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Zoe-topia: Rachel Zoe does double duty at NY fashion week and shows her serious side

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Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, people, September 2012, Boyfriend, Rachel Zoe
Rachel Zoe, right, and hubby Rodger Berman on the front row of the Oscar de la Renta show. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachel Zoe, mod dress
Rachel Zoe's spring/summer collection has a mod touch because she loves the late '60s/early '70s styles. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for American Express
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachael Zoe, metallic gown
The evening gowns in Zoe's collection exude Hollywood glamour. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for American Express
Rachel Zoe and Prabal Gurung at the Amex CMO Show
Designer Prabal Gurung, right, said he channeled his inner Oprah as he interviewed Rachel Zoe before she showcased her collection before an exclusive audience of American Express cardholers.   Courtesy Photo
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachel Zoe, red romper
Always the stylist, Zoe accessorized many of the outfits in her collection, like this colorful onesie, with floppy hats and belted wallets. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for American Express
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, people, September 2012, Boyfriend, Rachel Zoe
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachel Zoe, mod dress
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachael Zoe, metallic gown
Rachel Zoe and Prabal Gurung at the Amex CMO Show
Clifford, Fashion Week spring 2013, Rachel Zoe, red romper
News-CMH Staff-Clifford Pugh

NEW YORK — Rachel Zoe is one busy woman. In addition to appearing on the front row of the Oscar de la Renta show with her husband, Rodger Berman, the Hollywood stylist/designer presented her runway collection twice during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

She showed in the Lincoln Center tents to the fashion press and and then again, with an additional 10 looks, for a select group of American Express cardholders who had paid as much as $250 for the experience.

The AmEx show sold out quickly, with standing room only among the 800 guests who jammed the space. "Our card members love Rachel," said Deborah Curtis, vice president of Entertainment Marketing & Sponsorships at American Express.  "For her this is a consumer show, where she can really engage with her customer."

 "Designers are my celebrities. I get starstruck still," Zoe confessed. 

With her quirky sense of style and ties to Hollywood, Zoe has developed a following, largely through the reality series, The Rachel Zoe Project, which Bravo recently picked up for a fifth season. The news came only a few days after the New York Post reported that her series was in danger of cancellation.

"It's a very different season. The last time, I was very pregnant, so I don't even remember season four," she told the audience. "It's me a working mom, family mom and all that goes with that, just kind of doing our business."

To be truthful, I've always thought Zoe was a little flaky. Since she burst on the fashion scene several years ago, I've often observed her as she's slipped into her seat at shows, looking like a lost flower child in floppy hats and loose-fitting clothing, skinny to the point of looking anorexic (in Hollywood, apparently, you can never be too rich or too thin).

But in the last couple of years, as she has launched her clothing line, she has proved that she is not just a flash-in-pan. Unlike many celebrities who want to get into the fashion business without a clue as to what is involved, Zoe seems to really care about the industry and her place in it.

"Designers are my celebrities. I get starstruck still," she confessed.

The love of fashion

In a question-and-answer session with designer Prabal Gurung, who humorously said he was channeling his "inner Oprah" in quizzing Zoe, she said that although she showed early styling instincts at a young age — when she was 8 she revamped the wardrobe of a young neighbor — she more or less wandered into the business as an adult.

"It's not like today, when interns come to work for me, they've already had five (fashion) jobs and gone to fashion school. I just did it for the love of fashion and the fact that I was able to make a career out of fashion is the biggest gift that I could ever ask for outside of my son."

 "By the time the show happens I have restyled everything a minimum of four times," she admitted. 

One reason Zoe's line has been a success if that she offers a lot of wearable separates that a woman can add to her wardrobe. The spring 2013 collection features mod dresses, slouchy pants suits, shorts with  matching jackets, and chiffon lounging wear — all accessorized with hats, handbags, jewelry and belted wallets. 

"By the time the show happens I have restyled everything a minimum of four times," she admitted.

Zoe also presented glittery evening wear with a classic Hollywood vibe. An off-the-shoulder gold sequined gown and sheer white blouse over a floor-length sequined skirt are among the red-carpet-worthy standouts.

"I wish I could be one of these designers that go, 'Oh my god I went to the furthermost remote part of Morocco and from this one bead I built 45 looks because of the hue in the bead.' But I am not that person. In my brain I have these women I have idolized in fashion like Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot these incredible icons of '60s and '70s," she said.

"I love that time period. I love the music, the cool, the ease, the style and the glamour. It's what I wear. It's how I think. It's how I feel as a designer."

Zoe admitted that she wrestled with the idea of becoming a designer because she saw first-hand how hard it is to be good. But she ultimately decided she had a point-of-view worth expressing.

"What I try to do is design for that person that I want to be. She's that really cool and effortless girl or woman. She never tries too hard. She knows who she is. She loves fashion but she's not a victim of it. And that's how I design. I just want it to have the '60s and '70s ease to it — nothing too complicated. But I also want a woman to buy a leather jacket and wear it for 20 years. I don't want her to go, oh that's so last season."

As for her future, Zoe said she's hoping to get pregnant again (TMI, Rachel); but other than that she'll see what happens.

"I never really map this out. It's all kind of really one big happy accident. I really love what I do. I try to figure out a million different ways of how I can continue to do it. So wherever that takes me I will be happy — as long as it involves a little bit of beach and a lot of family time. And that's it."

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