Rachel Zoe became a household name as a stylist to the stars, dressing Hollywood fashionistas like Nicole Richie, Joy Bryant, and Kate Hudson. However, it was the debut of her reality TV show, The Rachel Zoe Project, in 2008 and eponymous clothing collection in 2011 that put Zoe solidly on the fashion A-list. After expanding her brand into jewelry, accessories, and the seasonal Box of Style (not to mention her must-read blog, the Zoe Report), Zoe has finally made the jump into bridal. Her capsule collection of 10 looks will make their runway debut today in Los Angeles alongside the designer’s Spring 2018 ready-to-wear line. The collection—which includes dresses, a jumpsuit, and a sequined tuxedo and will retail between $595 and $1,000—will be available for preorder on ShopRachelZoe.com starting September 5, with delivery beginning February 2018. Here, Zoe gives Brides the exclusive first interview on her wedding-worthy new line.
Why did you decide to introduce bridal into your brand?
Being a stylist for 20 years, the red carpet has been all about creating those really incredible Cinderella moments, and I think that bridal is the ultimate fairy tale for women. When I was styling, 50 percent of the red-carpet moments that I would collaborate on were white or ivory or ecru [gowns]. Then, when I became a designer, every season without fail I made white dresses. I just love a white-dress moment. My very first season that I designed anything, in 2011, one of my best friends got married in one of the dresses that I made in red for the collection, and she asked me to make it for her in white, and I did. Season after season for the last several years, I would get tagged on Instagram or I would meet someone on the street who said, "I got married in your dress," and it was so exciting to be a part of that story in a woman’s life.
What are some lessons you’ve learned as a designer and a stylist that helped shape your designs?
So much from my styling life comes into play in terms of how things are cut, how things are fit, how they are in the bust, how it is on the back, how it is the person needs to wear a bra, certain fabrics that definitely won’t wrinkle as much when worn for six hours or more—things like that. And making things that aren’t too complicated, but you feel like your dress is $10,000 even if it isn’t.
What did you see missing in the bridal market that you wanted to fill?
There are so many brides who don’t want to do the 15 fittings, plan-a-year-in-advance bridal gown; they’re just not the bridey bride. Another one of my other best friends 12, 13 years ago asked me to help her with a wedding dress because she couldn’t wrap her head around going through that whole process. We ended up finding this amazing dress that I had seen on a runway, and it was white, and she bought it and she got married in it, and that was it. There was no having it made, having it measured, having it come in in four months, having it fitted over the course of a year.
Who were you envisioning when you designed the pieces?
So many women, honestly, and as I’ve been trying them on the models, my friends have been coming by, and they’re like, "Where was that when I got married?" I’m not only creating the day-of dress, I’m really designing a lot around that weekend, because now the way that people get married is it’s an experience; it’s not just "Come Saturday night for my wedding at 6 p.m." It’s like, we’re doing a fun dinner the night before, we’re doing drinks on the night before the night before, and then there’s an after-party look, there’s a mid-party look, there’s a Sunday-brunch look. I’m designing with that in mind. Some pieces are cocktail length, and there’s a white sequined tuxedo; not everyone wants to wear a gown.
Much of the collection is made up of beautiful simple sheaths; why were you most drawn to that silhouette?
My theory on bridal is you should never have anything that’s too complicated; you can always add more. You really just don’t want to have things where in a year, or 20 years, you’re going to be like, I can’t believe that I wore that. And I do think less is more, that drama in a subtle way is a great thing, whether that’s in a one-shoulder or an exaggerated ruffle or it has a big organza flower on the shoulder. I think it’s about simplicity but also about a sense of ease and a sense of comfort with little hints of special.
And you can really change these looks based on accessories.
One hundred percent. Everyone knows the Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy dress; it was a simple charmeuse sheath. And, yes, there’s that girl who wants to wear that dress, her hair pulled back in a chignon, and that’s it. Then you could take that same dress and put it with a metallic heel and the biggest earrings you ever saw and two fistfuls of bracelets and you’re a totally different bride.
The gowns also feature ruffles and pearls—two trends that were not only huge at the recent Bridal Fashion Week but also are really big trends in ready-to-wear.
Correct, and I think ultimately what will happen, because I love these dresses so much, I’m sure that we will create them in navy, in blush, in black because they could also be used for the bridal party as well.
The price point—$595 to $1,000—is also going to be really exciting for a lot of brides.
I don’t think everyone can afford a $5,000 to $15,000 dress, and I just don’t think women who have $1,000 or less have a big enough place in the market to shop from. You don’t want to get a dress copied, you don’t want to wear a fake version of…you want to wear something that feels unique and special to you but also doesn’t make you feel poor.
You got married on February 15, 1998. Can you tell me about your wedding dress?
I was the complete opposite of the bride you think I was. I was so immersed in my career that it was like I didn’t have time to get married. I kept putting it off, and putting it off, and putting it off. When Rodger [Berman] proposed to me, true story, that morning, [I saw] a September 1995 Vogue with Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow on the cover. I was on my way out to the Hamptons with Roger, and I said, 'Honey, if we ever get married, I’m going to wear this dress in white,' because on the cover it was red. I didn't know that he had a ring in his pocket and he was proposing to me that night! And lo and behold, he proposed, and the next day, I called [the designer] Isaac Mizrahi to ask if I could have that dress made in white. And he said there was only one other one made, in black for some princess, and he puts me on hold. Then he comes back on and he says, OK, you’ll have it in three months. Done and done. I didn’t try anything on, I never saw it until it was done, and I don’t think I even tried it on until a couple weeks before my wedding at the Rainbow Room. I had my mother do everything except the flowers. We had Preston Bailey do the flowers. I sat down in his office and said I want drama, I want jewel tones, and that was it.
Would you renew your vows?
We were going to [renew our vows] at 10 years, and then we were going to do it at 15, and I said at 20, come hell or high water, we’re doing this. The only thing we may do is change the wedding date because ours is the worst wedding date ever. It’s the day after Valentine’s Day, it’s the middle of Fashion Week, it’s in the middle of awards season. We never do anything on our anniversary because we’re so stressed out. We typically are at the Marc Jacobs fashion show and then after, we go to Babbo, and that’s our anniversary. We’re probably going to just do it in August because that’s our first-date anniversary; we just celebrated 26 years. We’ll do something really beautiful and special.
So what will you wear this time?
It definitely has sleeves. It definitely has lace. And I love a bias cut on others, but I would probably do some kind of fuller bottom. Like more gowny, but not stifling. I have it in my head. I’ve sketched it a few times.
Your wedding collection's debut comes on the same day as your latest ready-to-wear collection and a new Box of Style. How are all the collections connected?
All the aspects of my business overlap because I feel like my job is to really educate women however I can on how they can look and feel their best on the inside and on the outside. Everything I say, everything I do, everything I design, everything I sell, everything I carry is speaking to the same woman who wants to live a life in style.