KEN DOWNING: You're my favorite stop in New York City because we have such an amazing time. I love hearing your stories. It's so interesting to me how you came to America with very little, and now you have a fashion empire.
REBECCA TAYLOR: I did come to New York with very little, actually. Looking back, I don't know why my mother let me. I remember at the airport she said to me, "But do you have any money?" I said, "I've got $600." She's like, "You're going to be fine."
KD: Six hundred dollars and a dream.
RT: And a portfolio.
KD: When you arrived in America, did you know that you were going to create clothes that girls absolutely covet?
RT: No, I never imagined any of this. America was sort of a pit stop on my way to Paris. But 20 years later...you know how New York is, it draws you in. I started working here and really enjoyed it.
KD: Who makes clothes in Paris anymore?
RT:Je ne sais pas.
KD: Don't tell the French! It's great that you ended up in New York because now we have you. And you have a darling husband and a lovely family. So you're the American dream, by way of New Zealand.
RT: Lovely husband from Texas--Dallas, no less.
KD: The home of Neiman Marcus. And how many kids?
RT: Three kids, including twin girls.
KD: It's so fantastic that you can balance a life with children and a husband and create. How many collections do you do a year?
RT: Well, at the moment we ship 12 times a year, and we're sort of layering on black tie on top of that. And we have various other projects in the works that I'm not at liberty to talk about just yet. It's complicated, and it's busy, and it's exhausting--and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
KD: I love that you love clothes and love this industry, like I do.
RT: I love clothes! I always did. Growing up in New Zealand, there weren't a lot of clothes available, you know? You would have to go to Australia to buy everything. My mum made my clothes until I was about 12.
KD: Did you design the clothes that your mother made for you?
RT: I did. I used to be like "I want it like this, but then like this..."
KD: And did you know when you were young that you wanted to be a fashion designer?
RT: No, no. In New Zealand, we didn't have a Project Runway, I didn't know what a fashion designer was.
KD: Well, I love the Fall collection, because you were obsessed with shades of gray, like I've been.
RT: Yes, how many shades? Don't even say. Well, it's a beautiful launching pad for color, isn't it? It's almost like a blackboard, you know?
KD: In your design process, do you start with color, or do you start with fabric?
RT: It's really a combination. I do have a feeling of how I want the show to look. Our last Spring show was very white-based, with beautiful, pastel-colored, large floral prints. Whereas this year, I'm feeling a little more saturated. Like we were talking about color the other day, and you asked, "Is it bright, or is it pastel?" In my head, it's actually saturated color--it's not super bright, just saturations of color.
KD: Does being a woman with a family and a career inspire you?
RT: Totally. And we talk about that at work: What do I need to wear to drop the kids off at school? What do I need to wear to an event? What do I need to wear for dinner? What do I need to wear to work? We try to address all the needs of our girl. I feel like I am very much our customer.
KD: In your collections there's always a flirty femininity, but you also love that tomboy--but a girly tomboy.
RT: Yeah, I like to have a nice healthy mix. I call it "tomgirl." I am very much a pants girl, and I like to mix denim with Victorian, or cargo pants with a silk lace top. I think there's something really nice about that mixing together and have addressed that within the Resort collection. We have the most amazing nude pink-washed cargos that you can dress up or down. I love them with a beaded top and a heel, or just with a little voile top and a flip-flop.
KD: The coats you did this season were really standouts in my mind.
RT: The pale gray cocoon coat with the little metal trim--I loved that. And I do love it with jeans, ballet flats, and an old cashmere sweater, and equally over a black dress and sexy high heels.
KD: And of course, I love all the different skirts you were showing.
RT: I'm loving longer this season, and it's selling really well for us, too. I like to wear things a little bit longer, a little bit romantic in the fall. With a boot and a big wrap sweater. It's an urban-bohemian feel.
KD: You've also got a bit of rock 'n' roll sensibility in there, too. I know how much you love music.
RT: I'm learning the guitar at the moment, did I tell you? One night, I stumbled across this biker lounge in Brooklyn called Hank's Saloon. It's all these people from the Brooklyn Guitar School, who actually perform there once a month. All sorts of different people--playing terribly, playing really well--but they get up on stage, and they do it. I was like, how invigorating that must feel, almost like bungee jumping, you know, to get up on the stage.
KD: Do you gather the kids around with your husband and say, "Everyone listen, Mom's got a song to sing?"
RT: They critique it, too. They're kind of harsh!
KD: Do your kids play any instruments?
RT: No, no. So who are they to judge, right? But they like it...I know five or six chords, but I love it. I'm downloading all this David Bowie and The Cure to play.
KD: I don't think we've ever been together that we didn't discuss David Bowie...
RT: Well, he's awesome! He's constant inspiration. Every season I want to use Bowie music, and everyone's like, "No. You cannot use it every season."
KD: So do you find great inspiration while you're playing the guitar?
RT: I do. People ask me all the time where I get my inspiration. It's not necessarily looking at magazines or foreign movies. Oftentimes, it's when you create space in your head, away from everything else--the troubles of the day, the delivery issues, the this, the that. When I'm playing the guitar, I just feel very relaxed and receptive to ideas.
KD: What was your inspiration song for Fall?
RT: What was my Fall song? Well, I know my one for Spring was Neneh Cherry, "Buffalo Stance." It sums up the whole attitude of that urban girl. She's wearing a cute dress, but she's got on trainers and a hoodie.
KD: Will you give us a hint about what's coming for Spring, without tipping your hand?
RT: I'm very excited for Spring, actually. I'm feeling very eclectic--like mixed prints. I've said too much.
KD: I'll keep it our secret. I won't tell anyone except my closest friends at Neiman Marcus. How's that?