Interview: Rachel Zoe from The Rachel Zoe Project

We had the pleasure of sitting down with Rachel Zoe to talk about her new series on Bravo The Rachel Zoe Project. We grilled her about the series, her clients, and fashion trends. Here’s what she had to say:

Can you give us a little tidbit that we can look forward to seeing on your show?

Rachel Zoe: Yeah, I mean, I think you’re really going to see a lot of what it is that I do, what it is that being a stylist really means – well at least for me in my world.

And I think everybody is going to see how much work and how much time and effort goes into everything that we do. I think you’re going to get bits of certain clients.

You’re going to get a lot of designers, a lot of the biggest designers in the fashion world. And you’re really going to get that drama that plays out through award season and fashion week, and a lot of the dynamics that exist between myself and my team that works with me.

So I just watched the first episode and it was so much more compelling than I think a lot of people were expecting a show.

Rachel Zoe: Right.

To be – I mean, I’m – you know, I don’t mean to be rude or anything.

Rachel Zoe: No, no, no. Listen, I mean, I didn’t know what to expect either. I mean, once you see it play out on TV, you have no idea. This is my life, you know.

Was that something you were nervous about? Like were you trepidacious about doing a reality show?

Rachel Zoe: Oh absolutely, of course. I mean, but I’m that way about anything that I do. I am a very – I’m like a Nervous Nellie about everything that I do. I get anxiety before I do anything that’s new, you know.

I mean, it’s something outside of your comfort zone and you’re stepping outside of what you do every minute of your life for 15 years. It – you know, I felt the same way when I did a book, you know, and I think that doing a TV show with something that I was extremely apprehensive about, but everything sort of lined up. I had an incredible production company, Original Media, and – who I had a lot of trust in.

I, myself, am an executive producer as well. So I was very, very hands-on.

And that it was on Bravo. And so… I think when all those things happened I said okay, I’ve run out of excuses not to do this, you know, and I say in the show, and it’s a bit of my mantra about my life and my job is that, you know, I’m much more scared not to try than I am to fail.

And so, you know, but I think there’s always hesitation when, you know, you’re opening yourself up like that. But I mean, as you very well know, I mean, that the press has not always been kind to me.

So I’m wondering, I know that dressing a client is a very like intimate thing between you and the client.

Rachel Zoe: Very.

So now that you opened it up to have the cameras there, did any of the dynamics change?

Rachel Zoe: Oh god, no. No, most of my clients didn’t even know I was filming the show while I was shooting it. I kept it very, very under the radar because my clients always take precedence over anything that I do.

And so I didn’t really ask many of them to participate. And the ones that did were just really – just incredible support, you know. And Joy Bryant has been a friend and a client for over six years. So I mean it was fantastic.

And Molly and Deborah, and I think that I’m very, very fortunate because the women that I work with are just – they’re just unbelievable women. They’re just incredible spirits.

And they were just incredibly supportive and we just had so much fun. You know, we had so much fun. So I think the answer to that is no.

So did you get their permission later? I mean, obviously they know now right?

Rachel Zoe: Oh yeah. It wasn’t a secret. It was just more that I was very focused on them, you know, and I don’t ever want any client that I’m working with to think that there’s anything distracting, you know, which it didn’t.

It was just sort of like when I was done working with them, I would go and shoot, you know. So it was all about managing my time, really. But I just didn’t think it was important to talk about it, you know. I’m not the priority.

You know, what I do is a service and it’s not – you know, it’s not about me. So, you know, it’s really about, you know, my work for them. So…

And so – but we will see stars on the show besides…

Rachel Zoe: Yes you will.

What would you say – I know we’ll probably see this as the show goes on. What is the most challenging part? Is it working with people to kind of, you know, get their style out or is it finding the perfect fit? What do you think a stylist

Rachel Zoe: I think – in the literal sense or in the – I mean, the biggest challenge of my life is trying to have a personal life and trying to build my brand.

