Behind the seams with designer Rebecca Taylor
<i>Rebecca Taylor prepares for a recent Fashion Week.</i>
Designer Rebecca Taylor, 40, came to New York from New Zealand about 18 years ago. Now, she runs her own fashion line, known for its “Victorian-inspired” feminine — often floral-print — clothing (with a requisite leopard cardigan each season). Taylor has a boutique in NoLiTA and runs a company of about 60 people out of New York, with 23 boutiques in Asia, too. amNewYork spoke with Taylor.
1)How did you get started?
In New Zealand in the ‘80s you were either a nurse, a secretary or a teacher. I always loved clothes. My mom made all my clothes for me. We were real hippies.
I went on a government training scheme for costume design and got into fashion school in Wellington, which was very vocational.
I moved to New York the day after I graduated with a three-month work visa. I was very green. I had heard of Prada, but I didn’t really know what it is. I waitressed and bussed tables.
2)What would you tell people hoping to break into the industry?
You’ve gotta be really hungry. You have interns that clock in and out. They think they’re going to land an awesome job with an awesome paycheck. But it’s about dedication, working extra hours and being really proactive. Those people end up working for us. One of our girls from a retail store has just moved up to be an assistant designer.
3)What do you look for in a job candidate?
For me, it’s all about pattern making and sewing. I always get someone to do a project for me.
4)How did you start your line?
My business partner, Beth Bugdaycay, and I started from scratch. We had very little working capital. We borrowed it from our mom and dad. The proudest day of our lives was paying it back.
5)What are some job perks?
I go to Paris on a shopping trip — that’s definitely a perk.
6)What are some downsides?
It’s such hard work. I don’t think people understand that. It’s not as much glitz and glamour.
7)What’s an average day like for you?
I’m in meetings most of the day. We do nine seasons a year, so we’re always working on productions. I’m meeting with my design team, print people, shoe people, bead makers and then fitting designs on a model.
8)Would you consider doing a lower-priced line at a place such as Target?
We’d love to. The exposure is huge. Everyone’s so into fashion and follows it so much; it’s nice that everyone can have it. Fashion sometimes takes it so seriously.
9)What do you wear on your downtime?
Striped tops and army pants. And the new Mademoiselle Chanel lipstick. That’s my new must-have.
10)Any favorite boutiques in NYC?
We’ve been exploring Williamsburg. A shop called Bird has a lot of great French designers. There’s a store on Atlantic Avenue called Eva Gentry I like too.
11)Where do you like to save and splurge?
I like to buy inexpensive multicolored cashmeres at Uniqlo. A lot of times I like to stitch and mix them up.
For splurges, I usually go to Chanel. I’m such a sucker for Chanel. I try to only buy one big piece – like a bag — a year.
12) How long does it take to be profitable?
We were actually profitable in our first year, but we didn’t have cash flow. Everything’s so cyclical. It’s not up, up, up.
13)What are different ways to get into the business?
Make yourself indispensable to a designer. Tech design is good, as you can have a hand in how the garment comes out. You work on measurements, trims, aesthetics. You’re working with a designer.
Sales and merchandising is another thing. It’s great if you have really good taste.
Salaries you can expect
Beth Bugdaycay, CEO of Rebecca Taylor, told us she and Rebecca paid themselves $16,000 for the first two years. In the third year, they went up to $60,000 and it’s been up from there. Here’s her guide as to what to expect in the fashion industry:
Entry-level (right out of school-3 years experience): $30,000-$40,000
Mid-level (3-5 years experience): $40,000-$70,000.
Manager/Director level: $70,000-$140,000
Creative director with top designers: $150,000-$200,000
Head designers for huge companies, coutrure labels: $200,000-plus.
“It’s really important to pick a company where you can be mentored, and you can stay for at least about 3 years,” she said. Rather than leave a company for a higher-paying job, it might be worth it to hone your professional skills.