The expanding world of Rachel Zoe
She's a stylist, reality TV star, designer and mom. And she's not done — not even close.
Rachel Zoe, pictured at home, “has a great eye, a larger-than-life personality and a whole entertainment world built around her,” says trend forecaster Catherine Moellering. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / July 17, 2011)
Of course, when Mom is Rachel Zoe — celebrity stylist-turned-reality TV star-turned-designer — and the gift-givers are members of fashion's reigning class, glamour is expected.
On a recent sunny afternoon, lounging by the pool of his Los Angeles home with his nanny by his side, Skyler is wearing a blue striped Petit Bateau "1940s-style swimsuit," as Zoe describes it, and brown Bonpoint fisherman's sandals. It's a milestone, the first day the 3-month-old wears shoes, though he already has more than a dozen pairs in his nursery, including Gucci loafers.
Yet the new mother makes it sound as if life in Zoe land isn't quite as glamorous as it used to be. "My whole day is about whether my son poops or not," she says.
"The next thing you know, we'll be moving to Brentwood and I'll be driving a minivan."
Zoe is wearing a pair of flared tuxedo pants so long they nearly sweep the floor, and a sparkly cropped navy blue jacket. Both items are from her new line, the Rachel Zoe fashion collection landing in stores this month, and they allow her to exude a sort of career-woman vibe, to play the role of "execubitch." (And don't worry — that particular term is a Zoe-ism.)
Zoe's career trajectory has been impressive, going from no-name stylist to red carpet tastemaker, earning $6,000 a day, with clients including Cameron Diaz, Eva Mendes and Demi Moore. The next step was full-fledged celebritydom, with a Bravo reality show, QVC line and, now, a fashion collection. And she's done it all in a decade.
The fall collection, with prices that range from $250 to $700, oozes '70s style, which should come as no surprise to fans of Zoe's trademark flowy peasant dress/oversized sunglasses look. But don't expect "bohemian glamour," Zoe says. "I wanted androgyny and the powerful woman look. I've grown up a lot. I wanted an amazing white tuxedo for under $1,000 and a cocktail dress for under $500."
Most of the pieces are quite tailored and have a vintage Yves Saint Laurent vibe. "It's very Jane Birkin-y and Anjelica Huston-y and Bianca Jagger-y, with a splash of sequins, a little Liza Minnelli, thrown in," Zoe says.
There are trouser suits with flared legs, plunge-front blouses that tie at the neck, leather-trimmed capes with toggle closures, faux fur jackets, disco-short dresses with tiers of chiffon or splashes of sequins, and diaphanous chiffon maxi-dresses. Accessories include 51/2-inch platform pumps (not for the faint of heart) and chain-handle clutch bags.
The collection — backed by LF USA (a division of Li & Fung, a Hong Kong-based global sourcing giant and producer of clothing, toys and furniture) — is selling in "contemporary departments" alongside clothes by designers such as Diane von Furstenberg and Alexander Wang. (It's been reported that Zoe could earn as much as $20 million from the line.) Neiman Marcus bought the collection for all 41 of its stores, and teased the launch with an "Oh So Zoe" Facebook challenge that let users style virtual looks and share them with friends. Bloomingdales is planning to devote the windows of its store at 59th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan to the collection.
"In entertainment, they talk about people who can act, sing and dance as being triple threats. Rachel Zoe is a triple threat in fashion. She has a great eye, a larger-than-life personality and a whole entertainment world built around her," said Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of New York-based trend forecasting firm Tobe Report.
Zoe's entree into fashion follows the direction in which the industry has been heading for some time, putting a premium on charisma over craft. "In terms of a business model, Jessica Simpson or Rachel Zoe would be the model for fashion today," Moellering said. "Instead of being known for an iconic top or dress, they are iconic personalities themselves, which allows them to be more flexible in how they branch out into other categories."
Although Zoe's design studio is in New York, Rachel Zoe Inc. is headquartered in Los Angeles. (She plans to fly back and forth.) Her husband, Rodger Berman, is president of the company, which has different spaces for styling services, product development, digital media (including production of her daily style blog at RachelZoe.com) and the stylist's fashion archives. There are about 15 employees at the company, including design director Eric Sartori.
Those archives must hold a lot of her clothes because the walk-in closet at her house isn't nearly as stuffed as one might expect. There are Chanel purses and Birkin bags tucked into tidy cubbies. And hanging on a peg is her newest purchase, a vintage Celine, bamboo-handled bucket bag so large it's easy to wonder if Zoe could fit inside. A rolling rack in the center of the closet is filled with pieces from her fall collection, which she has been wearing out and about recently, in full view of the paparazzi tracking her every move from nail salon to posh baby boutique.
Zoe knows how to play the game.
"How about Jennifer Lopez wearing my white tuxedo dress?" she says, plucking the double-breasted "Cameron" style from the rack. "When I saw that picture, I froze. For the first time in my life, I got a taste of what it feels like to a designer when someone wears their clothes."
Lopez's stylist, whom Zoe says she does not know, pulled the dress from the showroom, and Lopez was photographed wearing it June 15 in Paris. "I can't believe how kind and gracious stylists in L.A. have been, pulling my designs," Zoe says, referring to her competition pulling clothing for their celebrity clients to borrow for appearances and red carpet events. "I figured since I was a stylist, and they're stylists, they wouldn't want it."
Zoe is ready to get back on the red carpet herself after a pregnancy hiatus. Although she managed to style longtime client Oscar host Anne Hathaway in eight different looks for the Academy Awards show in February, she missed the runway shows in New York and Europe that month because she couldn't travel so close to giving birth. She also took a break from QVC, but will return in September with new additions to her Luxe Rachel Zoe line of outerwear and accessories, which tops out at $180.
And on Sept. 6, "The Rachel Zoe Project" returns to Bravo for a fourth season.
The show began as "fashion porn," she says, in reference to plotlines that have taken viewers behind the scenes at fashion shows with Karl Lagerfeld, and styling sessions with flamboyant figure skater Johnny Weir. But this season will be a little different. "It will be more about seeing me as a career woman."
Don't expect any more drama with her assistants, as in past seasons. (Two of her former assistants, Brad Goreski and Taylor Jacobson left the reality show in snarky plot twists that some observers say were engineered to boost ratings. ) "I've learned lessons," Zoe says. "But you move on, and you realize everyone is replaceable on some level. Except my husband. And my son, of course."
Skyler will have screen time during Season 4 and will be sitting on Mom's lap front row at the next round of runway shows in September. (Zoe plans to show her spring 2012 collection during New York Fashion Week.)
Later on this day, the Bravo TV crew is coming to the house to shoot a barbecue, featuring Rodger's turkey burgers and Rachel's brownies. "I do have a private life," Zoe says. "I'm an executive producer, and when I say we're not shooting today, we're not shooting today. But as long as people enjoy [the show] and get the feeling that they are getting enough, great. When I feel that's not possible anymore, then we move onto the next thing."
The next thing could be a home accessories line. Another TV show is also a possibility.
Zoe talks a lot about Oprah and Martha Stewart, and clearly sees them as lifestyle-branding models. "I would love to do a talk show," she says. "I don't have any formal fashion training, and the reason I got into this business is because I love people. So for me, sitting down and digging into peoples' minds … digging into designers' minds … would be really fun."