Rachel Zoe – America’s Top Stylist

We all know her, and despite however much we want to dislike her, it’s hard to do. After all Rachel Zoe is a household name and we can’t get enough of her….or her Rachel-ism’s. Case in point – Yesterday the Hollywood Reporter ran this uber long story on how Ms Zoe went from an $18,000 a year salary to $10,000 a client… and the story launch a flurry of Twitter tweets that were hard to ignore.

Here are excerpts from the Hollywood Reporter article.

Five days after the curtain has dropped on the 83rd Academy Awards, the postshow congratulatory orchids are still arriving at Rachel Zoe’s home every few hours. The latest: a 4-footer from Giorgio Armani with a handwritten note thanking the celebrity stylist for showcasing the night’s “most spectacular red-carpet look … on stage

The revered designer is referring to Anne Hathaway’s off-the-shoulder cobalt-blue satin Armani Privé gown, No. 5 of eight total looks the actress wore on Oscar night (including a vintage Valentino on the red carpet, a stunning white, strapless Grecian Givenchy Haute Couture for the opening number and a metallic-beaded, flapper-style Oscar de la Renta that begged to be shimmied) all curated by Team Zoe, a seven-member army that tends to their 37-weeks-pregnant commanding officer’s every need.

Today, it’s a Coffee Bean run for iced tea, though Zoe’s third-trimester constant must-have is a liter of sparkling water, which she’ll down in an hour, straight from the bottle. With the extra pounds from her pregnancy, all contained in a tiny soccer ball-like shape that’s easily camouflaged, Zoe’s face is plump and full of color. She doesn’t glow; she radiates a sort of serenity you rarely see on her Bravo TV show, The Rachel Zoe Project, where she is constantly running ragged and under the gun of scheduled glamour.
At 39, her ascent from stylist to star to brand name is nothing short of extraordinary. “I’m not sure that most people can name another stylist,” says Rodger Berman, her husband of 13 years and the president of Rachel Zoe Inc. since July.

Zoe’s success puts her in the company of such expert TV marketers as Donald Trump and Emeril Lagasse. Her knack for affordable elegance brought her Luxe Rachel Zoe outerwear and accessories line to QVC alongside launches by Kiehl’s, NARS Cosmetics and Dyson. Since its September 2009 launch, more than 260,000 units from the Luxe line (priced from $25-$325) have been ordered on QVC. “Its performance has far exceeded our expectations for the first year,” says Doug Howe, QVC’s executive vp strategic multichannel planning and merchandising. And her influence on fashion — from her brand ambassador position at Piperlime to the magazine spreads she styles to the red-carpet fashions she rolls out every awards season and the merch she moves for designers when she uses their clothes — brings to mind Zoe’s idol, Anna Wintour.

“When you’re a creative person, whether you design clothing or homes, your brain is constantly moving,” Zoe says. “What is beautiful? What gets you going? I have a 99 percent accuracy rate on my gut. I wish I could be that good with people. But projects, I’m pretty right-on about.”

Straddling both ends of the fashion spectrum is Zoe’s specialty. “No one wants to stay in the tabloids, but it’s actually not a terrible place to start,” she once said. Indeed, getting her start outfitting the likes of Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan not just for movie premieres and parties but also for their afternoon Starbucks runs handed Zoe an express pass to fashion VIP, where she was met with skepticism. But there’s no doubt tabloid culture had a direct impact on the public’s sense of style. Who can forget the oversized sunglasses every starlet wore circa 2005? Or the Nouveau Boho uniform of hobo bag, maxi dress and wedge platforms?

“The secret to Rachel’s success is the absolute clarity of her taste and her uncynical passion for fashion,” Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Glenda Bailey says. “You can immediately identify a Rachel Zoe look — retro, glamorous, bohemian — but she still makes her clients look like individuals. It comes as no surprise that Rachel has her own brand, because her best advertisement is herself.”

So how did she get here, to the top of her trade and earning as much as $10,000 per job, according to one commercial client, while rubbing elbows with the likes of Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs? Striking a pose in a vintage Halston gown and 5-inch Brian Atwood pumps as TV cameras document her every wobbly move? Presenting her own line to the highly critical fashion industry and then the world, where she stands to make as much as $20 million?

Like the Cinderella stories Zoe hopes to tell when she puts a movie star like Cameron Diaz in Chanel or when she gets free rein over the Valentino archives to find that perfect red-carpet look for Hathaway, hers has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time. After her first job as a fashion assistant in New York at the now-defunct YM magazine (her salary: $18,000), Zoe went freelance at 25 and began styling for the likes of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys from a one-bedroom West Village apartment. “I worked 20-something hours a day, seven days a week,” Zoe says. “I was completely obsessed with fashion and spent all my money flying to Paris to go to couture because that was the dream. I crashed shows, stood in line for Marc Jacobs. Designers were my heroes and my celebrities. It hasn’t really worn off.”

When Zoe moved to Los Angeles in 2002, she did so with a clear purpose: “to merge the worlds of Hollywood and fashion. … Because I felt that there was this huge disconnect,” she says. “I didn’t understand why the most glamorous place in the world wasn’t using the most glamorous clothes.” She stops short of calling the L.A. fashion scene a joke but describes it as “very different. Ten years ago, you couldn’t find a fashion photographer or couture anywhere around here,” she says. “Coming out, I was fascinated by the red carpet and Old Hollywood in particular, so I was like, ‘You’ve gotta mix things up. You need to give some edge, some glamour, take some chances.’ ”

As Zoe prepares for the arrival of baby boy Berman, she’s slowing down for the first time since, well, ever. She skipped the shows in Paris and Milan this year, opting to stay close to home, where she’s usually in bed by 9:45 watching one of the three Twilight movies. Her client list has mellowed, too, and now includes moms (Garner, Moore) and mostly scandal-free actresses (Eva Mendes, Liv Tyler). It’s no coincidence. “I can say in all honesty that being pregnant, working with the kind of people I work with and being this businesswoman has been a really wonderful, drama-free time in my life,” Zoe says.

And she’s looking ahead, too. “I have this visual of me and Rodg living in this amazing house that’s not too big in the south of France, where we go for four months and just sit on the beach and make jewelry. Not to sell, just for fun and therapy. Like literally, take rocks and shells and glue them.”
But distant daydreams of her future as a beach bum are interrupted by a business thought that requires immediate attention. “My next tier rollout with Li & Fung will definitely be jewelry,” she says, eyes widening with anticipation.

By Shirley Halperin
With reporting by Rebecca Leffler.

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