Rebecca Taylor: Fall 2013

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.”

Westwood criticises Duchess, praises Assange

During her London Fashion Week showcase at the Saatchi Gallery, Dame Vivienne advised that, since she goes to so much trouble to select each outfit, the Duchess of Cambridge should be re-wearing them more often.

“I don’t have any advice to her, except I think it would be great if she wore the same clothes over and again, because that’s very good for the environment and it would send out a very nice message,” Westwood said before her Red Label fashion show.

“If you’re going to all that trouble to get an outfit that suits you, then you should keep on wearing it.”

“I mean you don’t have to have a red outfit one day and then something almost the same in blue the next,” continued Westwood.

The declaration by the fashion matriarch comes as a bit of a surprise to some, seeing as the Duchess has been condemned for doing that very thing that Westwood is accusing her of failing to do. The British media and fashion elite has often turned on Kate, for stepping out in the same outfit twice and hence, committing the ultimate fashion faux pas. 

In other news, the British designer turned heads at her show, for wearing a t-shirt with an image of Julian Assange that read, ‘I Am Julian Assange’ during her catwalks show.

“I’m a big supporter of Julian Assange,” Westwood told Reuters. “He’s an incredible hero because he exposes the lies of the war mafia people.”

“I love people who stick their necks out,” she said.

Assange enraged the US for his use of WikiLeaks to leak hundreds of thousands of often-embarrassing secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables in 2010. He is currently bunkered up Ecuador’s embassy to avoid extradition from Britain to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. 

Despite this, Westwood sees the WikiLeaks founder as an idol of sorts.

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