‘The Rachel Zoe Project’: Zoe defends ‘Rachel Zoe’

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She’s not quite over having been called “a pox on humanity” by the New York Times, but Rachel Zoe, stylist to the stars, and now a reality TV star herself, says her Bravo series has at least given her haters something to gnaw on.

“The Rachel Zoe Project” has, if nothing else, shown the waifish fashionista, notorious for her tiny frame and for formerly outfitting party girls from Nicole Richie to Lindsay Lohan, to be an ambitious, Starbucks-dependent student of fashion, driven by what seems to be genuine passion. (The season finale is Tuesday at 10 p.m.)

“I let my guard down a lot,” Zoe says. “What you’ve seen on the show is exactly who I am. If you like me, great. If you don’t, great, but at least you understand who I am now.”

And while being called “Raisinface” by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton is something she can let slide, Zoe can’t help defending herself from the more stinging criticisms as she takes stock of the season that was.

Last month, New York Times TV critic Ginia Bellafante blasted the stylist and her show for being the very picture of “mad consumption,” a “downright unseemly” way to be in today’s economic climate. (During one episode this season, Zoe used 20 minutes of rare downtime to raid -- almost literally -- a vintage clothing store in New York; three racks of goodies later, she sighed to her assistant Brad, “I’m scared [of] what just happened.”)

“It was the strangest thing in the world for someone who has never met me to accuse me of making our society superficial,” Zoe says. “Judging the state of society based on me? A ‘pox’? This show is not an effort to solve world issues. It’s a bit of glamour, a bit of an escape.” Escape into Zoe’s world has included VIP seats to New York’s Fashion Week, lunches with top-flight designers like Marc Jacobs, impromptu shopping sprees, assistant head-butting and those now-signature Zoe-isms “I die, I die,” “Getting witch vibes” and “Bananas!” (all of which sub for the more general “awesome.”)


“You never know how you actually sound until you see it on camera,” she says. “Sometimes I’m working with clients that don’t speak English and they’ll ask, ‘What is this bananas?’”

Like “Project Runway,” Zoe’s series has been given the approval of fashion powerhouses from Oscar de la Renta to Diane Von Furstenberg, whose appearances are further proof, Zoe says, that she’s taken seriously in the industry. “The designers who appear on the show know that I’d never do anything scandalous or negative. They wouldn’t work with me otherwise,” she says. “They trust me. I can’t do what I do without them.”

Before production starts on a second season -- “Nothing’s official, but if Bravo asks, I’d love to. I can take it,” she says -- Zoe will continue working on a line of branded merchandise and perhaps begin a second book. Her first, “Style A to Zoe,” is perched at No. 13 on New York Times bestseller list.

-- Denise Martin