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Designer Interview

Rebecca Taylor talks frankly about dressing for all seasons and perils of plastic surgery

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Rebecca Taylor look 1 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor icy blue wool coat with chain detail, dove gray quilted mini and two-tone shrunken sweater. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca Taylor look 23 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor thistle mohair boucle popover and charcoal storm print asymmetric skirt. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca Taylor look 4 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor fog fluggy sweater, double-layer top and powder blue pant. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca Taylor look 24 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor quartz cracked leather moto and kaleidoscope print dress. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca Taylor look 38 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor stamped rose gold matelasse popover and quartz crackled leather wrapped skirt. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Rebecca Taylor look 31 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor slate dress with mesh inserts. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Taylor
Fashion Houston November 2013 Rebecca Taylor designer
Rebecca Taylor took a runway bow at last fall's Fashion Houston. Photo by © Omar Mejia
Rebecca Taylor look 1 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor look 23 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor look 4 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor look 24 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor look 38 fall 2014 collection
Rebecca Taylor look 31 fall 2014 collection
Fashion Houston November 2013 Rebecca Taylor designer
Clifford Pugh newest column mug head shot

Seasons may change, but, increasingly, shoppers are looking for clothes that transcend a particular time of year. Rebecca Taylor, the hip New Zealand-born designer whose collections appeal to a young, fashion-forward customer, is among the designers who are turning upside down the notion of what to where when.

Her spring collection, in stores now, features perforated leather in dark shades. For fall/winter, she is showing designs in soft pastels — icy blue, soft pink — that are usually more connected to warmer times of the year. Taylor based the spring collection, which I saw at New York Fashion Week, on the work of Parisian street artist Philippe Baudelocque with chalk prints that look like images that have been washed away in a light rain.

 "I wanted to do something that is beautiful and modern and fresh and just show my girls a different way to wear femininity," Taylor said.

 "People are wearing cashmere, silk, leather year-round," Taylor explained a few months ago when she appeared at Fashion Houston. "It's very trans-seasonal. That's what the stores sell. They sell true fall/winter and summer three weeks of the year. Otherwise, it's buy now, wear now."

Her fall collection includes modern yet feminine looks — a Taylor trademark — that, indeed, encompass all seasons. Slouchy pants with satiny flight jackets, sleeveless dresses in chiffon prints and a moto jacket over a kaleidoscope print dress can be worn all year long. Lightweight mohair sweaters can ward off over-air-conditioned rooms during the Texas summer.

"I'm an eternal optimist. One of my favorite quotes is a Roald Dahl quote, which goes something like, 'Those who don't look at the world with sparkling eyes will never see the magic within.' That is me. I see everything that is magical and sparkling," Taylor said. "I wanted to do something that is beautiful and modern and fresh and just show my girls a different way to wear femininity."

The refreshingly frank 44-year-old designer also touched on other subjects in her no-nonsense manner.

CultureMap: What do you like most about designing?

Rebecca Taylor: I love that I get to go shopping and call it research. And I like to tell my husband with a straight face that my clothing budget should be four times his. I grew up in the '80s. I was Cyndi Lauper. I was Madonna. I was at all the thrift stores. I had paint from the art room in my hair just making it all work. The funnest thing in the world is to dress up and become someone else.

CM: Do you still want to have fun doing that?

RT: I do. I lost it for a little bit, to be honest. I had kids. ... I feel more secure and now than I did. But growing old is not cool.

CM : You seem to have your finger on the pulse of what your target customer likes.

RT: I think she's me. I think she likes beautiful things, but she needs to be comfortable. We share many similarities. She needs to go from work out to a function. She wants to be on a date with her husband on the weekend when they can get a babysitter. I need clothes to wear to the playground to go with the kids to be comfortable. 

But you don't have to hang up your "hip" at the hospital [when you have children]. What women wear during their pregnancy now is so much cooler now, even from when I had my last child, which was four years ago. Maternity clothing is so much fun.

CM: If you didn't do this, what would you do?

RT: I used to say dolphin trainer, but that's so un-PC now. Did you see Blackfish? It's amazing. It throws things in a such different perspective. I am an animal rights activist. I do use leather, but I won't use fur, ever. People ask all the time; I'm not going to do it.

CM: What celebrities would you like to dress?

RT: What I'm looking for is some role models in fashion, in Hollywood, anywhere, that are growing old gracefully, and I'd like to dress them. It's a real problem, this whole plastic surgery, women having expectations of what we're supposed to look like. We're really messing up a whole generation of kids. And I'm trying to think if I'm brave enough to do it without any help. I'm not sure if I am.

But if I had somebody else who was doing it ahead of me, it would be like we've done it and it's okay. Did you see Gravity? Incredible, but what's the deal? [Sandra Bullock] didn't have any cellulite or a mark on her body. Did they redo her after or was she really like that? I want her doctor. It's tempting. But if she was a little bit chinny, it would be like I could do [without cosmetic surgery]. 

Look at Nicole Kidman on Vanity Fair. Have you seen Renee Zellweger? She just looks like another blonde. They all look alike. I was on the airplane looking at trash magazines, which I love, and there was a picture of — who's that girl with a big bum with Kayne West? Kim Kardashian. They had all these plastic surgery pictures of her, and now she looks like Beyonce and JLo's love child.

CM: You seem to be having fun as a designer.

RT: It's an incredibly stressful job. I think I'm getting perspective on it with age. And we're selling really well at the moment. That helps.

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