Zoe, 35 and a native of New Jersey, considers herself a “fashion doctor on call, 24-7.” She majored in sociology and psychology at George Washington University, and one can only assume that—with her high-drama twentysomething clients—she's putting that degree to good use. But she has lately become much, much more than a dressing-room shrink handy with double-stick tape. Besides the 15 clients she dresses at a rate of more than $6,000 a day—among them Jennifer Garner, Keira Knightley, Maria Sharapova, Demi Moore, Cameron Diaz and Salma Hayek—she designs a collection of ultra-expensive bags for Leiber; consults with piperlime.com, a shoe Web site run by Gap Inc.; styles runway shows for the fashion label Marchesa; is codesigning uniforms for the new Thompson Hotel, in Beverly Hills; works on the aforementioned ad campaigns for Jimmy Choo, Leiber and any brand a client may be promoting; stars in a current print ad for a Samsung cell phone; and will release her first book, set to be called Style A to Zoe, in the fall. Beyond all this, she is developing a jewelry line, an accessories line and possibly a television show, none of which she is ready to discuss. “I see Rachel almost as a brand herself,” says Georgina Chapman, one of the designers behind Marchesa.
Celebrity stylists are a relatively new phenomenon. As recently as 15 years ago, many stars chose their own ensembles, even for Oscar night, or were dressed by designers or the wardrobe departments of the studios they worked with. But sometime in the mid-1990s, the increased focus on red-carpet fashion led celebs to start hiring fashion experts for big affairs. Now—thanks to the explosion of weekly gossip magazines doing their best to catch famous folks in unflattering sweatpants—more and more stars are employing wardrobe fixers to outfit them for everyday too. Suddenly, stylists are almost as integral to the Hollywood machine as publicists and agents—and a handful of them have been able to attain a certain degree of fame and fortune. In the words of Zoe's fellow stylist Cristina Ehrlich, who, with her business partner, Estee Stanley, has a clothing label called Miss Davenporte and a line of body-shaping underwear for Frederick's of Hollywood, “We're only as limited as we think we are.” (Stanley also has a burgeoning home-decor business.)
Naturally, with such high stakes, the industry is especially cutthroat. Clients are constantly switching stylists, as happened this past November when Richie reportedly dumped Zoe and hired Ehrlich and Stanley the very same week. (According to press reports, Richie was angry that Zoe participated in an intervention aimed at helping her overcome an eating disorder. Zoe, in a statement, called the split a “mutual decision.”) Adding to the drama, Ehrlich and Stanley are represented by Zoe's former agent, and they previously styled current Zoe clients Moore and Hayek.