If you had told Rachel Zoe 20 years ago (when she first began as a fashion editor at YM) that she would become a pre-eminent red carpet stylist, beloved television personality (Bravo’s The Rachel Zoe Project), businesswoman and designer, she would have responded with a characteristic, “That’s bananas.” And yet today, Zoe has turned her quip-a-minute charm and zealous eye for the right dress on the right woman into a multimedia mega-brand—think books (Style A to Zoe), a daily e-newsletter (The Zoe Report), endorsement deals, and now a signature label of fashion, footwear and accessories (sold at Holt Renfrew). Overseeing her empire, dressing starlets such as Cameron Diaz and Anne Hathaway, all while raising her young son, Skyler—we don’t know how she does it.
How do you manage everything? Designing takes up most of my time from a business perspective, but I try and allot my time evenly through design, styling and Zoe MG, my new digital media group. We’ve spun off my newsletter now into two other categories called Zoe Beautiful and Accesszoeries. It’s always a juggling act, but most important to me is being a mom.
As your brand continues to grow, will your celebrity styling take a back seat? I’m still hands-on in the styling area. I have an incredible team that helps me on a day-to-day basis, but I’m always very much on top of it and in the loop on everything that my clients wear for anything public—always.
Since starting your own clothing line last year, what has been the biggest learning curve? That it’s not instantaneous. When styling, I pull looks, we get them the next day and do fittings, the dress is worn and you move on to the next job. Whereas as a designer, right now I’m working on resort, which won’t hit stores until November. It’s almost like making a movie—I’m producing it now, but I won’t see finals for several months.
You are known for your extravagant taste. Why did you decide to position your line in the contemporary market? This is where I knew I wanted to be. I didn’t want to go mass, but I didn’t want the designer price point. I really just want to make luxurious, incredible clothing that has designer tailoring and fabrics. That’s the goal.
Who have been the best mentors to you? Marc Jacobs. He taught me that you can’t let the little stuff get to you, because it disrupts your focus. Diane von Furstenberg is someone whom I admire as a businesswoman and a designer. I think she’s on top of her game and she has been for a really long time.
As the profile of your clients has risen, you’ve also become famous in your own right. What’s the disadvantage of having the spotlight on you? Definitely the lack of privacy—having that feeling that people are listening to what you’re saying, even total strangers. You’ll be having a conversation with a friend about what you want for dinner and the next thing you know it’s on Page Six. You feel violated. It’s the biggest drawback.
With your fast-paced life, what keeps you balanced? I don’t get to rejuvenate very much. I’m a real homebody—that’s something people really don’t know about me. Because I go out a lot for work, to me the dream day is just sitting in a bathrobe, having takeout with my husband and watching old movies. That’s my favourite thing. I bake banana bread and brownies from scratch, never from mixes.
Why is social media an integral part of your brand identity? It’s the best way to communicate with my customers and fans. People are giving you live feedback; they’re asking and telling you what they do and don’t like. What’s better than that?