Rachel Zoe Shares Her Game-Changing Career Moment

Homepage Image: BFA

My career has been through so many game-changing iterations: transitioning from editorial styling to red carpet styling, and then juggling responsibilities as CEO of my own company with raising two small children. I’ve had to re-evaluate my perspective many times, one of the most notable being when I styled my first major advertising campaign. It was 1998, and I had recently taken the leap into freelance styling after working in New York as a fashion editor and editorial stylist at a well-known fashion magazine. Tommy Hilfiger approached me with the opportunity of a lifetime—styling one of the brand’s upcoming campaigns.

I clearly recall standing in his office. He looked and me and said, “You know, you have a great eye and are so talented. I know you can do this.” His clear confidence in my ability encouraged me to take the job, and at the age of 24, I agreed to what I assumed would be a one-day shoot. It was actually a two-week shoot with multiple locations across the US and a cast of 20, including supermodels and up-and-coming talent Usher, Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood.

This was the biggest job I’d ever undertaken, by a long shot. Suddenly I was overseeing a massive team of assistants and corralling 80 trunks of clothing. I was beyond terrified, but I knew I could not let Tommy down. I had to remind myself that I had the skills to succeed and that with hard work and perseverance, I could pull this off. What I learned was how important it is to be laser-focused. If I tried to tackle too many tasks simultaneously, I’d get too overwhelmed to function. I had to take it one day at a time and break this gigantic challenge into tangible, achievable goals. Perhaps even more important, I had to trust my gut. I needed to look and feel confident. Two weeks and several sleepless nights later, it was a wrap! The shoot was an incredible success, and Tommy was so thrilled with the campaign. The satisfaction and confidence I achieved by excelling ce very daunting opportunity became a defining moment in my career.

Since then, there have been many times in which I’ve been charting a new course and naturally questioned myself, my ability and the process. But I’ve learned to trust my gut and believe in myself. As long as I do that and take one day at a time, I can tackle anything. After all, if I can’t take that initial leap of faith, why would an employer or a client? A big part of being successful is being able to move forward with conviction, even if you haven’t walked the path before. While the Tommy Hilfiger shoot feels like forever ago, it’s still a very clear picture in my mind, and remains a game-changing moment for me.

I’m fortunate to remain close friends with Tommy today, and I'll always be eternally grateful to him for betting on me before anyone else did.