Rebecca Taylor is a well-known name when it comes to outfitting modern women. Her refined, feminine designs are found in boutiques and department stores worldwide and regularly worn by It girls like Alexa Chung and Kate Middleton. But long before she had a flagship on Madison Avenue, Taylor arrived in New York all the way from her native New Zealand with little more than hopes of being a designer.
Taylor attributes much of her success to the blind optimism that accompanied her to New York back in her twenties. Not long after arriving she decided to launch her namesake label with a business partner, and the two did everything from sales to shipping themselves. More than 15 years later, that namesake label is as well known as the famous fans who wear it. Hot on the heels of her Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Fall 2013 collection, we caught up with Taylor eager to find out how a girl from across the world (literally) ended up building a multi-million dollar business here in New York. Here's what we learned...
What was your relationship like with fashion growing up? I always had an interest in sewing, my mom sewed our clothes for us growing up, so that sparked an interest in clothing design for me.
Tell us about what brought you to New York all the way from New Zealand. I was really young and green. I was actually on my way to Paris, but fell in love with the energy in New York and decided to stay. I came with my boyfriend who was working in the industry and he got me a job freelancing at a label.
What made you decide to launch your own label? I met my business partner Beth at a label where we were both working at time, and she encouraged me to pursue my dream. The timing just felt right. I was in my twenties at the time, and probably didn’t realize the challenges of running your own business, but I also think that blind optimism worked in my favor.
What were some of the early obstacles early on? Well, Beth and I did all the packing, shipping, production, merchandising, sales--pretty much everything in the beginning. So it was tough, but we really enjoyed it, and I guess it paid off in the end. We have been really lucky and feel grateful to have arrived where we are.
What is the ethos of the brand? Creating clothing for the modern, feminine woman.
What has been your 'I’ve made it' moment? I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of those moments over the years, but being nominated for the CFDA Perry Ellis Awards for Emerging New Talent was a really great moment for me in my career. Also, seeing Kate Middleton in one of my designs was sort of a dream come true as I’m a huge fan.
What’s the best career advice you ever received? To remember there are highs and lows in any career, and it’s important to stay positive during the lows.
Do your NZ roots influence your designs? What about New York City? New Zealanders have an “anything is possible” attitude that I apply to my design process, as well as my life. New York and the people here inspire me every day. My surroundings are one of my main sources of inspiration.
Who are your muses and style icons? David Bowie and Debbie Harry.
Do you have specific inspirations when starting your new collections? I am inspired by so many things: Art, music, literature. It can also be my state of mind at the time. When I designed spring 2013, I was here in New York but picturing myself somewhere tropical, a sort of dreaming of Hawaii mood. I think that came through in the designs.
What’s on your current mood board? Images of organically made crystals, architectural details from designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Olafur Eliasson.
Do you follow the fashion world closely? Who are your favorite designers? I do, I’m always researching. I don’t have much time for shopping but I like to. Simone Rocha’s designs are really cool, she’s a current favorite.
How would you describe your style philosophy? Functional utilitarian with a touch of refinement.
Are collaborations something you're interested in? Definitely. It’s great that collaborations have become more and more prevalent over the years. It’s exciting to see the end product of two people working together creatively.
Who is one of your fave celebs that you’ve dressed? Who would you love to dress that you haven't? We’re lucky enough to have some lovely celebrity fans, but Kate Middleton is a definite highlight. The day she wore our tweed suit, my staff taped a picture of her to the front desk so I would see as soon as I got in. They knew it would make my week!
What was your first New York fashion week experience like? Crazy, exciting, nerve-racking--a bit like getting married!
It's so hectic leading up to fashion week! What do you do to unwind afterward? Champagne with family and friends. And I'm looking forward to a beach vacation with my family.
Any fun plans on the horizon you can share with us? We’re hoping on more store openings; we opened four boutiques in 2012 and are discussing plans for more. And now that the Fall 2013 show is wrapped, I’m going right back to designing the next collection. It's crazy!