And always, you know, be on call for the women that I work with, you know.

So I think that in and of itself is a very big challenge for me. But I think that – in and of itself, I think sometimes trying – you know, when I know in my heart that something is just a show-stopper, you know, and something that I’m just like oh my god, I just – I’m dying right now. Like I can’t breathe, you know.

And they’re like I’m not sure. And I’m like what do you mean, you know. So I think, you know, sometimes that’s a challenge. But at the same time, I also don’t want to push someone into something that they’re not – that they don’t feel 100% themselves in.

So I mean, I think that’s probably a challenge. And I think probably the biggest challenge — and, you know, we do see this in the show — is, you know, really pushing it and having those moments and appealing to the fashion world, but then maybe the mainstream world doesn’t understand it.

And vice-versa, you know. And then you appeal to the mainstream and the fashion world thinks it’s boring. So I think that’s a struggle. I think there’s way too many people making these judgment calls now.

So I think that’s my biggest challenge in the business at this point.

Is there anyone that you’re not currently working — maybe like a younger star — that you would love to work with? You know, one of the littler, younger stars?

Rachel Zoe: No, I really don’t know. I have to really think like – I don’t know. It just – I – honestly, I – just I hate to be cliché but I really love the women that I work with.

I mean, if you asked me like fantasy person to dress, I mean, Johnny Depp. And I know it’s a man and it may not be as creatively exciting but, you know.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know, maybe Blake Lively. I think she’s fantastic.

I was wondering if you ever do any low end shopping like Target or Marshall’s, or anything like that?

Rachel Zoe: I’m sort of obsessed with Topshop.

Oh you are?

Rachel Zoe: I love Topshop. I think Topshop is amazing and I think H&M is great.

That’s great.

Rachel Zoe: Yeah, I love – and I love what Target is doing with all the young designers. I think it’s fantastic.

And I love the Gap. I think the Gap is amazing. I do. I love the Gap.

You’ve sort of become this whipping girl or poster girl for thinness. Are we making too much of all that?

Rachel Zoe: Absolutely, yes. Yes, indeed. I am very pro-eating and I am really a Jewish mother at heart. And if you ask anyone that is in my personal life or professional life, I’m almost like a food pusher.

You know, I kind of like don’t let people leave my home or my studio with either – without either eating or without taking a little like goody bag for the car or something. You know, that’s the family I come from.

So I am very in support of healthy women and healthy bodies. In fact, every woman that I work with at this point in my life is a very healthy woman and a very kind of curvy, healthy, athletic body.

I read, in fact, that you said you don’t even have a single Size 0 client at this point. Is that true?

Rachel Zoe: I actually don’t right now.

Ann Oldenburg: That’s pretty amazing.

Rachel Zoe: I actually don’t right now. I really don’t.

Ann Oldenburg: What would you say the average size is of your clients?

Rachel Zoe: I don’t know. I don’t know. It just ranges. It just totally ranges. I mean, 2 to 10. I really don’t know.

You mentioned several questions ago you had a bit of a hesitation about doing the show. I’m just wondering about the transition from stylist to, you know, in front of the camera personality.I mean, obviously the job of a stylist is to sort of be behind the scenes and to make someone else look good.

Rachel Zoe: Yes.

So how do you sort of be the star? I mean, how do you sort of go against what you’ve always done as a stylist in that regard?

Rachel Zoe: Well as I said earlier, I mean, I’m never going to think of myself as the star, ever. You know, it’s just not going to happen. I think you kind of just, you know, said it the best which is, you know, I got into this to be behind the scenes and to, you know, provide a service.

And, you know, I think with that very ironically and twist of fate, you know, for better or for worse, you know, I got sort of, you know, pulled involuntarily into the front.

And, you know, I think the thing for me is – my priority is always going to be the – my job, you know. And, you know, I’ve had nine fittings in the last 48 hours and, you know, that’s not going to change.

