Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe has survived media beatings of a viciousness ordinarily reserved for bottomless heiresses and ex-Mouseketeers. A-list clients (“Zoe-bots,” if you’re nasty) catapulted Zoe, 36, to infamy. But the tabloids were also the nexus point between high fashion and low culture (Lindsay lurches into paparazzi-fire with handbag; handbag sells out globally within 40 minutes). Zoe capitalized on the frenzy with the creation of her own signature brand. Here, the Long Island sunglasses come off and it becomes clear that there is more to Zoe than hippie headscarves, eating disorders and caftans.
(apropos of a diamond lion pendant) Are you a Leo? Triple Virgo. Perfectionist, neurotic, hard on myself, never happy, never satisfied…
Caretaker. To a fault.
First style icon? My mom in the ’70s and ’80s was just so on point, right out of Tom Ford’s first collection: vests, wide legs, big low-slung belts, fabulous hair, dark skin.
You saved up as a tween to buy vintage mink coats. As far as I can remember, every dime I ever had went to something extravagant. I would rather spend more, buy fewer items and have them forever.
Who made your faux-African caftan? This is vintage Oscar de la Renta; 98 percent of what I own is vintage.
Doesn’t it remind you of a big wooden plate of deviled eggs? I think more of Talitha Getty and Charlotte Rampling, but then, I don’t eat deviled eggs.
It seems that when a woman’s career gets to a certain level, people start attacking her looks. I’ve seen press about you that’s completely underhanded. Oh, honey, I’ve spent a good part of the past three years wanting to crawl under a rock. Marc Jacobs said to me, “Rachel, most of these bloggers are living in God knows where, having a bad day.”
Arguably, these attacks haven’t hurt you. They have hurt me, personally. Every other day there’s something — I’m dealing drugs, I’m starving people. I have never done a drug in my life.
When I Googled you, I got a bunch of ads for Clenbuterol. I don’t even know what that is.
It’s a diet pill. They were saying that I was dealing crystal meth. I asked my agents, What even is a crystal meth? And they were like, “It’s not an ‘a,’ it’s a thing.” I’m that naïve.
What helped you develop a thicker skin? Lack of choice, really. I spent six months in tears. I didn’t go out. I felt like I needed to buy a shield, boxing gloves and a sword.
What did you buy to act as psychic shields? Leather jackets? I bought this evil eye bracelet. I wear all of this animal jewelry; these denote protection and warding off evil. I have a crystal for healing the mind and soul.
You are Mrs. Sarkozy, meeting the Queen of England. What are you wearing? I would say Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton. Something very tailored. A high-waisted pencil skirt, a white blouse with a dolman sleeve and something that ties around my neck. And the highest black patent Yves Saint Laurent pumps. Big, huge black glasses, obviously.
Anything you want to banish from the fashion world forever? Acid-washed jeans. Do a white jean, fuchsia jean, yellow jean. Don’t do acid wash.
I blame you partially for the maternity, unbelted, prune-smock look with the leggings and ballet flats. Flats you can’t blame me for. I don’t even own flats. Comfort is very important, but a belt is a great idea. I love little baby-doll dresses.
I want you to make them go away. Looking sexy vs. being comfortable: which side should weigh more? Sexiness should not be overt. Something shapeless that drapes across your hip, hangs off the shoulder; something that cowls in the front, drapes low in the back, that’s sexy. What I don’t think is sexy are boobs up to your chin, and slits up to here. One sexy element at a time.
No French hooker looks? For photoshoots, yes. I’m all for the Helmut Newton thing with high-waisted shorts, bunny ears and corsets.
Do you know CODEPINK? No.
They’re peace activists. They wear pink, crash into Congress and do guerilla theater. CODEPINK needs a makeover. You could lend them visibility and resuscitate the anti-war movement. I’m embarking on a big initiative this year for ovarian cancer — that’s next. But if I lived in the ’70s, I would have been right in John Lennon’s bed with him and Yoko. God, I wish he were alive.
He wouldn’t be happy. No, but the world would be different. I think he would have been in political power somewhere along the line.
Power needs your touch. You could dress CODEPINK and restore coolness to the peace movement. I’m going to look into it, but I love fur.
They’re not PETA. They just want to pull the troops out. No one would ever be able to talk shit about you again. They will anyway. I think no matter what I do, I am not going to win.
I don’t think that’s true. You could be the mother of peace in our country. If I could, my parents would be so happy.
You’re a Deadhead. Did you have a van? I did not have a van, or wear Birkenstocks and tie-dyes.
Hallucinations? God, no. In the back of my mind, I thought I would be that person who tries something for the first time and jumps off a bridge, or falls off a balcony… I am a walking Murphy’s Law.
How are you going to dress cancer? Will you do something creative? Anything and everything.
Headscarves? No. But give me an Hermès scarf, and I’ll show you any which way you can wear it.
Thelma from Good Times — fashion icon? I loved Thelma! Drapey, wide legs, everything 10 sizes too big, huge glasses, scarves tied around my head. I love anything old: Ali MacGraw in Love Story, Annie Hall, Belle de jour, Barbarella, The Way We Were.
When you’re 90, how do you see yourself? I want to be sitting with my husband in the south of France, in an Yves Saint Laurent caftan, dripping in obnoxious gold jewelry.
Turban? No, but potentially a headscarf. I’ll still have long hair, but gray.
How would you dress Michelle Obama? I want them all to be Jackie Kennedy. Chanel, Dior, a classic black sheath, big glasses, headband, red lips, long strands of pearls.
Head-to-toe Chanel? Tough question. There are few designers you can do head-to-toe, but I’d say Chanel is one of them. But without logos everywhere.
Should Obama wear seersucker? In the summertime.
Should all men wear seersucker? Absolutely not. My father should not wear seersucker. Just because I love micro mini-dresses and thigh-high lace-up boots doesn’t mean that I can wear them.
How do you feel about sanitized shift-dresses with high necklines? You have to give flavor to everything. If you’re going to do something ’60s mod-chic, do a white-patent boot. Do a huge wrist cuff that covers half your arm. Mess up your hair. When you look like you stepped out of a catalog, that’s never good. People shouldn’t succumb to trend, they should interpret trend.
The Rachel Zoe Project recently premiered on Bravo. Cintra Wilson’s new book , Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny, hits bookstores this month.
Photo by Victoria Will.