything that’s ever been done with Essie before. So the shades get so nuanced, you know, that you’re really looking at the difference. It’s such a small difference in colour and how do you keep innovating and keep it fresh knowing that basically almost every pantone colour has been selected?

Do you find that you gravitate towards similar shades like in life and in your collections or are you able to separate them?

I will always gravitate towards nudes. So I always have to do my boards, step back, give it a day, come back to it and be like do I have two colours of nude? Did I just go back to my comfort zone? I make sure that I don’t do that.

I know that I have probably eight similar shades and I always go towards the same colour palette. Do find that you do the same thing with your own personal colours, nail polish, bags and otherwise, at home?

With regards to my bags, I probably stay pretty neutral. I know I make bags that are extremely colourful, but the most colourful bag that I could have is red — it’s not that crazy. I think I’m also looking at colour all day so when it comes to me I don’t necessarily want to wear it. A former Essie colleague was like, You always wear black and I was like, I didn’t even realize I always wear black, and she’s like Maybe it’s because you work with colour all day. That’s just the way that you can tune yourself out while you work on it.

How do you work with the Essie nail artists to create the look for your personal show?

I work with Michelle Saunders who’s in LA, so she and I will have a phone call, we kind of go over the inspiration, and then she’ll send me like five different ideas and we’ll either tweak it or go with one of them. Obviously at the height of the nail art craze it was how crazy can we get and as that nail art is becoming more simplified, you know, this season we just did a reverse French. So we did a red with a nude.

Where do you see both your brand and your role going. What colours would you like to be able to work with and bring forward?

I think that it’s a rainbow, so I don’t have a specific colour that I’d love to work with. I think it’s always just sharpening the lens, making sure globally that I’m satisfying all women that love Essie. I think that as colour technology advances we can get more creative. I had this idea recently — I did a sequin in my collection that was matte but two-sided. On one side was navy and one side was cream so I was like Can you get a pigment to be two-sided so that if it flips when you’re painting the nails you can have that two sided effect? So, stuff like that, the technology it’s smaller with nails — just being able to explore and utilize that.

How do you balance the two: that you’re keeping with the trends but keeping true to yourself?

I think that it’s a fine balance of knowing what the trend is and then how you interpret it through that lens. So, again with Designated DJ, knowing that that’s going to be something that’s going to be everywhere so how do you do it and make sure it fits. And I don’t think it’s just interpreting. I do take a lot of the colours from the boards but I’m also having the luxury of seeing leather colours and pantone trends — all that stuff that I’m doing the research on my end and factoring in and making sure that both are covered.

When you’re taking a look in creating a collection, how do you make sure that it’s a cohesive collection? Do you start with a broader spectrum of colours and then pair it down to the six? How do you do that elimination process?

Usually when I present the colours to Essie, I will present 10 to 11 and then the head of product development actually goes and creates those colours and then we come back and we actually have a meeting and we’re painting our nails, we’re seeing what looks pretty together, sometimes we make babies, which is when I take two and I mix them up right then and there. So I think we get through the process like some just don’t work, some look too similar to a shade we already did. We usually will compare three seasons back to make sure that this doesn’t look like any of the springs before it. That way you get to this process of elimination and at the end you do want it to sit well together.

Have you ever had to take a shade out of a collection that you’ve really loved?

Sure, all the time. I have a bag filled with to be continued. And I actually have one that I’m still really excited if we ever do it. I was told that I have very expensive taste because the pigment in it and the amount of pearls was double the price.

When you present the collection, has there ever come a point where you had to rock, paper, scissors between colours? Like, I want this one, but someone else says, Well we want this one.

We definitely get to those moments where there’s that push-pull.

How do you decide?

I mean, I think, at the end of the day, you want it to be a team decision. I need to lean on the Essie team to really guide me as well. So if they feel really strongly that something will work, then I’m going to take their lead. I’m not going to be a dictator about it.

Is there a formula for creating a collection?

I always start with a mood board or an inspiration. From there, I have a huge leather library — I prefer to work with colour and leather versus pantone chips, which can be flat. So I’ll just start pulling colours that really speak to the board and then I make sure that I haven’t gone in a sideways way and go look at trend reports and trend forecasts. I also look at what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, what failed and what didn’t, what the sell-throughs were on my collection that have been good and bad and why. Then I go back and make sure that I didn’t mirror anything that we’ve done in a previous season that’s too similar. By the time that’s all said and done I probably have 10 to 12 colours.

Where else would you be inspired to pull colours? It can be theoretical it doesn’t have to be actual collections like some places that you’ve travelled to that you would also love to.

I haven’t done the Bahamas yet, and I love the Bahamas.

That would be a great resort collection.

Yes, totally. I haven’t done anything with Korea or with Turkey. I’ve never been to South America, but I’d like to go. The amazon I feel like could be a very inspiring place for sure.

Snag the Essie spring collection in stores now and get ready to shop the summer collection, hitting shelves this June!

Tags: designer, essie, nail polish, rebecca minkoff, spring nails, What's Her Secret

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