x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Rachel Zoe on branching out in style

The celebrity-stylist-turned-designer talks about her life and activities as her clothing line goes on sale in Dubai.

Rachel Zoe combines modern sophistication with a sensibility that sits easily with Middle Eastern values.
Rachel Zoe combines modern sophistication with a sensibility that sits easily with Middle Eastern values.

At just eight years old, Rachel Zoe began establishing a name for herself in fashion by styling her neighbour for school. Now 40, she is one of the most sought-after stylists in Hollywood, with her own fashion line launched last autumn to boot.

Success in America opened doors for the Rachel Zoe Collection across the world - the Middle East included.

"We have seen a lot of interest from the Middle Eastern buyers," says Zoe. "They like the variety of lengths in the silhouettes, the layering options, the flowing fabrics and attention to detail."

Zoe's resort 2011 began selling in the UAE last year in Saks Fifth Avenue, Harvey Nichols and Symphony Boutique in Dubai. It is distributed in Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

It helps that her collection respects Middle Eastern traditions and yet comes with a sophisticated, modern DNA. The designer was already a fan of the unique fashion sense that can be seen across the region before putting her clothes in stores here.

"I love all the rich textures, bright colours and shine, lots of layering pieces," she says. "It is just so sophisticated - it's everything I stand for." Over the years back in her home country, Zoe has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism. Some said all her clients looked the same. Others whispered that she influenced them to lose weight drastically. She famously fell out with some of them, most notably with Nicole Richie. Through it all, Zoe stayed silent, putting out one stunning red carpet look after another.

"It's something that has always come so naturally for me," she says. "I would find myself subconsciously offering styling tips to people all the time." Growing up in Short Hills, New Jersey, it was her parent's interest in travel and collecting art that exposed Zoe to different cultures and eras from early on. "It helped me absorb variety – of what was going on in the world. You need that in fashion or you'd be boring. You need that in life, period." And then there was the bible of fashion – American Vogue. "I like to argue I was born with one in hand," she jokes. "But honestly, I have been reading fashion magazines ever since I can remember - probably before I could even read. I used to just flip through the pages and admire the pictures."

At 15, she made her first significant fashion purchase; like a true-blue fashion lover, she did it in Paris. "I bought the monogrammed Louis Vuitton messenger bag," she remembers. "I took all of my saved money, literally every penny, from my bank account."

Although her parents were not pleased, the purchase laid the groundwork for an appreciation of quality and faith in her own judgement. In the years to come, Zoe would move to Hollywood and apply it all to her first client - Jennifer Garner. The likes of Cameron Diaz, Keira Knightley, Eva Mendes, Liv Tyler, Anne Hathaway, Kate Bekinsale, Kate Hudson and many more would follow.

"I am so fortunate to work with some of the most incredible women in Hollywood," she says, skirting the issue when asked to name her favourite. "I love all my clients. We always have so much fun when we are together - they're an extension of my family."

In September 2008, Zoe cashed in on her own growing celebrity status with the debut of her reality television series, The Rachel Zoe Project. The series followed Zoe, her two fashion associates, Taylor Jacobson and Brad Goreski, as well as her husband and business partner, Rodger Berman, as they went about the art and business of dressing celebrities.

By the time the fourth season started last year, Goreski had left Zoe to work on his own. Goreski was accused of using the show and Zoe to build his profile and of taking clients with him as he left – and has since made a successful name for himself in the world of celebrity stylists. His own reality show, It's a Brad Brad World, started in the US this month. On reports the pair have not spoken since the split, which was portrayed as amicable, Zoe says only "it doesn't affect me at all".

Last year Zoe gave birth to her first child, a boy named Skylar who is arguably the best dressed tot in Hollywood. Much as she'd love to spend every waking minute with him, Zoe still managed to launch her fashion line – the Rachel Zoe Collection – with the ultimate aim of developing it into a lifestyle brand.

"As a stylist, I really learnt to appreciate great tailoring," she says. "I learnt what silhouettes flatter certain body types, what fabrics mix well with certain textures - I think I have always been subconsciously filing this information away for my own collection one day."

Autumn/winter 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the fashion line. What has inspired her for the new collection? "I find inspiration everywhere I go – mainly Paris, London and New York. I am inspired by old films, music, books, actors and actresses."

True to her unique mix-and-match vibe, fashion icons of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Brigitte Bardot and Bianca Jagger, along with modern influences such as Carine Roitfeld and Marc Jacobs, find resonance in her vision.

Many celebrities have tried to branch out into fashion. Apart from Victoria Beckham, not many have been taken seriously. What sets Zoe apart? "Passion. I am a huge believer that you must love what you do in order to be successful. Determination and commitment - it's a very long process, nothing happens overnight. And of course a great team - I know I could never have done this alone," she says.

"I think it's ultimately really about the clothes. I just wanted to put out a collection that I was proud of."

 

artslife@thenational.ae

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