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Red carpet fashion? It's way too safe ...


Fashion stylist Rachel Zoe. Photo: Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

Fashion stylist Rachel Zoe. Photo: Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

Fashion stylist Rachel Zoe. Photo: Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

Rachel Zoe, Hollywood's pre-eminent celebrity stylist, doesn't seem to want for much.

In less than a decade she has risen from anonymous magazine freelancer to éminence grise of the LA fashion scene. It's largely thanks to her that, if the 1980s were the decade of the supermodel, today it's a select set of uberstylists who wouldn't dream of getting out of bed for less than $10,000.

She's made a fortune by picking out frocks for the likes of Keira Knightley and Demi Moore and counts Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Eve Mendes and Jennifer Garner as clients.

She produces her own reality TV show and owns so many designer outfits, bags and shoes that she says she has to keep them at a "storage facility at an off-site secure location".

She has the power to make or break a designer's fortune and she also has the respect of her peers: she has her own line of clothes, on sale at London's Selfridges store, and is putting the final touches to a new 15,000 sq ft office on Melrose Avenue (opposite Alexander McQueen's place) in LA.

And she has a baby boy, Skyler, upon whom she dotes, and who is among the few one year olds to appear regularly in the fashion pages of glossy magazines and to have a closet stocked with custom Missoni, Gucci and Ralph Lauren.

In fact, perhaps the only thing for which this queen of fashion pines is a good old-fashioned red carpet disaster: think Bjork wearing a swan or Cher wrapped up in clingfilm.

"We really don't see too much of that any more," Zoe (it's pronounced "Zo", like "hoe") muses over a cup of tea in the Beverly Hills Hotel. "Which to me is a shame."

The problem, she believes, lies with the tyranny of the tabloid press. Actresses live in fear of being destroyed for making a sartorial blunder. "I think people are scared to express themselves. I think the red carpet is way too safe ... we're losing fashion."

It's a sentiment that may surprise those who have followed Zoe's rise. The daughter of two New York art collectors, she first came to notice when she began to dress three teen starlets -- Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Mischa Barton -- a trio whose tendency to look alike led them to be branded the "Zoe-bots".

Like Zoe herself, they had pin-thin figures, perma-tans and the kind of tousled, carefree hair that you suspected had taken hours to assemble. They wore outsized sunglasses, big jewellery and vintage-inspired threads, and they were fawned upon by the tabloids.

Fans called the look "Studio 54 meets Saint-Tropez boho". One less charitable pundit sniped: "Think Brigitte Bardot on crack", but then conceded Zoe's signature style had "come to define modern beauty".

Some thought her influence unhealthy. The skinniness of Richie and Mary-Kate Olsen, another client, did not go unnoticed and in 2006 the Los Angeles Times credited their stylist with "single-handedly bringing anorexia back into fashion".

Today, Zoe (40) winces at the "Zoe-bot" label. Indeed, if Hollywood's leading taste-maker has one piece of advice it is this: do not follow the fashion crowd. "Don't fall victim to trends," she warns.

"Skinny jeans have been the thing for several seasons now," she says. "I don't wear them. They don't look good on me. Embrace what works best for you: your body, your style."

She admits, however, that young girls, "and some not-so-young girls", can be hugely impressionable.

At this point, it seems right to raise the topic of underweight models, a trend that she has been accused of nurturing. "It was something that was talked about, like, a decade ago," she says. "To me it's so old news, but ... my stance on it is that women should be healthy."

But surely skinny girls are over-represented on the catwalk? "More than half the size zeros I know eat like men," she shrugs. "If you're naturally a size zero I don't think you should feel bad about it."

So is there anybody she would still kill to dress? "I never had a good answer to that question. I always used to say Johnny Depp ... and that I'd put him in a frock," she says. "But now I feel I would love to dress Kate Middleton -- me and the rest of the world."

Irish Independent