Rachel Zoe Talks Fall Footwear, 70s Influences and What Women Want

“Not everyone can wear 9-inch heels like I do,” noted Rachel Zoe.

Even as she perfects her balancing act, flats still aren’t part of the equation for the stylist, designer and mother of two — at least in her own closet. “It’s always shocking to me that some of my best-selling styles continue to be flats, which I have not worn since I was 12,” Zoe told FN Spy in an exclusive interview earlier this month as she put the finishing touches on her fall ’15 collection, set to show at FN Platform.

The new line features everything from thigh-high boots and chunky heels with Lucite details to lug-sole styles and ankle boots in a variety of fabrics. While the styles are eclectic, Zoe, who launched footwear for fall ’11, said her inspiration has remained the same.

“I’m always pulling references from the 1960s and ’70s and icons I love from that era. That will never change,” she said, adding that her own staff also acts as a fitting focus group. “I draw a lot of inspiration from the women in my life, what they are doing and wearing. We’ve got about 40 women [on our team], and everybody is obsessing over this collection.”

While Zoe isn’t interested in chasing the trends of the moment, she is a keen observer of the rapidly shifting fashion world. “I don’t really follow trends as a person or stylist, but at the same time, it’s important to pay attention to them so you’re staying relative within the mass spectrum of footwear,” she explained.

Zoe is determined to stay true to that philosophy while she also learns to adapt to a complex marketplace.

“What I think is normal, like nine-inch heels, is very different from retailers’ interpretations [of what will sell],” she conceded. “As a designer, the lesson I’ve learned is to think about what the women in my life are wearing and what they want. What is the void in their shoe closet?”

In addition to her team, Zoe gathers plenty of feedback from the other women in her life. The stylist has worked with Kate Hudson, Cameron Diaz and Anne Hathaway, among many others, and those partnerships helped Zoe — a front-row fixture at runway shows — become a formidable force in fashion long before she launched her collection.

Fellow designer and friend Nicole Richie applauded Zoe’s deep understanding of the market and her unique sense of style.

“Rachel treats fashion as an art. She has an incredible appreciation for all of it,” Richie said. “She recognizes moments in the past and brings them to the present in a modern yet timeless way.”

Brian Atwood, another close friend, celebrated his love for Zoe’s “1970s glamour” fashion sense.

“Rachel resonates with people and is becoming her own huge brand,” Atwood explained, noting that for Zoe personally, the higher the heel, the happier she is.

“When she finds a favorite shoe, she will wear it to death. She had these cork slingbacks that were seven inches, and she’d wear them every second of the day,” he said. “They were like slippers for her. We have great fun as two people who love shoes.”

Below, a few more of Zoe’s favorite things:

Best-Picture Pick:

“I have all of the screeners, but the only one I’ve seen so far is ‘Boyhood.’ It’s such an amazing movie. Obviously, being a mother of two sons, it was very emotional for me.”

Shoes on the Red Carpet:

“We see a lot of floor-length dresses, but I try to build dresses around a certain shoe, especially with a nominee going up the steps in mind. I’ve seen it happen a million times: The [actresses] say, ‘I just want to wear these shoes. They’re comfortable. You’re not going to see them anyway.’ Then, sure enough, they win, and they go up the stairs, pulling their dress up.”

Leading Ladies of the Moment:

“I love Diane Kruger, on and off duty. Dakota Johnson is awesome. And I love Julianne Moore.”

Awards-Style Evolution:

“It’s okay to go down the red carpet in an unexpected way. A nude or a metallic shoe is a [strong statement]. We’re not just seeing the traditional pump on the carpet, but a lot more metallics, beading and grommets. And stars are pushing the boundaries a bit more. I would love to see an ankle boot [on the carpet]. That would be fun.”

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