After a soft season five opener, The Rachel Zoe Project got hardcore fashion business on our asses when the second episode showed just how hard it is to maintain a creative vision as a designer along with commercial viability. It was like an issue of Forbes or the Economist, really, but with more sequins. The episode offered valuable lessons about what it takes to be pope of one's own fashion vatican.
1. Read reviews of your fashion shows, even if it's painful.
"I just don't want anyone to say that my collection is cheesy or ugly," Rachel says over white dishes placed on the vast arrangement of furniture on her $8 million dollar-a-night patio overlooking Manhattan as she finds reviews of her first-ever runway show on the internet. "But as much as I don't want to see them, I have to know about them." It's like looking at photos of yourself on Facebook the night after you drank a lot with crazy people. You don't WANT to look, but you have to see the final product, however good or embarrassing it may be. Of course, the posts about Rachel's line (from the L.A. Times and always nice InStyle) were glowing, the way Rodger's pendants did in the sun on their amazing NYC balcony.
2. Good reviews don't translate to good sales.
When you're going out to eat or looking for a movie to see, you probably find a critic's review of the stuff to make sure it's worth spending your money on. But when was the last time you looked at the newspaper before you went shopping to make sure Cathy Horyn approved? So that said, Rachel shouldn't be too worried about any negative reviews of her line. Yet critical praise cannot — as we see throughout the episode — guarantee sales.
3. Sandblasted denim onesies should be left to your son, but only if your son is Skyler Zoe.
Proof here. SXSW attendees, I'm looking at you.
4. Avoid buyers' meetings.
It gives you more time to dress your child up like he's about to be an accessory in a Ralph Lauren campaign. Also, according to Rachel, it puts awkward pressure on the buyers to make purchases? Which makes it harder to be, like BFFs with them? I don't know, but seriously, why go to meetings if you don't have to?
5. The public fears maxi dresses, especially white sequin ones.
Zoe gets a taste of this at her buyers' appointment cameo, which went something like this:
Rachel: What do you think about long?
Nordstrom buyer: It's hit or miss.
Rachel: I'm of course obsessed with maxi skirts and long sequin dresses.
Nordstrom buyer: Not something that everyone wants to do.
I think, to use Zoespeak, Nordstrom "shut it down"? Anyway, the woman responsible for selling Zoe's collection — who will hopefully have time to do pilates four times over the next ninety days ha-ha! (ugh, sad) — has to break the news to La Zoe that some maxi styles won't go into production because they didn't get enough orders for them. (Zoe's line is produced by mammoth manufacturer Li & Fung, so she needs a certain amount of orders to be able to make the pieces.) The long white sequin dress, which Zoe loved and would, in fashion lingo, be described as "editorial," died in those buyer appointments. It won't be produced for any stores, and Rachel's employee (Lauren? I missed her name because I was too busy writing down detailed descriptions of all of Skyler's fedoras) explained why very well: you can only wear it to red carpet events. You can't wear it to weddings (because it's white), or bar mitzvahs (because you would look like the creepy lady trying to marry a 13-year-old). So the only people who can wear it are celebrities and they don't buy clothes anyway!
6. The public doesn't know anything about clothes.
I completely agree with Rachel's defense of the maxi, after she learns it's a "risky" style for stores to carry: "Can someone explain to me the risk of a maxi?" she exclaims from within her short-sleeved fur chubby. "To me this [a maxi length] is easier. This is easier. If I was wearing a mini to like my hee hee [vagina] I wouldn't be able to sit, I wouldn't be able to squat on the ground like I do all day to play with Sky Sky... To me a maxi is the best way to sit and to be comfortable." And: "This is fashion bullshit" One of the things I love about Zoe's look/style, is that she covers herself. It's the anti-nightclub, anti-Coachella fashion disaster look we've become all too acclimated to.
7. Being a great assistant is all about listening to your hyper boss's inane stories.
Rodger's assistant says that a big part of her job is just listening to Rodger's year-long stories about dogs he and Rachel used to have 20 years ago. Clock in, smile and nod, smile and nod, frame a photo, smile and nod, clock out.
8. You don't have to know what everybody in your company does.
Zoe's empire has grown to encompass 15,000 square feet (so, almost as big as her hotel patios) of sunny L.A. office space filled with 32 employees and including five divisions. "Of course Rodger is El Presidente. Not totally sure what he does?" Rachel says, squinting her eyes in innocent confusion.
9. You also don't have to have a computer on your desk.
But a large square of cream-colored leather and stack of fashion coffee table books are sure to make any largely unused glass desk look super chic.
10. Treat your boss like she's the kind of mom that weirdly doubles as a best friend.
Mandana calls Rachel "mama" and "babe" and probably also "mommy" off camera. I admire their bond and friendship at this juncture but I can't help but think of how we've seen this behavior with Rachel and her previous seconds-in-command — Brad Goreski, Taylor Jacobson. Taylor was "Tay Tay"! Rachel's "precious angel"! Has Mandana forgotten all that was once but is no longer sacred? Does she not see through the Sharpie around her eyes that the person on the other side of Rachel's tabloid "feuds" could be HER?
11. Call people "maj" as often as possible.
When Rachel enters her office, with Sky Sky zippered to her hip, to give the Bravo cameras a tour of her palatial professional headquarters, she's greeted by a high-pitched male receptionist who enthusiastically tells her that she looks just fabulous (which is fair, when does she not?) and Rachel replies joyously by telling this young, asymmetrically-haired office sprite, "you look maj." You know he tells his friends over daiquiris everyday after work that Rachel is the BEST and so MAJ and always tells him that he looks MAJ and that he has the BEST JOB EVER! "Maj" is the compliment guaranteed to keep all employees happy even in absence of free Almond Joys in the office kitchen. (At least, I'm just assuming that's how it is there, I have no concrete evidence.)
12. Don't give up your Chevron floor.
Sprawled on the floor of her large patio-sized closet, wearing the show's best supporting actor in every episode, the White Bathrobe, Rachel is happily discovering forgotten pieces amongst her vast plastic-wrapped collection when Rodger comes in to tell her the progress on her hair salon is not going swimmingly. They don't have the budget for everything she wants! This is a disaster! Let's have a romantic freak out all over your Saran-wrapped McQueen collection! To which Rachel says, "I can't lose my chevron floor," because if the place is just all white it's going to look like every other hair salon. And this is no ordinary hair salon — this is the maxi dress of hair salons! And then Rodger comes back with, "All I'm saying is you can't have it all." Oh, so he and Anne-Marie Slaughter are in CAHOOTS now. Then Rachel went back to her McQueen and everything was maj again.
13. Just because you're a foremost authority on fashion, that doesn't mean your husband will know how to dress himself.
"You'd think after 21 years together Rodger could, like, get dressed in the morning. But for some reason it's a struggle for him still," Rachel tells the cameras. Well, maybe if she put as much effort into his wardrobe as her son's he would know to spend 95 percent of his getting-dressed time on the clothes, and only 5 percent on his accessories, as opposed to the other way around, which is what he seems to be doing now.
14. You can build an empire and have it all.
I know a lot of people are turned off by Rachel's hyper-materialistic flavor, but what she's built for herself is incredibly impressive. And to be married to someone for 21 years WHILE working with him, and have a strong partnership in business and love (I guess?) is also really impressive. So, you go on with your white sequin maxi dresses and your contrast-trim cardigan-wearing child and continue building your mighty fashion empire, RZ. Lean in and let your McQueen caftans shine bright/be beautiful like diamonds in the sky. Because after all...