Slave to Fashion: Out fashion insider endures on reality show

Bravo’s reality series “The Rachel Zoe Project” cranks up the tension for the premiere of its third season as the show’s titular celebrity fashion stylist and her team deal with the fallout of one of their own leaving the company.

Even if you haven’t watched the show, or have only seen snippets of the action during commercials while watching episodes of “Top Chef” or “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” you can pick up on the drama pretty quick. Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe runs her company with her husband, Rodger Berman, and the help of her two assistants, Taylor Jacobson and the openly gay Brad Goreski. Jacobson quickly becomes the brat of the show and constantly butts heads with Goreski and, to a lesser degree, Zoe.

This season opens with Jacobson getting fired from the company for reasons that are not spelled out onscreen.

Goreski didn’t get into specifics either, but said her dismissal didn’t result from their conflict.

“What happened didn’t have anything to do with me. It was all behavior that she was doing of her own accord. I wasn’t really involved in the reason why she was fired. If that was her intention at that point, I can’t really say.”

Watching the first episode of the new season, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure that Jacobson probably had aspirations to start her own company for a while and is going to be a sore spot for Zoe and crew far beyond her firing. Goreski said he immediately felt the effects of Jacobson’s departure.

“When she was fired, it was a huge surprise to me,” the 32-year-old said. “You go from one day being a team to being alone. I had to adapt to carrying the workload all on my own, which took a little bit of getting used to. Instead of having the e-mails kind of evenly divided between the two of us, I was the only point person. It made people aware of how instrumental I am in Rachel’s business and how closely we work together. It gave me the opportunity to shine more in Rachel’s company. People were just happy that I was still around and had an opportunity to show what I was made of. We adapted quickly and kept on moving forward. Thank God there were no huge disasters along the way.”

It might be a trick of the editing process or a really accurate portrayal, but when Goreski, Zoe and their assorted assistants aren’t dealing with the drama du jour of fulfilling the fashion dreams of their celebrity clients, there seems to be an awful lot of sitting around sighing and complaining about how tired/busted/exhausted/frazzled they are. Which would be fine if they didn’t spend the majority of their screen time not breaking a sweat and idly pecking away at their laptops and/or BlackBerrys. To be fair, the massive amounts of high-end shoes and clothing they seem to have at their beck and call probably don’t magically appear and go away on their own. But still, what is seen on the screen is a far cry from the “Norma Rae” level of labor that they make it out to be.

Goreski is quite aware that the intense and hectic nature of their work doesn’t always translate to the small screen.

“I don’t think people actually grasp or see how much work it really is,” he said. “I think people think working with celebrities and all of these amazing designer clothes is super glamorous, and don’t get me wrong, it is. But the majority of the work is manual labor and a lot of follow-up. It’s a lot more work that it appears. The most stressful part is the pace: just how many jobs we have all the time and how quickly things move here. There are just so many variables every day. One day, we’ll have a studio full of clothes for a photo shoot and just get that out, then get a request for a fitting and have to get a whole other set of clothes in here the next day. The most stressful part is keeping up with everything.”

By comparison, the celebrities that Zoe and company work with — such as Gwen Stefani, Demi Moore and Molly Sims, to name a few — seem at ease with the hectic flurry that comes with the territory. Goreski said there is a good reason for that.

“Our job is to make them feel at ease and be excited about going to a premiere or going to an awards show,” he said. “Our job is to find them the absolute perfect dress that they are going to love and want everyone to see them in. If they are [stressing out], then we aren’t doing our job properly.”

One thing that is apparent on the show is that being a fashion stylist isn’t your typical 9-to-5 job — and that it can take over your life.

“That’s why you have to find a balance,” Goreski said. “You have to learn to leave the job at work and you have to learn when there is down time, you have to take it. That’s far and few between for us but, when we do have down time, I always make the most of it. I’ve also been in a relationship for over nine years now. So I always have that grounding. That’s the thing that means the most. I love my job and I love working for Rachel, but I have to keep reminding myself that there are other things too in my life that are just as important.”

Even with the long hours and the stress, Goreski said working with Zoe and her company was and continues to be a dream for him.

“I’ve always been interested in fashion. I was always pushing the boundaries, even as a kid in my hometown of Ontario, Canada. I interned in college at Vogue in New York and just knew I needed to work in fashion. I knew it was where I wanted to be. Once I got knowledge of who Rachel was styling, and how great all of her clients look all the time, I knew I wanted to work for her. I spent a year pursuing a job with her and finally got one. I had no idea that, almost three years later, I’d be here and having the experiences that I’ve had.

“For me, the way I like to live my life is to stay out of the way and let things happen,” added Goreski. “I try not to focus too much on the future and just kind of let whatever guiding forces push me along. And, so far, they’ve been pushing me in good directions.”

What Goreski didn’t count on was getting his dream job at the launch of the reality series. He said he was worried about having the camera around at first, but the notoriety of the show ended up being an asset to him.

“When we first started filming, they filmed me on my first day. So, I was nervous about having an audience seeing my first few weeks and months in a new job. Now it’s part of the job and I love it. I’m glad that audiences enjoy us and what we do. The show is really good because people can understand what happens and what a stylist does. It makes it easier, especially being an assistant. People who haven’t met me know who I am and that I work for Rachel, so when we are trying to create relationships with designers we haven’t worked with before, it does make it easier because of that platform.”

The new season of “The Rachel Zoe Project” premieres at 10 p.m. Aug. 3 on Bravo. For more information, visit www.bravotv.com/the-rachel-zoe-project.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].