If you read Elle Magazine, you know Joe Zee. If you've caught his hit show on Sundance Channel, you know Joe Zee. And if you're a regular at New York Fashion Week shows, then you definitely know Joe Zee.
The Elle Creative Director and host of "All On The Line" (second season premieres in November) is one of those people you just notice — from his huge smile to his gaggle of designer friends. He's transcended the industry to become a household name, yet remains as plugged in and influential as ever. So what better person to advise fashion neophytes on how to do NYFW right than Mr. Zee, himself?
Julie Bensman: NYFW is a crazy time in the fashion calendar, to say the least. What does one wear that's the perfect combination of fashionable and functional?
Joe Zee: I always start off so ambitious and then by the end, I'm a robot on autopilot. I think the best rule of thumb is to stick with black: you don't have to think about it, it always matches, and in the fashion industry, it's always on trend. When I just don't want to think about what I'm wearing, I'll throw on a black suit and feel good. And for a woman, a chic LBD never disappoints.
JB: How do you fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels up?
JZ: I NEED coffee first thing in the morning, whether it's Fashion Week or not, so I'll grab my trusty Dunkin' Donuts cup on the way to the shows. After that, it's literally go, go, go so I often don't have time to stop to eat anything. When that's the case, I always pick up a protein smoothie, which is the best because it's a complete meal and not messy. As opposed to trying to scarf down a sandwich in the back of a cab, protein smoothies are no muss, no fuss and everything I need in one beverage. There used to be a great place by Bryant Park I always went to; now, I hit up Juice Generation which is near my apartment.
JB: Besides smoothies, what's the one key item you can't live without?
JZ: Without a doubt, it's my Blackberry, or, in this season's case, my iPad. Part of my job is to constantly stay engaged, tweet insider information to my followers, and do it in real time.
JB: Between shows, presentations, dinners and after parties, how do you balance your NYFW schedule?
JZ: Preventing fashion show burnout is all about pacing yourself. It's easy to go so strong right out of the gate, but you need to know your limits. And for me, New York is followed by London, Milan, and Paris, so it's not about the next 7 days; it's about the next 45. By the time Paris comes around, I'm usually sick and deathly ill as a dog.
That being said, I do stop by after parties when there's buzz or when the designer is a particular friend of mine. These designers put their hearts and souls into these collections and I think it's important to support and celebrate them. Even if it's just to swing by and say hello, I do. They have plenty of friends to rage with later into the night.
JB: Which New York shows do you look forward to each season?
JZ: Always Marc Jacobs; it's unpredictable and usually sets the tone for the season. Of course, some of my other favorite shows are those of my friends: Prabal Gurung, Alexander Wang, Derek Lam. These guys are the next generation of great designers.
JB: How has the show expanded your brand and what can fans expect in the second season?
JZ: All On The Line is really an extension of me: who I am and what I do. It's not manufactured — it's about real lives and real businesses, telling stories of people who have literally sunk every last penny into their dream. And I'm not a magician or a psychic, but I do my very best to help them and provide insight any way I can. It's an eye-opening experience — both for them and myself — and I love that about the show, that it's a journey for each of us. This season will be more of that, as well as a lot more design, creativity and people you'll get to know and love.
Though he's not referring to himself, he might as well be. In our short time speaking, consider me a smitten kitten.