So if, you know, I’m doing a show and, you know, that is what it is and I’m proud of it. And I, you know – but it’s definitely – you know, I’m never going to let the attention shift too much towards me to take away from what it is that I do.

I was reading that this whole show, really it’s about you expanding your brand.

Rachel Zoe: Yes.

And I was wondering what is this next level that you’re wanting to take your brand to?

Rachel Zoe: My goal is to create a lifestyle brand. You know, something that there’s no limit to, you know. Something that will go from belts and sunglasses to jewelry and clothes and, you know, fragrance and home.

And I just – I really love what I do and I think that however I can challenge myself to broaden that scope as much as possible is my ultimate goal, you know.

And I think that I come from that school of, you know, classic vertigo perfectionism which is okay, what’s next? Okay, what can I do? What can I do? What can I do? How can I make this better? How can I do it better, you know.

And that’s just, you know, the nature of who I am so I’ve chosen to kind of accept it and just sort of surrender to it rather than fight it.

I kind of need to keep doing. I need to keep doing. I’m not good at sedentary. I’m not good at complacency. I’m not good at just sort of saying okay, I’ve done a lot here, like I’m done.

I don’t think that I am ever going to be that person.

How did this show actually come about? Did you pitch it to Bravo or did they approach you? How did that work?

Rachel Zoe: It’s interesting. Charlie Corwin, who is the founder of Original Media, the production company and one of my dearest friends, Jamie Patricof – they had both worked on documentary films.

Charlie Corwin, Original Media, did The Squid and the Whale and, you know, a number of very successful independent documentary films and as well as his, you know, tremendously successful roster of television shows as well.

And I think it was about having people that I trusted to sort of let my guard down. And, you know, I think as I said earlier, you know, I was sort of making up all these excuses in my mind why not to do it.

And then it sort of just all lined up and, you know, I sort of had this stipulation that, you know, the only fit for this show would be on Bravo. And so we shot a reel and, you know, we did it. And we showed it to Bravo.

And it just happened. And the team of Bravo has just been unbelievable and just so supportive. And I think what they’ve done for, you know, fashion and design, and this whole sort of pop, sort of style and lifestyle, culture, has been, you know, just unbelievable.

As a writer and even as a critic, I know sometimes I have a hard time turning that kind of critical eye off, like just when I go to a movie for pleasure.

Rachel Zoe: Right, yes.

Do you – can you do that? Like when you go out for just dinner or if you ever have time to just sit and watch TV, can you kind of turn that eye off and just enjoy what you’re doing?

Rachel Zoe: My brain doesn’t, as a rule, ever shut down which is not a good thing. I’m not proud of that. But I think that, of course, I notice my surroundings, you know, and – but I don’t – it’s not with this sort of malicious like oh my god I want to fix her right now, you know.

But then there’s sometimes where someone is doing something just so everything wrong that I’m like oh my god, please just give me ten minutes with her and I can change this, you know.

Rachel Zoe: So, you know – but I do. I mean, I notice it all the time probably like a chef, you know, eats in other restaurants and, you know, pays attention.

Rachel Zoe: I think it’s kind of hard not to, you know.

For you, you touched on this before – do you have a client that you bring her something that you adore and she’s like oh, I don’t know. Who has the final word?

Rachel Zoe: It’s a collaboration, you know.

Very diplomatic.

Rachel Zoe: It is. I mean, you know, it really depends because there’s a lot of people in that room, you know.

There’s a lot of people in that room. There’s – sometimes there’s publicists and agents, and husbands and friends, and personal assistants and children. And, you know, so I think sometimes, you know, it’s – sometimes it’s majority rules, you know.

So it really depends. And I have some clients that say to me why am I even saying my opinion because you know you’re going to win, you know. So I think it just depends on how strong someone feels one way or another, you know.

I noticed in the show that like a lot of us who love clothing and accessories, you seem to buy as much for yourself as you are for your clients.

Rachel Zoe: Oh, I don’t know about as much but I get…

Well you buy a lot.

