On a recent Thursday evening, Musso and Frank Grill, an old school steakhouse widely heralded as Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, was packed. And not just your typical weekday crowd. It was wall to wall with famous people, from all different realms of celebrity. There were actors (Sasha Lane, Bella Heathcote, Selma Blair, Natasha Lyonne), directors (Miranda July, Gia Coppola, Amanda de Cadenet), musicians (Kim Gordon, Chloe and Halle Bailey), and a smattering of It-teens (Rowan Blanchard, Yara Shahidi) thrown in for good measure.
Also in the mix: Odeya Rush, the 19-year-old Isreali actress who rose to fame with 2014’s The Giver, which saw her acting alongside Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Taylor Swift. And yet, Rush was still starstruck.
“I love Parks and Recreation, and Rashida Jones and Aubrey Plaza were just standing there talking,” Rush recalled. “I kept looking over being like, ‘No, I’m not going to do it. But then I was like f--- it and went over. My mind went blank and I couldn’t think of anything to say. Somehow I collected my thoughts and came back to reality. They are just the coolest people.”
The word ‘cool’ is an inherently hard one to define—it’s a paradox, truly: once you name something as cool, does it immediately lose that very essence?—but it was, in a manner of speaking, ultimately what drew everyone together that particular evening; specifically, the launch of a Coach & Rodarte collection.
On paper, the two brands themselves have little in common. In one corner we have Rodarte, the quintessential West Coast label rooted in artful designs with a couture-like attention to details, founded in 2005 by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy and an immediate critical darling with three CFDA Awards under its belt.
And in the other, Coach, the historic New York leather goods company that three years ago brought on British designer Stuart Vevers to revamp the brand for a younger generation (another critical success; Vevers was just nominated for the CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year).
But it was one specific similarity that brought the two together: a nearly overlapping time slot during New York Fashion Week. “Kate and Laura got in touch about sharing models,” Vevers explained. “There was an immediate sense of camaraderie…As someone still relatively new to the world of American fashion, I wanted to collaborate with an American designer to expand my point of view. I think Kate and Laura have a very unique approach to fashion that nevertheless embodies the American spirit.”
Laura described the coming together of the two brands as organic.
“One thing led to another and Stuart asked us to work together on a special project, and we were like, ‘Oh, that sounds so fun,’” she said. “We immediately all thought it would be a great idea, and quite honestly, the work experience was lovely and really wonderful. There was a natural dialogue between all of us that was easy to navigate.”
The collection, which hits Coach.com today and will be in stores on Friday, includes both ready-to-wear and bags, including sequin appliqued leather jackets and dresses, and a series of t-shirts and tote bags inspired by Coach bag advertisements from the 1970s. "It was really a genuinely fun, creative process. Kate and Laura looked at Coach with fresh eyes and helped me see Coach´s heritage in new ways," Vevers said. "I think we are different and I think that creates an interesting tension. We also have lots in common. We are influenced by American style and have a mutual passion for craft. I think in our own way we´re both challenging European high fashion with an equally crafted and skillful, but less precious and less historical, approach to design."
Added Laura: "I think our mindsets from L.A. and New York really translated into the pieces. It’s an untraditional set of products and that's why I like it.” Hence, the untraditional invite list. “It was an amazing mixture of personalities,” she said of the party. “It was a testament to what our brands speak to the women who like to wear them.”
Enter Rush, whom Vevers had previously cast in one of his first campaigns for Coach and the Mulleavys had met through a mutual hairstylist (welcome to L.A.). “She’s very eloquent and a very smart younger lady, and I think that’s so important," Laura said. "In a field where maybe it's taught that its not the number one important thing, I think she has a desire to understand her intelligence and use it for her career. In that sense, it reminds me of someone like Natalie Portman who always says, ‘My brain is the number one thing I can offer in any situation.’”
A likeness to Portman, a close Rodarte friend, is high praise, but Rush is quickly amassing the résumé to back it up. Born in Isreal, her family moved to Alabama when she was 9-years-old; soon after a family friend sent in a her headshot to a modeling agency.
“They called me saying there was an audition for the Little House on the Prairie book covers, which I thought meant the TV series, so I watched all of the show and the movies,” Rush recalled of her first gig. “Yeah, I was confused.” Regardless, she got the job, and acting was quick to follow—with yet another bit of miscommunication, no less.
“An audition for Curb Your Enthusiasm was one of my first auditions, and they improvise so they don’t give you a script,” she said. “They just told me, ‘Pretend you’re playing strip poker and you keep winning.’ I was 13 years old and called my dad because I didn’t know what strip poker was, the innocent girl that I was.” She got the job, yet again.
It was the movie version of the 1993 best-selling novel The Giver that truly put Rush on the map, thrusting her into the Hollywood spotlight of red carpets and awards shows. “It really made me grow up really fast in those three months because I was filming in Cape Town, so it was seeing a whole new side of the world, and to be working with a serious, hard-working crew,” she said. Luckily, a co-star gave her some advice. “Jeff Bridges told me not to take life too seriously, and this industry too seriously,” she recalled. “He said that's what his mom used to tell him.”
It was through the film’s press tour that Rush teamed with stylist Tara Swennen, who also works with Kristen Stewart, whom she still works with today. Growing up with six brothers, Rush readily admitted that the male-dominated house has affected her personal sense of style.
“I like sneakers and boyfriend jeans and track pants,” she said. “I like buying mens T-shirts and jackets. I love men's clothes. There’s something cool about guys' fashion. I definitely get that from being around boys a lot.”
If her 2017 IMDb page is any indication, however, she’ll soon have to dust off those high heels and ring up Swennen, with five feature films set to debut this year, including a role in Greta Gerwig’s highly-anticipated directorial debut, Ladybird.
“I look up to her so much,” Rush gushed. “When I was doing press for [the 2015 film] Goosebumps, everyone asked, ‘Who do you admire?’ and I always said Greta Gerwig…It was such a calm and smooth set and I think that has to do with the fact that she hired a lot of women. She’s so nurturing and really knows what she wants. You just want to give everything to her.”
Rush is certainly taking notes; last year she wrote and directed a short film, Thanks, centering around a high school short film festival. “I felt like the first [short] I made I needed to direct something of a world that I know about,” she said. “But now I’m ready to do something that is not so much in my world.”
Up first, however, comes another milestone: turning 20, and saying goodbye to her teens next month. “I don’t care about birthdays,” she said. “I used to put pressure on it, and you just end up disappointed. It’s just like, ‘Okay, I was born on this day, cool.’”
There’s that word again; perhaps a certain fashion collaboration would make the perfect birthday present?
“Oh, that’d be great.”
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