If there is something anachronistic about Rachel Roy the siren-red lips; the drop-diamond earrings; the fitted, 1940s-style dress, and all this at the crack of 3 p.m. in her New York City office the designer likes it that way. "We weren't allowed to watch TV growing up," says Roy. Instead, she spent countless hours watching classic movies. "The beautiful 1940s women were a strong influence for me." Indeed, the dress Roy is wearing is from her five-year-old eponymous label, which recently received financing from Jones Apparel Group.
The fact that she likes to kick it old school has at times made things difficult for Roy. It is also the key to her success. Raised by an Indian father (who was raised Seventh-Day Adventist) and a Dutch mother in Monterey, Calif., Roy began working at age 14 folding T shirts at a gift shop, which soon led to years working at Contempo Casuals.
After college, odd jobs styling music videos caused problems for Roy. "They wanted the women to look like ridiculous sluts, and I wanted them to look like strong, magnificent Rita Hayworths," she says.
Her task and conviction caught the attention of Jay-Z's producer, Damon Dash, who soon started Rocawear clothing, the urban label where Roy went on to work for six years, rising from intern to creative director overseeing women's and girls' products. (Roy also married Dash and had two daughters with him; she has since filed for divorce).
The designer's younger, secondary line, Rachel Rachel Roy, debuted last month at Macy's and displays her inimitable touch. "When I talk to young girls about clothes," Roy says, "I tell them to show a lot of brains."