Rachel Zoe: I am a shopper. I am a collector and I am a shopper, and I can’t really make an excuse for it other than that it’s my art and it’s what I do. And it’s something that in the back of my mind is just something that, you know, I hope someday my daughter will benefit from, you know what I mean?


Rachel Zoe: So – or my niece, for that matter – whichever – if I have a girl, then it’ll be my daughter or, you know – so I think that I just am on a constant quest to build a collection.

What’s the perfect client, someone who says just I’ll be your canvas, make me look beautiful or someone who has a strong sense of opinion?

Rachel Zoe: I love both for different reasons.

What are those reasons?

Rachel Zoe: I do. I love both for different reasons. I love someone that comes in and says, you know, I need a – I just need a do-over, you know.

I need soup to nuts, you know. And then as you said, it’s almost like a blank canvas, you know. And we just have so much fun with that. It’s just like – you know, it’s just kind of the perfect situation.

But then I also really love and respect women that have personal style and maybe just need, you know, some tweaking and maybe just need, you know, some – maybe they want to step out of their box a little bit, you know.

And I love that because that’s always a challenge, you know.

What’s the goal when somebody – it comes to a client, is going to the Oscars which, you know, I think would be the biggest night of all in Hollywood.

Rachel Zoe: Right.

Is the challenge simply to make the person look beautiful? Is it sometimes to enhance an image or change an image? Can your goals differ depending up…

Rachel Zoe: I mean, I think the answer to that is, you know, again very case specific. But I think the end goal is always that they look absolutely the most beautiful and feel – even more importantly than looking is actually feeling as beautiful as they possibly can, you know, because there’s moments where I have clients that, you know, I know people may not understand.

And it’s a very fashion forward dress or something like that, and it’s a bit of a risk. But, you know, as long as I do my job honestly and say people may not understand this but they say I don’t care, it’s my favorite dress I’ve ever had on and I’ve never felt better, then that’s it, you know. That’s it.

I imagine that being in – you know, in the intimacy of helping someone dress, change, whatever and let’s say that a lot of actors are – have a fragile personality. They’re constantly being reassessed based on how they look.

Are you – do you often serve as a mother confessor to these people, keeping their secrets, keeping their insecurities to yourself?

Rachel Zoe: I have a vault in my brain. I do. I have a vault in my brain and I will go to my grave with what I have in my brain. And that’s not that it’s any, you know, anything scandalous. It’s just, you know, we have a very honest and (gamete) relationship.

And that’s just the way it is and it’s a very family-oriented relationship. I have the same relationship with my team that works with me, you know. I think when you spend such an exorbitant amount of time with people, you know, you share great moments together, you know, good and bad.

Now are you primarily – I mean, obviously we know your A-List stars that you style. Are you primarily dealing with celebrities or do you deal with, you know, “regular people” as well?

Rachel Zoe: I have some clients, some international clients and New York clients that, you know, they’re what we’d say like private clients, you know. I do work with some, you know, throughout the year and it’s more of a scheduling issue for me, not that I don’t enjoy it.

You know, it’s just the time thing for me. But yeah, but I do do that as well.

Right. And I mean, how difficult is it or how possible is it — I guess I could say — to make the average person look like Cameron Diaz or Mischa Barton, or someone like that?

Rachel Zoe: Oh you can’t. I mean, you know, I think that the first lesson one learns, whether you’re famous or not famous, is that, you know, you live with the cards you’re dealt. You are who you are.

You know, believe me, if I could transform myself into Cameron Diaz, believe me I’d blink my eyes and make it happen. But, you know, it’s not reality and I learned that when I first started and, you know, I was only working with models.

And, you know, they were these beautiful supermodels of, you know, that were, you know, just 18 and, you know, 6’3″ barefoot and, you know, just incredibly beautiful human beings.

But I think that everyone — you know, not to sound really sappy but — everyone is beautiful. It’s just how you approach – you know, it’s your confidence level really, you know.

