Rachel Zoe talks motherhood, psychology and styling John Wayne

Rachel Zoe, at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday.
(Bret Hartman/For The Times)

Rachel Zoe, stylist, fashion designer and author of “Living in Style: Inspiration And Advice for Everyday Glamour,” (written with Monica Corcoran Harel) kicked things off at the Festival of Books on Saturday morning. She was interviewed by photographer, TV personality and friend Amanda de Cadenet before a capacity crowd of 150.

Clad in a black jumpsuit and 6-inch Brian Atwood heels with a 1-1/2-inch platform (the audience asked), Zoe and de Cadenet chatted for 45 minutes. While their conversation -- and questions from the audience -- ranged from how to embark on a fashion career (“Don’t have a sense of entitlement,” Zoe offered, “There is this lack of modesty when you start [your career] these days.”) to how she would style John Wayne if the actor were alive today (“A Tom Ford tuxedo,” she answered without missing a beat), there were two throughlines: motherhood and psychology.

FULL COVERAGE: Festival of Books


Zoe explained that she had studied psychology in college and, while her career went in a direction she hadn’t expected, she said she uses her psychology degree “every single day.”

“If someone isn’t comfortable they’re going to look miserable,” she said, “and what this book is about is telling people they can do [their look] in 10 or 15 minutes.”

Zoe said she also uses psychology in styling her celebrity clients. “Say the Oscars are March 1,” she said. “We usually start around November or Dec. 1. The things we consider are: What do you want to look like? What are your colors? What message do you want to put out? If someone has been in a really emotionally wrenching movie, we’re not going to put them in a princess dress. It’s about making them look unique and different but also being their best selves.”

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She also said being a mother of two (her youngest is 3 months old) has not only changed the way she approaches her work schedule (“I don’t like to do things on the weekend,” and at about 5 o'clock every day I feel this gravitational pull toward my kids,”) but how she interacts with clients.

“Being a stylist is a lot like being a parent,” she explained. “You need to be patient. You need to step back and understand what’s being communicated -- whether you’re dealing with a celebrity, a private client or a child.”

While her first book “Style A to Zoe,” penned seven years ago, was about helping readers re-create the red carpet glamour that helped put Zoe on the style map, she said the new book is geared toward showing readers that they don’t need a “red carpet gown or an up ‘do” to be glamorous. “I think of this book as Rachel Zoe 2.0 - I wanted to show that you can make it easy and effortless. If you feel good, you look good - that’s what this book is about.”

One key piece of advice -- especially for the busy career woman / working mom: “A lot of it is about having ‘go-tos'- a few sure things in your closet whether it’s three things or 30 things, a certain dress or jeans, that you can mix and match and accessorize. You can literally get ready in 10 to 15 minutes.”

As it turns out, Zoe very much took her own advice in getting ready for Saturday’s appearance. “I got ready in like, three minutes - literally - this black jumpsuit was on the front rack of my jumpsuit section,” she said. “and I figured it was black, I’ll be out in the sun and I’ve got [son] Skyler with me so I’ll probably end up having food smooshed all over it. And I was done.”

“I wish I could say I have a diagram or a blueprint to everything I do,” she told the crowd. “But 90% of the time I wing it.”