Elle’s Joe Zee visits the Nordstrom Flagship to talk about his new show, Radenroro, and Seattle style.
Joe Zee is not a hardcore entity in the fashion world – and we love him for it. What we mean is that he talks to everybody, not just the Rodarte worshippers and Birkin carriers among us. Zee knows what it’s like to rise through the ranks and max out your credit card in order to get your latest collection on the floor.
A Toronto native, he’s disarmingly charming in person – imagine the most well dressed man you’ve ever met just hanging out and chatting with you. Talk about a man of the people.
That’s not to say the man isn’t legit, because he certainly is. Case in point: his new show All On The Line, a Sundance Channel hit where he visits the showrooms of struggling designers, helps them revamp their lines to find commercial success and essentially exposes the lengths to which actual Parsons grads go to get their collections off the ground.
His expert advice is clearly effective – he recently stopped in at the Nordstrom Flagship with AOTL alums Liquica and Andre of Radenroro New York, and their latest line sold out on its first day on the sales floor. The man’s got a Midas touch.
As the Creative Director at Elle magazine, he writes a fantastic guilty pleasure of a column: a completely gratuitous makeover story where he dresses up reality stars, MTV celeb-utantes, poor fashion interns, and the like in the latest styles and explains how to make them work in real life.
We quizzed him on what sort of story he’d do for a Seattle audience, and he didn’t hesitate: “Chic raingear, absolutely. You know, I actually like a classic yellow rain slicker. It’s fun. A yellow raincoat with boots or flats? It’s perfect.” Utilitarian raingear getting the stamp of approval from one of fashion’s elite? We’ll take it.
It’s a credit to his accessibility that Zee goes to such great lengths to make fashion doable for women nationwide, rather than focusing specifically on the avant-garde New York market. He knew exactly what a style-savvy Seattleite would wear.
“Anna Sui speaks to that Seattle look,” he explained. “Grunge is never going to go back to where it was when Marc [Jacobs] was at Perry Ellis, but Anna Sui always has a touch of that bohemian look in her collections. It’s part of who she is.”
Zee’s brief stay in Seattle (he was here for just shy of 24 hours) also clued him in to the trials and tribulations of hoofing it up and down the city’s hills all day. “Now I get why you don’t want to wear heels here,” he laughed. His suggestion for flats-loving city dwellers?
“Lanvin makes a great ballet flat,” he said, “but J. Crew does it at a great price point. And you know what I love? A girl in a Frye boot. Those motorcycle boots with skinny jeans or leggings or anything? Such a great look.” Consider us sold (personally, I’m wearing Fryes to the office today).
Zee did a decent amount of old-fashioned shilling before laying down the facts: The economy’s tough on everyone, including up-and-coming designers. “[With AOTL], we’re really trying to show people what young designers have to do to make it,” he explained. “Marc Jacobs went bankrupt eight times before he had any success. Eight times. Can you imagine where we’d be if he gave up after the sixth bankruptcy? We wouldn’t have Marc Jacobs.”
Still not sold on his real-guy status? After leaving the shindig at Nordstrom, I headed over to Bar Ferd’nand for an almost-the-weekend glass of pinot noir. Ten minutes after I arrived, I spotted an elegantly clad fellow laughing as he walked in. It was the man himself, unwinding after a hard day’s work.
You heard it here first, Seattleites: Joe Zee drinks on Capitol Hill… just like the rest of us.