I mean, someone may not be the most beautiful person on the outside but all of a sudden their confidence and their personality make them completely sexy.

So I just – you know, I think that if you spend your life trying – you know, just wishing and wishing and wishing that you were, you know, a movie star or a supermodel, I mean, that’s just not a healthy way to live really, you know.

When people want you to, you also make suggestions about their hair, too right?

Rachel Zoe: Yes, I always put in my two cents whether they take it or they leave it. But I like to sort of, you know, give my input about the whole entire look.

And that brings the one other criticism I think is aimed for you or some of the other people in general which is there’s a little bit too much sameness because too many of the young stars go blonde and when everybody goes blonde, there’s just no variety.

Rachel Zoe: Of course.

And have you – what do you think of that? I mean, when so many people — even after they’ve established themselves as brunettes — go blonde, do we have too much of that?

Rachel Zoe: I mean, it’s hard to say because I think most of the people that are traditionally blonde, if they go dark it’s for a film and vice-versa, you know. But I think that you know the true, true brunettes that are always going to be brunette, you know.

Like the Jennifer Garners and Jessica Biel’s and, you know, Jennifer Lopez and, you know, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Julia Roberts – like I think that the true brunettes will stay brunette, you know.

And I think that the real blondes – I think, you know, I mean, I think that blonde is a dominating trend throughout the world, you know.

Rachel Zoe: I mean, I would love to have stock in bleach, you know what I mean? So like… I mean, I think that the old cliche of blondes have more fun and blonde makes you look younger, and all of those things – I just think there’s – you know, it’s predominantly blonde.

But I think, therefore, it gives those – you know, the brunettes a much more unique sort of, you know, what’s the word? Like a unique presence, you know.

I know Jennifer Garner is one of your long time clients and…

Rachel Zoe: One of the loves of my life, yes.

And she – you know, she’s pregnant now. She was pregnant before. How does it change when you’re styling a pregnant star? Like how do you work around the growing baby bump I guess?

Rachel Zoe: I think that a woman being pregnant is, you know, the most beautiful time in their life and, you know, I think that my job there is to continue to, you know, have them keep that same confidence, you know, in, you know, how they feel and how they look, and just embrace that really, you know.

And you just go around that beautiful bump, you know, and you have things made. And, you know, it’s very much about comfort and just work with things that are easy, you know, that are really easy and really practical, and really comfortable but still look cute, you know.

Yeah, of course. And, you know, there’s been a big surge in a lot of celebrity designers, whether they’re doing lines for different stores or they’re coming out with their own lines. What’s your thought on that?

Rachel Zoe: I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s a lot of great ones out there, you know. I mean, probably one of my favorites is Gwen Stefani’s, you know.

I think – you know, and she’s one of the originals. But, you know, I love – I think L.A.M.B. is fantastic. You know, I think L.A.M.B. is fantastic. I think Sienna Miller’s line is great.

I – obviously I mean, I love what Kate Moss does for Topshop. Absolutely.

And now I know you said that you are a big Topshop fan and an H&M fan. Do you end up – do you ever dress any of your clients in those brands or is that more for yourself?

Rachel Zoe: You know, I think it’s more the type of thing that they get on their own.

You know, I think that’s more like their casual everyday life clothes. You know, but in fact – actually, we did have a moment – Cameron Diaz wore a Kate Moss Topshop black mini dress to a premiere last year.

I do remember that.

Rachel Zoe: Yeah. And leave it to Cameron, of course, to like shut it down in that little black mini dress. I mean, so hot.

Are there any celebrities that you think should have a line that maybe just has such great value – like they should do a line?

Rachel Zoe: I don’t know. I mean, it’s hard to say. I mean, I think anyone that feels the need to express themselves and share it with the world should do whatever it is they want to do.

Everybody starts somewhere. When did you first think I have arrived? Is there something you bought yourself? Was there some acceptance on a certain level? Was there a moment when you said you know what, I think maybe I’ve clicked somewhere?

