New Zealand-born designer Rebecca Taylor moved to New York with $600 dollars to her name in the early 1990s, got a job under Cynthia Rowley and eventually struck out on her own with business partner Elizabeth Bugdaycay. Now celebrating her label’s 15th year, Taylor is collaborating with Citizens of Humanity jeans and Porselli shoes on special capsule collections and has opened her second New York store in the Meatpacking District.
What is different about the fashion industry since you started?
I don’t know if it’s me or the industry, but so much has changed. I started my company when I was 26 years old. At first I was working with small factories and then I became a bigger company and I was producing my clothes overseas. The biggest challenge right now for me is pricing. The price of materials is rising and so are labor costs in places like China. It’s a challenge for me and a lot of others.
How have you changed as a designer since you started?
I’ve definitely matured. I really admire young designers who come out of the box and are well rounded. It’s taken me a long time to fully understand who the Rebecca Taylor girl is.
Tell us about the collaborations you have worked on for your 15th anniversary?
I worked with my little sister Victoria [designer of Tory jewelry] on dolphin charms, with the proceeds going to save dolphins in the Pacific. It’s a cause that both me and my sister are very passionate about. I collaborated on jeans with Citizens of Humanity and on ballet flats with Porselli. It was a really fun experience. You tend to get very isolated in your little world and it was great to be able to meet and collaborate with people in different areas. I learned a lot.
What were you thinking about for your fall 2011 collection, which you just showed? And do you still get nervous?
I was thinking about the 1970s and that Jerry Hall modeling vibe. I looked at fashion illustrations by Antonio [Lopez]. The '70s was a very exciting time in fashion. Everything was very sensual and everything looked new. Fashion was beginning to get less buttoned up, and there was a lot of leg happening.
I still get nervous [showing my collections] but about different things than I used to. I am not terrified about what people are going to say anymore. People are either going to say good or bad things. It’s more important to me now that I am happy with it.
You were acquired by Kellwood [which also owns Vince and ADAM] early this year. How did that come about?
I wasn’t really looking to sell, it just sort of happened. They approached us and at first I said no. They courted us like a boyfriend. Eventually I came to see the value in working with them. They are really working with us on our retail expansion, which is an area that we are doing really well with.
What does this 15-year milestone mean to you?
I have to sit down one day and really think about it. I am always onto the next thing and onto the next thing, and I really should take a moment to enjoy what I have accomplished. I can say that I am really grateful that I have lasted this long. This is a very tough business. Things have been really difficult for the last few years and I have seen so many businesses fail. I’m really grateful that we have been able to get through it stronger and more streamlined.