Welcome to E!’s Tales From the Top, our series on women who are leaders in their fields and masters of their craft. Spanning industries and experiences, these powerhouse women answer all the questions you’ve ever had about how they got to where they are today—and what they overcame to get there. Read along as they bring their resumés to life.
Almost 20 years ago, Jenna Elfman made an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, sporting an I Love NY shirt that had been cut up and tied. The woman behind the redesign? Rebecca Minkoff.
Fresh off a trip to the Bahamas, Minkoff was inspired by the T-shirts travelers would return home. “I was like, ‘I really like how the shirts are all cut up and they have those plastic beads with the knots,” she recalled in an exclusive interview with E! News, “but I don’t want something that says Aruba. I want something that says New York.’ And so I just made one for myself and then put it in the line.”
It was far from the first time she made something for herself—the famed designer learned sewing as a kid and even created her own bat mitzvah dress. Then, while in her performing arts high school, Minkoff ended up spending a lot of time in the costume department. “Growing up, I thought I wanted to be a dancer, but there were just enough odds against that happening with my height, the size of my chest, the fact that I started dancing a little bit late,” she explained, “that it just didn’t seem like it was going to be in the cards for me.”
Fashion, however, was. After graduating, Minkoff moved to New York City with a paid internship at Craig Taylor, the since-shuttered shirt brand, where she worked her way up to senior designer. On the side, she had designed her own small collection when, by a chain of chance events, Elfman suddenly became her walking billboard.