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Rachel Roy lives in the fast lane. “This collection started for a working woman who had a ton of things to do and [as a way] to make her look modern,” she told Footwear News, describing her namesake label — and perhaps her own modus operandi. Since launching 10 years ago, the brand has grown to include an upmarket collection and diffusion line, Rachel Rachel Roy, with such retailers as Macy’s and The Hudson’s Bay. The Jones Group Inc., which is set to close an acquisition deal with Sycamore Partners Inc. this spring, holds a 50 percent stake in Roy’s business. When we met, she was laser focused on her fledgling digital magazine and fall ’14 apparel and shoe collections.
Fresh off a red-eye from her new home base of Los Angeles, Rachel meets me at Yogamaya in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan for a session with her teacher, Stacey Brass-Russell. Despite a jam-packed day, Rachel appears in her element as we are guided through requisite chants and sun salutations before ending with restorative poses. “Sometimes the hardest part is remembering that it’s OK to take an hour from all the things in our lives,” encourages Brass-Russell.
We zip to Rachel’s office in Midtown. During frequent short trips to New York, where she still keeps a residence, Rachel needs to maximize time. “I’m here until Friday, go back for the weekend, then come back next week,” she says. “With Fashion Week, it’s more intense. There’s a lot I can do from Los Angeles, but there are certain things I can’t.” We hit traffic, and I ask why she made the leap last year. “I moved for my kids,” she says, “to provide them with a kind of life that I’m sure some can provide here in New York, but you just have to be a billionaire to do it. There you don’t. And I wanted the ocean.”
Her hair and makeup team work as she’s given the daily briefing. “There is a dual emphasis on inspiring, beautiful product and what the buyers want,” says Rachel. “No matter how much one tries to mold those into the same thing, it’s always different.” I suggest the more a designer has a personal attachment to a creation, the less it resonates with retailers, and she nods. “What’s left on the rack after market is [rarely] what I love most. That’s the hard part. But I’m not going to give up.” She signs off on an email blast riffing on Jay-Z lyrics. “That’s what these should be — wordplay,” she reminds. “He is the master of that.” Sipping decaf green tea, Rachel then greets her team for her digital magazine, “The Life,” which positions her as a clicked-in guru.
The team from Butter London arrives to review nail lacquer options for the designer’s upcoming presentation. She settles on a metallic polish named Knees Up, which complements the fall collection’s scarlet hues, tweaking it with a matte top coat. “Instantly so much more modern,” she says, holding up a talon approvingly. (In the end, though, the model wore kid gloves.) Rachel then changes into her own paisley-print skirt and tall boots, topped with a Roberto Cavalli cape. We meet in her showroom, where she takes me through the pre-fall and fall footwear, starting with a favorite pair of cut-out stilettos. “These are based off a spine or a snake,” she says, “but not too gimmicky. Now that I told you, you can see it, but otherwise, you probably wouldn’t know.” We agree that a pale blue bootie is particularly striking. “I hope they make it onto the sales floor,” she sighs.
Time for a lunch at Michael’s with executives from Estée Lauder. When asked what will transpire, Rachel reveals little aside from her order of sole and spinach. “I can’t really get into details,” she says. I recall earlier, as if dropping a hint, she had bantered with her staff about the lack of cosmetic options for different ethnicities. Could a beauty line be in the works?
Rachel returns to the office to approve all 22 looks for tomorrow’s showroom presentation of the ready-to-wear collection. It’s her first time seeing the completed samples together. She also does the hair and makeup test for the model, ensuring nothing is left to chance. More decaf green tea is served.
As the clock ticks, Rachel heads out for the New Yorkers for Children event. She ends the night with an intimate dinner among friends at her signature spot, Sant Ambroeus.