I'm a bit obsessed with Nicole Richie but could not care less for her former stylist, Rachel Zoe. I thought that when she and Nicole parted ways I'd get to forget about her. I was wrong. She was brought on for the revival of Halston and wrote a best selling book. But hope emerged. She was reportedly banished from the Marc by Marc Jacobs show since she arrived late (and shock of shocks the show started on time!) and threw a huge tantrum asking security guards "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" But I was wrong again. She's starring in her own reality show for Bravo and is in the latest issue of Harper's Bazaar. Here is the article for your entertainment:
"We've had Audrey Hepburn, we've had Twiggy, we've had Veruschka, we've had Kate Moss. I'm trying to figure out why I am to blame for skinniness."
Rachel Zoe is making this observation in her suite at New York's Mercer hotel. She normally stays across the hall, next to friend ("but not a 'fashion friend'") Marc Jacobs, who often runs through the rooms' shared door to inspect her outfits. Tanned and superthin, she is wearing a loose black vintage Pierre Cardin T-shirt dress and gobs of her signature gold jewelry, and she is proudly maintaining her false eyelashes from yesterday's Bazaar shoot, where she was enthusiastic about being resized (and retouched) from a size 0 to a size 8. "Have you ever seen me without these, even once?" she asks with a Scarlett O'Hara flutter. She breaks into a grin. "I mean ..."
For a stylist who has been working diligently — obsessively, even — for 15 years ("since I had to get orange monkey-fur boots for the Stone Temple Pilots"), Zoe, 37, sure gets some bad press. She's been, alternately, an anorexic, a pill peddler, an egomaniac. She remembers a 2006 trip to London when she was styling designer Julien Macdonald's show. "There was a piece in The Sunday Times. A model had died in Madrid, and somehow it was my fault. I burst into tears. I was like, are you kidding me?"
Has Zoe ever pressured her clients to lose weight? No, says Cameron Diaz: "Print that I laughed out loud. She's more likely to press big dangly earrings or chunky necklaces on you! No one can make somebody do something they're not already predisposed to doing." No, says Eva Mendes: "If anything, that woman makes me eat. When I leave Zoe's place after a fitting, I feel better about myself because she has only ever encouraged me to stay the way I am." Zoe makes a point of mentioning, "I don't have one client right now who is a size 0. All of my clients have athletic or curvy, healthy bodies."
In some ways, it's as if Zoe has been punished in the press for stepping beyond her stylist station. "She's not the help, you know what I mean?" says an incredulous Diaz, who has known Zoe since 2000. "Rachel has become a celebrity because she is dynamic." Mendes agrees: "You hear things, and at first I was a little reluctant. But I kept running into Rachel, and I'm like, this person doesn't seem at all like anything they're drawing her out to be. She is so in it for the right reasons." Marc Jacobs thirds it: "As we say, I don't 'fashion love' her, I love love her. She has an iconic look. And she is a caricature in some ways, and I don't mean that negatively."
Zoe is resigned, however, to having to refute rumors: "People will say to me, 'You are the opposite of what I thought you were.' And I'm like, 'But why did you think I was this mean, aggressive, bossy diva bitch, giving pills, doing drugs?' "
Clothes are Zoe's drug. The New Jersey native knew this the first day of her job as fashion assistant at YM magazine in 1993. "My dad called me, and I said I'd do this for free, I love it so much." (She also commends her husband, Rodger Berman, for his reserves of patience when she would call him in a panic with seven garment bags.) "Now my heroes are a reality in my life. It's not like, 'I can't believe I'm having dinner with John Galliano or Karl Lagerfeld.' But I still die. Like when I talk to Tom Ford. When I was in my 20s and he was doing the whole Gucci horse-bit pants? Are you kidding me?"
Of course, that Ford era perfectly syncs with Zoe's own style. Over the years, she has developed a glam-hippy, Talitha-Getty-for-all look in tandem with an innate ability to help stars step it up for the red carpet. Her first big client was Jennifer Garner, whom she styled for the 2003 Emmys. "We used this beautiful cream halter-neck Narciso Rodriguez. Jen's taught me a lot; she's as good as it gets, that one." Of course, Zoe's most high-profile advertisement was Nicole Richie, with whom she doesn't speak. (The exact reasons remain a Hollywood mystery in line with the Black Dahlia.) "Nicole Richie and Rachel, they share a similar aesthetic," observes Diaz. "Nicole still looks like she's being dressed by Rachel."
