Rachel Roy On Going Digital, Dressing MObama, And Runway Diversity

New York Fashion Week is definitely a busy and hectic time for designers, editors, and buyers, but Rachel Roy is trying to make it less so with her first-ever digital show this fall season. Like Peter Som and several others this season, Roy has taken the digital road instead of her traditional presentations. We caught up with the stunning designer at her video shoot in Manhattan’s West Side yesterday (more on that later!) to get all the pros and cons of going digital, her thoughts on dressing Michelle Obama, and what she tries to achieve in life.

Why did you decide to go digital this season?
“It was really important to me for several reasons. One — editors and buyers have such a hectic schedule and there are so many shows packed within just a few days. So the idea of making it convenient, of having an editor literally just open a book, press play, and watch a little video screen in the privacy of their office, to me, felt very modern. The other thing is that, as a little girl, I’ve always wanted to see fashion shows. I’ve loved fashion ever since I could even remember, and of course, didn’t have any access to it. The same day that editors and buyers can watch my show, so can all of my customers on my website or on my Facebook. Of course, there are cons. The clothing, the human experience of seeing it in person. There’s nothing like it. But for me, the pros outweighed the cons, and hopefully it will work. If not, we’ll do something different next season.”

Most designers put a premium on celebrities in the front row, but that’s impossible with a digital show. Is that a missed opportunity in terms of publicity?
“No no, I’m not one of of those collections that pursue celebrities. I am a collection that pursues women that actually like the clothes. So if there’s a celebrity that actually likes the clothes, [I'll be] so flattered because they have so many options that they can pick from. But I’ve never been one of those design houses that just pursues X, Y, or Z. I would rather not dress someone if they don’t like the clothes. I’d rather wait 20 years to have a business grow and to get it out there organically as opposed to shoving it down someone’s throat — that’s just not me.”

Can you walk us through this season’s design process?
“When I showed spring, I had already been working on fall. That’s just how the calendar is. You know, it’s an idea that you have — a feeling. [This is] definitely a business where you feel, and if it feels right, it’s right. If you stop feeling, and you just think very mechanically, then it’s never right. So the feeling at the time was opulence, and that’s what felt right for fall. Richness through opulence, layers, textures, embellishment, and macramé lace. And how can I show that in a refined way that women can actually wear and go to work? Strong fabrications like velvet, heavy lace, [which] is actually a macramé lace, and leather. Leather as a fabric — that I love. You can put it on and be strong. I’m really big into outfits that women don’t have to think twice about.”

What do you look for when you’re casting models?
“I definitely trust my stylist, Julia, to give me her take on models that she’s worked with, and that’s the beauty of working with a stylist who also works with models all day, every day. Whereas I work with pattern makers and print makers, she works with models. So I definitely trust her point of view. What she knows on my end is that I need diversity, so as long as she gives me that, I trust her 100 percent. She has worked with the clothes, knows how they fit, and works with the models, so she always makes a good match for me.”

It’s so great that you have such trust in her.
“I’m at that point where I only want to work with people I trust, and I don’t want to work with anyone else. I want to pass that onto other women, or men as well. It’s a choice who we work with. If you feel you’re not in control of your life, or you’re not in control of your work situation, you are. I know we all need to pay our rent or to make our mortgage, but you can get a different job. And that’s one thing I’ve been very brave about, and I want to pass that on. I’d rather work with people that I trust — that are very kind, good people — than X, Y, and Z who might be so talented and everyone’s heard of them. When I do my interviews, I will pass on this hyper-talented, über-talented designer that wants to work for me. I will hire the kind designer that I believe will learn. If I get any bad energy, I’ll pass. Because I think people can learn, and I think the kind ones are the ones that work the long hours and that put their heart into it.”

You’ve dressed so many women, Michelle Obama being one of them. What are your thoughts on such an honor?
“Love her. Michelle Obama is definitely a dream to dress, in terms of well-known people. Several reasons, but one of the [biggest] is that she’s so heavily scrutinized. For a woman that is so scrutinized to choose your product and what you’re offering means that she feels confident, strong, pulled-together — everything that I’m striving for — without her even saying a word, just by her making a choice. So it’s the biggest compliment I can get. I think she’s so pitch perfect with both the interior and exterior, so it literally makes my day, week, and month.”

What’s next for Rachel Roy, the brand?
“I’m always doing collaborations. I just like to learn! And I’m at work so much, so that’s much of how I learn — through collaborations. Just surrounding myself with people that are very good at what they do and what I don’t know much about. I’m working with Lauren Bush on a Feed bag for India. I think the number [of people who will be helped] will be 100 per bag. And that makes it feel like what I do matters, so I love that. I would love to eventually do home — it’s something that I have such a strong point of view on.”

Check out a sneak peek at one of Roy’s design sketches below.

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