Wandering through the Rachel Zoe show for New York Fashion Week on Sunday, I couldn’t help feeling like I was wandering through a zoo, gawking at gorgeous, majestic creatures kept carefully separated by some fencing or cage from the spectators.
Perhaps some of that was fitting considering that Zoe herself has been so often an object of interest, and specifically tabloid fodder.
Before she launched her own fashion line, she became a household name for Bravo TV fans with her reality show, The Rachel Zoe Project.
With her show, she invited cable TV cameras not only into her ultra-glamorous celeb photo shoots, but her personal life—including marital strife with husband, Rodger Berman, and her decision whether or not to have a baby (she now has two sons, Skylar and Kaius).
And, of course, there’s her long, complicated history with fellow celebrity stylist Brad Goreski, who began his professional life as her assistant, before becoming almost as famous as her—he is a panelist on E!’s Fashion Police.
Just as she did with her reality show, Zoe encouraged spectators at NYFW to get up close and personal with her designs and models.
Guests, not the models, walked the runway—or, rather, the perimeter. Around 20 models were carefully positioned, standing nearly as still as mannequins, moving ever so slightly to pose a bit for the cameras.
Spectators walked around the catwalk, hungrily snapping photos with their smartphones, sometimes holding them not more than 2 feet away from the models’ faces.
While there was no actual fence or cage, the grassy trim lining the runway didn’t exactly dilute the sense one was in an artificial animal kingdom.
At times, show organizers dressed in black stepped in to abruptly tell spectators not to get too close to the runway.
It was the equivalent of “do not feed the bear”—though I don’t think the models needed any encouragement to refrain from food.
This is not the place to dive into a discussion about the fashion industry and its absurd body standards.
However, I will say that getting close to a model and seeing how very prominently the bones of her ribs jut out of her chest when she wears a V-neck-cut gown is extremely jarring, and actually distracted me from some of the fashion.
Despite the zoo-like quality, there weren’t strong examples of animal or safari-esque prints or features in Zoe’s collection.
According to a press release, her Spring/Summer 2016 collection is a “modern take on the romantic gypset,” drawing inspiration from “the glamour of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.” (Urban Dictionary defines the 'gypset' as culturally savvy, bon vivant types who live a carefree, gypsy-ish lifestyle with the sophisticated means of the jet set.)
An array of flowing and fringed creations populated the collection, often in neutral beiges or bronzes with muted color details.
Long dresses and skirts were in the majority, with a particular standout—and personal favorite—being a muted gold, floor-length but backless dress with long sleeves. It was covered in gorgeous beading and embellishments to create the stunning, dramatic effect that Zoe nails when she is at her best.
It was no surprise that Zoe herself swept into the room, in full, grand dame mode.
Dressed in a long, slightly-off-white coat that looked almost more like a cape with bold black buttons and gold rings on all her fingers but her thumbs, she would have drawn immediate stares and ahhs, even if this hadn’t been her show.
But on her uber-petite frame, the dramatic conjunction of the monochrome, gold, and black platform pumps only accentuated the focus on her.
Once she entered, the entire mood of the room palpably changed. Like a magnet, Zoe immediately sucked the focus of any spectator who hadn’t already lost themselves in catty gossip on the sidelines. Suddenly, people gave zero fucks about the models on display.
Photographers crowded around Zoe, and shoved the unrecognizable plebeians, even as throngs rushed to hug and congratulate Zoe.
Not for nothing did fashion writer Fawnia Soo Hoo tweet, “I was almost crushed to death trying to interview @RachelZoe It’s like a #OneDirection concert up in here.”
Although the show was scheduled from 12:30-1:30 p.m., the time spent with the Zoe’s menagerie was kept to well under an hour, perhaps even under 30 minutes, depending on one’s luck.
We were ushered in shifts and promptly told when to exit. The models silently returned backstage, so they could be set up for the next audience. Our time at the zoo was over.