Rachel Zoe: Probably – you know, I’m one of those people that’s very superstitious. I don’t ever like, you know, rest on my – what do they say, like rest on your…


Rachel Zoe: Yes. I don’t ever do that. I don’t ever sit and say oh look what I’ve accomplished, look where I’ve come, you know, look at my life. It just is what it is to me and it’s my reality at this point.

I think maybe my very first moment I always kind of thing was Jennifer Garner, you know, and when we first started working together. And it was the Oscars and she just really – just got on that carpet and shut it down across the board, you know.

And I think – you know, as I said earlier, I think the struggle sometimes is to appeal to such broad audiences, be it fashion or a more mainstream, you know, media, audience or outlet for that matter.

And she really just did it. And, you know, it’s around the world in 24 hours, you know. And I think that that was a huge moment for me in my career.

I’m just curious about your beginnings. How did you get to be a stylist? When did you know that you wanted to be involved in working with clothes and people, and…

Rachel Zoe: I mean, I’ve known my whole life how much I loved clothes and how much I loved dressing people up, and all of that. But it was more in my subconscious and it was something I did on my friends, you know.

It wasn’t something that I knew that I could make a career out of. I was a sociology/psychology major so I knew that I wanted to work with people. And when I graduated college, I got a job through a friend of a friend as a fashion assistant at YM Magazine.

And from the first day I started, it just – that was it. That was it.

And when did you get your first styling job?

Rachel Zoe: Well I went freelance three years after working at the magazine and I had my first job the next day. And that was it. And that was all she wrote.

What is the one fashion look right now you’d like to shoot dead right on the spot?

Rachel Zoe: Oh god.

Tell everyone to stop doing it?

Rachel Zoe: Oh god.

Come on.

Rachel Zoe: Oh god. I’m so in love with fashion right now.

What’s the biggest, most egregious…

Rachel Zoe: I don’t know the answer to that.

Well what would you say on your show if somebody walked by and was doing something that just made your eyes cross? Say it.

Rachel Zoe: I’m not a huge advocate of cleavage. I’m just – midriffs, like just no midriffs. No more showing midriffs unless you’re on the beach, you know.

Too much. I think better left to the imagination.

Do you think there’s a city difference – a style difference between New York and Los Angeles as far as what’s acceptable, like as far as cleavage goes and things like that?

Rachel Zoe: Oh god yeah. Oh, as far as that goes? I don’t know. I think it’s just an overall difference in style. There’s just the – you know, it’s worlds apart really.

Well you’re a California girl, but do you appreciate New York more?

Rachel Zoe: I’m actually not. I’m actually not. I’m actually a New Yorker. I’m a New Yorker and I live between both, and I wear different hats in each place.

You know, I like to mix it up. I mix it up when I go to Paris and Milan. And, you know, I like to do different things.

What’s something you’d wear in New York but you’d never wear in Los Angeles?

Rachel Zoe: Probably a pencil skirt and, you know, a great little fitted jacket and blouse. You know, I tend to do a little bit more of the Coco Chanel thing in New York and in LA you just seem very overdressed.

So just my last question is what is the thing you ultimately want people to take away from the show?

Rachel Zoe: I think that if they walk away with a better understanding of what it is that goes on and the amount of work, and the amount of pressure that exists prior to seeing someone on the red carpet – I think that would be amazing.

I think to gain a better understanding of what it is that we do and what it is that these designers do, and how much of their heart and soul goes into it, how much pressure there really is, how little margin for error there really is.

And, you know, maybe for those who don’t know me, a better understanding of who I am, you know, because I mean, I think there’s a lot of misconception about that, you know.

And, you know, whether they’re interested or not in knowing who I am or whether they want to still hate me forever, great you know. But at least it’s an accurate – you know, at least it’s saying okay, this is who I am.

If you hate me, great. But now you know who I am and you can stop speculating on who you think I am, you know.

Interview By: Emma Loggins


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