Reality TV came knocking on Rebecca Taylor’s door recently but she turned it down.
The New Zealand-born New York-based fashion designer may have been a fixture on the New York Fashion Week fashion calendar since Fall 1999 but as she says “I live in Brooklyn. I like to keep things simple. I like to keep it on the DL (down low)”.
Taylor, 43, doesn’t seek out the party circuit that goes with fashion. Celebrities, party people and bloggers wear her frocks to those instead.
She’d rather been in the studio designing, or at home with her kids. Recently, however, she has been getting more, in cyber space that is, through the world of blogging, which she has recently embraced “at the risk of bearing your soul”.
“Before the blog people really didn’t know who Rebecca Taylor was,” Taylor admits.
“Through the blog people are getting to know me and we’re getting a really good response to that.”
Her latest post at the time of this interview was on Valentines Day, entitled, Rebecca’s Fax Life, is deeply personal. A collection of notes and drawings her husband, Wayne Pate, sent her by fax when they were courting 15 years ago.”He used to fax me a sketch of what he was doing or thinking. I saved them all,” she says.
Visit Taylor’s blog and you’ll also find out what makeup she is wearing, books she is reading and movies she is watching.
“It’s a game change,” says Taylor, speaking of the blogging world. “The big thing in New York now is events and collaborations with bloggers. This whole blogger world is kind of nuts. Let’s see what happens to that 10 years from now, I don’t know where that is heading.”
One thing that is certain is that the Rebecca Taylor brand will keep growing. Taylor and business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay launched the business in 1996 and have built a reputation for the brand’s whimsical and feminine designs.
Celebrities including Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashley Judd, Robin Tunney, Julia Stiles, Anna Paquin, are fans of the label, and in 2011 American clothing company Kellwood bought into the brand, which has allowed further expansion.
At last count Rebecca Taylor had eight stores in the US. The label is also distributed in more than 40 countries, 250 cities and has a flagship store in Hong Kong. Not bad for a girl who arrived in New York fresh out of fashion school with just US$400 in her pocket.
Back home in Wellington she has been inducted in the Massey University of Fame. The University (formerly Wellington Polytechnic) is where Taylor trained in fashion design and the practical skills of pattern making. She also trained at the Bowermann School of Design, Wellington.
Even in her first jobs she found unlikely glamour of sorts. Upon leaving school she worked as a cleaner at the Plaza Hotel (now Amora Hotel) in Wellington, New Zealand where she actually once cleaned Rudolf Nureyev’s toilet. Her first industry job was making outfits for Viet Cong frog puppets for Peter Jackson movie Meet The Feebles.
Taylor’s fortunes looked up when she landed a job with New York fashion designer Cynthia Rowley for whom she worked for five years before striking out on her own. In 2000 her talents were recognised when the Council of Fashion Designers of America nominated her for the prestigious Perry Ellis Young Designer Award. Thirteen years since that nomination have Taylor sitting pretty, though she’s worked pretty hard to get there.
Her latest Fall collection, shown at New York Fashion Week in February, is a departure from the voluminous Bohemian-style blouses she has become well known for. Instead she presented a sleeker, harder and more structured silhouette. She describes it has “modern femininity” but argues it is not a departure but an evolution.
“I still think my collection is very feminine and appeals to a feminine personality. It’s an evolution from what we had been doing and noticing what was selling the best. The customers have been asking for more of this specific look so we are giving them more of that.”