“Express is actually one of the first brands I ever purchased,” the fashion designer, stylist and entrepreneur told WWD in an exclusive interview. “At our Short Hills mall they had an Express. And I used to go there all of the time with my mom and my sister and go shopping.”
These days, Zoe’s wardrobe includes the likes of Chanel and Valentino. But she still has some of her original Express threads. (“I don’t typically part with things over time,” said the fashionista.)
The designer will be once again a part of the brand, both as a consumer — she’s a fan of Express’ current crop of tops, blazers and holiday sequined pieces — and as a business partner. The Rachel Zoe x Express collaboration drops in April, followed by a second installment in May. This month, the retailer has named Zoe the lead style editor in its Express Community Commerce program, as it rolls out nationwide.
The project lets Zoe curate a selection of her favorite Express pieces for shoppers to choose from. Zoe will also offer pointers for consumers on how to look and feel their most confident by way of the “60 Seconds to Style” series, live social media events on Express channels and other digital workshops that she will host.
In addition, the Community Commerce program gives aspiring stylists all over the country the chance to learn tips and tricks of the trade from Zoe while being a stylist for their own digital Express storefront, possibly earning commission along the way.
“For my entire career, I cannot even tell you how many people have asked me how to become a stylist,” Zoe said. “They don’t live in New York City, or they don’t live in California. And they don’t have access to the fashion world. What Express is really enabling here [through the Community Commerce program] is talent from all over the country to really start becoming their own entrepreneurs. For me, the best part of that is that I get to mentor them. I get to do a series of really amazing style series that will be highlighting my career and what I know about styling to help inspire all these stylists and help them become their own stylists.”
To participate, Express style editors set up digital storefronts on a customized app, which then links to their personal social media accounts for others to see. Style editors will have access to the entire Express assortment, as well as exclusive items. Editors will also be able to communicate directly with consumers in order to recommend products or answer questions.
“We’re giving customers the opportunity to share their style with their community and grow a business, with the idea that these people have a passion for fashion and an entrepreneurial style and want to offer it to their community,” said Sara Tervo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Express. “And we’re excited that we can leverage Rachel to recruit more style editors and guide and mentor them. She obviously is a global fashion authority and one of the most recognizable fashion experts.”
Style editors can also win the chance to meet Zoe in person. In addition, as the program evolves, Tervo said the hope is that style editors can host their own in-store style events, allowing them to build relationships with local store managers while offering their own styling sessions and other in-person events to members of their network.
“It’s also nice sometimes to just be together and socialize and have fun with fashion. So this will give editors that opportunity,” she said.
Express began testing the Community Commerce program this summer in Texas, at which time the retailer’s chief executive officer Tim Baxter said, “The potential is limitless. I believe ultimately that we could have more Express style editors than we have associates.”
There are currently about 200 style editors sprinkled throughout the country. But Tervo said anyone can apply to be a style editor at express.com/becomeaneditor. Style editors must be 18 years or older and live in the U.S. to apply.
“We’re going to continue to build out our styling community. That’s at the center of everything we do,” Tervo said. “The style editor community is just another important piece in how we do that. The goal is to continue to create different ways to innovate and engage our customers. And we know that customers really do trust friends and influencers for feedback on fashion. So we really believe this is the next step in advancing our Express Way Forward strategy and connecting people through fashion.”
Express has previously partnered with the likes of Tan France and Karlie Kloss. Zoe said she was attracted to the brand because of its continued style evolution throughout the years.
“Express has really withstood the test of time,” she said. “I think that is so incredibly impressive, considering the environment and the changes the industry has gone through. And they’re very, very on trend. I find that people who shop at Express are just incredibly loyal customers. They know what works for them; they love the fit. They love the quality.
“And they have a huge men’s business, which is also very impressive, because men are tough customers,” Zoe said. “Just saying. I’m married to one.”