At one o’clock on a Thursday afternoon, Rachel Zoe takes a break from her jam-packed schedule to call Sheridan Road from her Los Angeles home. “I’d like to apologize in advance; my three-month-old son has found his voice,” she says with a laugh. “Apparently, he wants to be a part of this conversation.”
With a growing family that includes her husband, Rodger Berman, and her now five-month-old son, Skyler, Rachel Zoe leads an active and glamorous life. As a renowned fashion stylist with 15 years of experience under her belt, Zoe works with celebrity clients such as Eva Mendes, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Garner, and Cameron Diaz. Her thriving career has also spawned a popular Bravo reality show, The Rachel Zoe Project, (currently in its fourth season), as well as a personal style guide, Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, & Everything Glamour. To top it all, Zoe recently launched her career as a clothing designer with the debut of The Rachel Zoe Collection, available at Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Chalk Boutique in Evanston.
For Zoe, a lifelong lover of fashion, the leap from styling to designing clothing was one that took effort and patience, but, she admits, it has been entirely worth the hard work. While the two careers have their similarities, she explains that each profession requires its own unique mind-set. “As a stylist, you’re really thinking about what you’re putting on the red carpet or in a magazine—what would be most ‘over-the-top,’” she says. “You don’t think, necessarily, about function. As a designer, I’m thinking, ‘These pieces need to be incredibly beautiful, glamorous, luxurious, and well-tailored, but they also have to be extremely wearable.’” Although she will continue her highly successful career as a stylist, her new role as a designer is a welcome change. “It’s really nice at this point in my career to be challenged again,” she says.
The Rachel Zoe Collection features everything from classic jackets and trousers to chic pumps and handbags. “It’s an extremely glamorous, very tailored, fashion-forward—but not trendy—collection,” she says. “There’s this timeless quality about it.” In fact, Zoe designed the various pieces to match one another, with the idea that women could collect a few each season. “They won’t go out of style, so you can wear them the next year and they will look brand-new,” she says. While her collection exudes the opulence typical of designer clothing, its inexpensive price point has mass-appeal. “The goal in this was to figure out how to put out very affordable, very luxurious clothes, without sacrificing the quality of the fabrics or the precision of the tailoring,” Zoe explains. Despite the abundance of designer-priced collections in the fashion world, she knew that she wanted to find her own place in the market.
Whether she’s choosing clothing for her clients or creating her own designs, Zoe certainly has a sixth sense when it comes to fashion. “I just gravitate toward what I love, what excites me, what’s dramatic, and what makes a statement,” she says. Though she claims that she’s always had a specific style, she also believes she has drawn inspiration for clothing all her life—from the streets of Los Angeles and New York to the runways of London and Europe. So what does she think of Chicago style? “It’s very classy, but there has to be a functionality,” she says. “I think Chicago women love luxury, but they also want to be warm!”
Though her repertoire of fashion achievements is certainly impressive, Zoe’s most important accomplishment thus far is in her role as a mother, which has impacted her outlook on fashion. “I have to be a bit more functional,” she says. “[I’m] more practical in the daytime, for sure.” Avoiding hardware and zippers on her jackets, as well as minimizing her jewelry, are necessary when she’s with Skyler. Yet, when she’s ready to go out for the evening, she loves to play up her clothing and accessories. “I’m not usually going to go for what’s simple,” she says. “I tend to go for what really stands out.” With her thriving career and spot-on fashion sense, the diminutive Zoe is a clear standout.