Public appearances by fashion designers and other celebrities typically include a conveyor belt of people passing by the famous person, asking for an autograph and/or a picture. There’s gushing, fast smiles and often, a large official-looking person with an earpiece standing inches away — just in case.
So, it was all together surprising how friendly Rachel Roy was during her recent stop at Macy’s. The sizeable and attractive crowd got serious face time with Roy, who lingered and even traveled light, with just one assistant and a trusty Diet Coke at her side.
Her Rachel Rachel Roy line for Macy’s looks more like boutique fare than a department store staple, thanks to color and creative draping and it’s meant for women who like affordable, sophisticated fashion with a dash of fun.
“Growing up, Macy’s was the most expensive store in my city. I was that girl who read Vogue and always wanted what was in fashion," Roy says. "I want the women who wear my clothes to feel like an individual and I want them to love what they are wearing."
She launched her contemporary sportswear line with Macy’s in August 2009 after the success of the Rachel Roy New York collection she started in 2005. Her spring 2011 collection embodies her love of fabric manipulation, pitting subdued ruffles against form-fitting bustiers.
Dressed in a long gray dress and boots, the modelesque Roy was set for fall, but her dreamy spring includes bright saturations of color.
“I like feminine but strong and the juxtaposition of hard and soft,” Roy says. She admits she is drawn to trends in other parts of the world that eventually make it the States and she designs according to those directions, not the ones in her own backyard.
Roy is also a mother to two young daughters and has kicked around the idea of designing a kid’s line, but only if she found the right company to partner with. The women who buy her clothes have style-savvy kids who want something fresh, but like many mothers, she shops at stores like Justice for her tween daughter.
“It still feels like fashion for them, you know?” Roy says.
Considering her relatively short term as a national designer, Roy has faithful fans, many of whom, look like her. Impeccably dressed, gorgeous skin, glossy hair and carrying an appetite for success, they took their full 15 seconds and then some with Roy.
“Most people have questions about becoming a designer. Unless you go to design school, you won’t learn how to do this and there are so many ways. I started off working the sales floor and then I got to dress mannequins, which I loved,” Roy says. “It’s about making opportunities in marketing, or buying or public relations.”
Roy has had quite a bit of experience with hopeful designers, most notably on episode eight of this season’s Project Runway.
Because of her schedule, Roy hadn’t seen the season finale and didn’t know who had won. When I told her it was Gretchen Jones, she had no reaction. Not because of any personal feelings about her, but because she had no memory of her on the runway. Ouch.
Roy praised Mondo Guerra and confessed her favorite designer on the episode she guest judged was April Johnston, who favored dark and modern designs and a constant blonde top-knot. Surprisingly too, Roy says she wasn’t opposed at all to Valerie Mayen’s “napkin dress” the way the other judges were.
“I hadn’t seen the designers work like the other judges had, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to, but I like the way she worked with the fabric,” Roy says.
Another high point of her Project Runway stint? When Michael Kors agreed with her designer critiques.
“It was amazing because I felt like, “Yeah, I must be doing something right if Michael Kors agrees with me,’ ” Roy says.
The one point the two designers likely won’t agree is on the direction of fashion. Kors awarded winning honors to Jones, saying her collection was where fashion is going, in part, because it is sellable. Roy’s take is different.
“To push fashion forward, you have to do things that not everybody will understand, but everybody will want to copy,” Roy says. “Fashion doesn’t have to be just one thing."