And so do a lot of women, thanks to Zoe's how-to book, Style A to Zoe. "A woman came up to me," Zoe says, "and she said, 'I'm battling cancer for the third time, and I read your book every night' — look, I still get chills — 'because it makes me want to be beautiful again.' "
Not that Zoe is about to sell herself as fashion's Mother Teresa. She makes no bones about her ambitions to be RZ Inc. "Some stylists look at it as a job for hire, so that's all they're going to do. I look at the bigger picture." Alongside her celebrity and private-shopping clientele, Zoe has inked deals with Judith Leiber and Piperlime, an online accessories retailer, and is developing jewelry and accessories lines.
This month will also see the premiere of The Rachel Zoe Project, her new reality show on Bravo. Among other things — like a casual purchase of a Balmain dress, an Hermès Birkin, and a Chanel necklace at Decades, the Los Angeles vintage mecca — it showcases Zoe's hyperbolic fashion vocabulary: "I mean" is big, as is "sexy time" and, most enthusiastically, "I die." "I also love her 'amaazing,'" says Mendes. "Amaazing, which I've totally stolen." "No way, it's [I have] 'no words,'" says Jacobs. "'No words.'"
All of this has increased Zoe's sway exponentially. Which leads us to a media speed bump. When asked about the infamous piece inThe New York Times Magazine in which Zoe referred to the extent of her influence in the fashion industry, she says, "What I think happened is things got twisted, put in different places, taken out of context."
Ask her about her influence over certain clients and she'll ascribe it to a Zoe fashion compression chamber: "When you spend an exorbitant amount of time with someone and they're younger, they absorb what is around them. And young girls tend to dress like each other." Two years on from the heady days when Nicole, Lindsay, and Mischa swanned about in flowing vintage Pucci, Zoe Mini Me's are still in abundance. "Sometimes Rodger will say, 'Honey, she looks like you!' But in the case of Cameron or Jennifer Garner or Demi Moore, I would never say they were a Zoebot! You never see Jennifer in a bohemian caftan, wavy hair, and sunglasses the size of her face, you know?"
Media speed bump number two: Zoe has, of course, gotten flack for her weight (or lack of it). There is no denying that the girl's not an eater; she won't, either. "I'm a textbook definition of that perfectionist girl who has huge expectations of herself," she says with a shrug and a stir of her tea. "It's hard for me to take care of myself, let's put it that way. I am my last priority. What I get from people is, 'You need to rest, you need to take care of yourself, you need to...' But I'm like, 'I'm fine. I have to work now.' "
She insists, however, that she doesn't exist on style alone: "It's not that I don't eat. I eat." Lunch? "Truth? I don't. I'm not a lady who lunches; it's a lull in the day." What's the daily diet? "When I'm on downtime, like on vacation with Rodger, I take care of myself. But when it's me working on my own, it's 7:00 p.m., and I've had coffee and a grapefruit." Favorite food? "Asparagus! I'm kidding. I'd have to say cobbler." Diaz chuckles and says, "I had dinner with her the other night, and I swear she ate the whole fish."
Of her size 8 self that she conjured for the camera, Zoe smiles and says, "I immediately worked my body differently. As soon as I had curves, I was like, I want to stick my butt out, show my cleavage. I immediately felt sexy. I don't feel sexy on a daily basis. In fact, I never feel sexy."
Does Zoe understand why people think she is too thin? "Truthfully, I've never seen myself as being too thin. Sometimes I'll look at photos and be like, Oh, that's not a good look. But generally speaking, I'm not too thin." Why is she made an example of? "Because I'm not a model. But because I work with models and actors, I'm an easy target." Jacobs adds, "Both us of have gotten hell from the press on our appearance. We have provided comfort for each other." Diaz is circumspect: "Rachel may have her own issues, whatever they may be. But we all do, don't we?"
Back on the couch, Zoe is pondering the Big Game. "When I met Tom Ford, he said, 'Put on your boxing gloves. No one is going to make it easy for you.' When the media attacked me, I said, 'I'm quitting, I'm done.' You feel like everyone's against you."
But in the case of Rachel Zoe's success, clearly they are not. There is no denying that she works hard for the money. "If I didn't have Rodger, I would 100 percent be a fashion widow," she says with "I die" hyperbole. "Because my life has just gone whoosh! I miss every birthday, friends giving birth, baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, holidays. I miss it all."
But that, she acknowledges, is what happens when you want to have it all.