Women of Style: Desiree Gruber

by The Zoe Report

I am particularly honored to feature my ultimate fashion crush and a woman who is a tremendous inspiration to most in our industry – Desiree Gruber. As the creator and executive producer of Project Runway; the CEO of one of the world’s most powerful PR agencies – Full Picture; the co-founder of Theodora & Callum; a dedicated wife and mother; and the founder of Modelinia.com, the always beautiful and charismatic Desiree is revered by all and is the true example of a Woman of Style. –Mandana Dayani

Desiree’s typical day at Full Picture… “Every day at Full Picture is different, which is why I love it so much. On any given day I could be on set for Project Runway, at a digital conference in San Francisco, on a shoot for Theodora & Callum, brainstorming ideas for our amazing clients with my team…it never ends!”

Desiree in Saint-Tropez

How she made the decision to launch her own agency… “I’ve always been entrepreneurial and inspired by storytelling, which I’ve learned can take many forms beyond PR—branding, product development, television shows, etc. So I established Full Picture to explore and take advantage of the synergies between them all. The company operates at the crossroads of fashion, style, design, hospitality, entertainment, and technology, but the common denominator is identifying stories—stories that excite, entertain, educate, and inspire.”

How she reacts to setbacks or mistakes… “I’ve always believed that mistakes are opportunities to learn and to grow, so I try to teach my employees how to bounce back from mistakes or missed opportunities by taking the time to analyze what went wrong so they can figure out on their own how to do things better next time.”

Why she thinks Project Runway has been so successful… “One of the reasons the show is so popular is that viewers get into the act of creating along with the designers. We’re following people who are authentically very creative—it’s not manufactured. Being creative under pressure is not easy. The designers on the show are also characters who are interesting and fun to watch. The judges, too, have different personalities and unique voices that come together to make a great panel. So I think it’s a combination of all these factors.”

Desiree with her husband, actor Kyle Maclachlan. Photo: Getty Images

What it takes to be a successful fashion designer… “Creativity, for one. Second, fashion is an amazing art but also a business. No two ways about it—talent only gets you so far. You need a full commitment to the development of a business, which requires having knowledgeable people around you.”

How she applies her industry knowledge to her clothing brand… “Theodora & Callum is a creative factory where my partner Stefani Greenfield and I can bring to life the inspirational colors, patterns and shapes we find across the globe. It’s a project that is personal to us so we really surround ourselves with a great team of experts, including the incredible staff at Full Picture. It’s definitely a family affair.”

Theodora & Callum printed scarves ($175 each).

How she plans to grow her businesses over the next 10 years… “Theodora & Callum has grown organically since we launched two years ago. It’s all about exploring the Theodora & Callum lifestyle, aesthetic and continuing our journey. We started with scarves and have since grown into jewelry, tops, dresses, pants and more. We’ve experimented with other areas we want to develop more as well—kids, swimwear, towels. We definitely want to do more home. So we will keep fueling this evolution and see where it leads.”

Career mistakes she often sees people make… “Some people accept ‘no’ as an answer, and in my experience, there is always a way to make something happen. I’ve faced a lot of challenges in my career and the best projects have emerged through the process of overcoming these challenges. Perseverance is key. There would be no Project Runway if we took ‘no’ as a final answer.”

Her office wardrobe must-have… “You can never go wrong with a great-tailored jacket. It completes a look by just pulling it all together in a polished way.”

Desiree’s fall shopping list: “I’m loving Hoorsenbuhs Regalia bangles, Elisabeth Weinstock fold-over clutches, Laveer field jackets, Victoria Beckham dresses, and I Pezzi Dipinti blazers.”

Her thoughts on what to wear to a job interview…. “Something that reflects his or her personality and personal style. We want to see the real you when you step into Full Picture.”

Her technology essentials… “I love smartphones, tablets, my laptop—technology is crucial to my business and how I organize my life. But I make a concerted effort to be present. Sometimes you have to power off to really be on. On a personal level, I’m also fascinated by self-tracking technology. I don’t go anywhere without my Up Band.”

How she recovers from a long day at work… “A quiet dinner at home with my son Callum and my husband Kyle. No matter what, they can always make me smile.”

Desiree with her son, Callum.

Three things most people don’t know about her… 1. “I’m an anthropologist at heart. I find myself studying people everywhere I go, and travel is the ultimate way to explore new cultures.” 2. “I was in the ROTC.” 3. “My hair is naturally VERY curly (few people have seen this unless I’ve been spotted on an island vacation far, far away).”