In 2011, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe launched the Rachel Zoe Collection with an unprecedented reach for a debut clothing line. On such a grand stage, the line had no opportunity to experience the growing pains associated with any new business. Now, it seems to be going through them.
The line hit stores in conjunction with the premiere of the fourth season of Zoe’s Bravo show, The Rachel Zoe Project, in July 2011, landing in all 41 Neiman Marcus stores and online, as well as at Bergdorf Goodman, Shopbop, Nordstrom, Saks, Intermix, Kirna Zabête, and Selfridges. But now, a Saks rep confirms that the line has not been available on sales floors as of the 2012 collection. You can still buy the collection from Saks, but online only.
In Bloomingdale’s, Zoe’s line launched with a gorgeous, gigantic shop-in-shop, the creation of which was the subject of a considerable chunk of The Rachel Zoe Project’s fourth and most recent season. However, a visit to the Manhattan flagship store yesterday revealed just four racks and change of clothes belonging to the Rachel Zoe Collection. A salesperson in the store said Zoe hasn’t had significant space on the floor since last year. “She had a full shop,” said the employee. Now it’s “just a couple of racks.” Bloomingdale’s, which declined to comment for this story, seems to have more of the Rachel Zoe Collection for sale online than on sales floors. Zoe’s reps also did not comment.
In late August, Page Six wrote, “We hear the line isn’t doing well at stores including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, with industry insiders snipping that interest in the line has ‘peaked.’” Shortly after that item came out, the press got in a tizzy over Selfridges’ decision to drop Zoe’s clothing from their lineup (though the store still sells her shoes).
The Rachel Zoe Collection’s launch was unusually huge — most first-time designers fail to ever get their lines off the ground, much less in a single major retailer or a ton of major retailers. But Zoe had an unusually spectacular platform for launching a line: She was a known tastemaker in fashion — something not all other very successful celebrity designers, like Jessica Simpson, are — and had her own show that raked in 1.26 million viewers for its fourth season premiere. But new episodes of the show haven’t aired since October of last year, contracting the spotlight on Zoe and her empire.
Maren Hartman, trend forecasting company WGSN’s East Coast director of U.S. content, tells BuzzFeed Shift, “There has been lots of discussion regarding the loss of floor space for the Zoe line. Issues with fit after a change in fit model have also been mentioned by industry insiders.” But this might not be that big of a deal for the long-term health of her brand or line. “I think that due to Rachel Zoe’s celebrity and the large initial interest by the media and retailers, some of the typical ‘start-up’ issues haven’t been ironed out yet,” Hartman continues. “She’s just simply getting a lot more attention than most new designers.” And most designers with new lines aren’t tabloid fodder whose every move is scrutinized. Alexander Wang isn’t going to make headlines, for instance, when his clothes end up on a sale rack.
Though Saks would not comment on what prompted the move of Zoe’s line to online-only sales, it might just be that her line sells better on the Internet, where it can reach multiple demographics, as opposed to physical stores that attract a very specific kind of shopper. “Perhaps they’re going to stick with that and see if the online sales continue to grow before they give her a presence on the floor set again,” Hartman says. Even without the show, Zoe has a great social media presence, including 1.4 million Twitter followers and hundreds of thousands of subscribers to her newsletter, The Zoe Report, with which to promote the line.
When season five of The Rachel Zoe Project starts up again, whatever minor lull her line might be having right now seems sure to dissolve.