Rebecca Taylor is a Fashion Designer living in Brooklyn, NY with her family and their dog Chewy.
Girls at Library: What was the first book you fell in love with that turned you into a life long reader?
Rebecca Taylor: I would have to say that would be the Narnia series. My mum gave me that box set.
GAL: What about the Narnia series did you like best?
RT: It was the fantasy. I love talking animals. At that young age it was so magical. I still love them all, and I love that movie. You know it’s a Christian book though? There is a Christian theme coming through that I didn’t know about when I was younger. I read a breakdown of it recently and thought– "Oh! I didn’t see that coming." Like “The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe”. It also had orphans who were having to leave London because of the war. I’ve always enjoyed a war themed book. I read a lot of books set in London during WW2. Like “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson, have you read that?
GAL: What a book! I loved it. I couldn't put it down.
RT: It’s an incredible book! I particularly love the concept behind it. The book starts and then the girl dies, but then the book starts again and she lives a little bit longer and each time the story changes. It’s like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie, “Sliding Doors”! I love considering how different people live differently and how each of their choices can take them down a specific path.
GAL: How often do you read?
GAL: What is the power of the story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
RT: I always joke that I don’t need a therapist I have reading! Reading is transportive. It just takes me into another place, into another story, and ignites my imagination. It takes me away from my troubles. When your life feels overwhelming it’s nice to immerse yourself into someone else’s life, it’s a true form of escapism.
GAL: Who is your favorite author?
RT: I really like Phillip Roth
GAL: Which Roth is your favorite? Or which two?
RT: “American Pastoral” and “The Plot Against America”. Which I kind of felt was happening in America right now, but then I read an article about Roth in The New Yorker where they quote him saying something along the lines of, 'I get what you’re saying with Plot Against America, because it’s fictional, it can happen, and Lindbergh came into office and he’s a famous anti-semite. But the difference between Lindbergh and Trump is that Lindbergh had actually been a hero and did do extraordinary things.' It’s a good point because it made me stop making that comparison.
GAL: Even though you have been working in America for two decades now, do you still identify as a Kiwi?
RT: I do! I am an American though. Can’t get rid of me! I was born in New Zealand and grew up there, my whole family is still there, I’m the only one in New York.
GAL: How do you choose the books that you read?
RT: Mostly by word of mouth. If I get into a certain author I like, I’ll try to find similar authors. I’ve started a Pinterest board since now all the publications are digital. It’s easy to pin each story to a board so when you’re looking for something you can go back and find it quickly.
GAL: Do you read on a kindle or do you prefer to hold a book?
RT: No, I’m not one of those paper people. But I do find it hard to read on an iPad. That is a different experience.
The Kindle is magical. It’s this tiny thing, like a magician's box.
GAL: A whole library! A whole world!
RT: Yeah! And I have so much more at fingertips! Because I drop my kids at school in the morning, I’m constantly taking the train back and forth. It’s heavy to carry around a book. My Kindle is probably why I finished “A Little Life”. I couldn’t see how big it was so I just kept on reading. But when I saw it in the book store I just thought, “Oh Please, I would never have finished that!”
GAL: Do you read non-fiction?
RT: I just finished Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking”, it’s a funny book! It’s not a must read but when she died, I got it. I love biographies. I want to read about Harriet Tubman because I just learned about her through the kids' school, since I didn’t grow up hearing about her. Her story is so inspirational. I’d love to see more statues of women all around the place instead of statues of all white men.
GAL: I agree!
RT: It’s like everywhere you go, there are statues of men. I was passing one recently with my daughter Zoey, and I said to her, “Do you know Robert Kennedy, my dear?” She says, “Aka Bobby?” [laughs]
GAL: If one fictional character were to wear Rebecca Taylor who would it be and why?
RT: I do love the female main character in “Life After Life”. She really resonates with me. Particularly when she’s living in London, during World War II. She very independent and very ballsy. She’s very much someone I identify with.
GAL: It must be hard to pick just one character because you create several lines per season. So she has to somehow change, but she also must remain innately the same.
RT: She does remain innately the same. We do 24 collections per year and ship every four weeks. But our girl is very much the same girl. She’s independent, has a sense of humor, and most importantly has a strong sense of self. Those are the sort of women and characters I’m attracted to.
GAL: How does narrative influence fashion….
RT: You can write a narrative through the clothes you wear. Clothing does make you feel a certain way, and make up is also transportive. Every time I go into Sephora I leave with a lipstick and that changes my life.
GAL: That is definitely true of most people I think. Especially during economic downturn: lipstick sales go up.
RT: It’s a great price and it really changes everything. Though other people may not notice, it’s like cosmetic prozac. It just makes you feel good. You do write the narrative with the clothing you wear, you absolutely do. The way people perceive you, you’re in charge of that and you control your own story by wearing certain clothes.
GAL: Do you have a shame pile of books that you like reading? Snacky books!
RT: Sometimes my sisters, who aren’t big readers think I read books that only readers read, the say 'why don’t you just go get something cheap and cheerful in the bookstore? Put it in a brown paper bag and no one will know what you’re reading'. Liane Moriarty! I always read a Liane Moriarty on an airplane. It’s like candy, it’s not going to sustain you, but it’s enjoyable in the moment. Alice Hoffman I find snacky. “Faithful” I really enjoyed! It’s based off of a real story that started in the Caribbean about an impressionist painter and about Jewish-ness. I always love reading about Jewish people.
GAL: Do you have any favorite Australian / New Zealand authors?
RT: “The Luminaries” by Eleanor Catton
and author Katherine Mansfield.
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to re-read for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
RT: I have excerpts of some books that I really like to re-read, more unbearably they are mostly Isabel Allende. I really enjoyed “The Japanese Lover”. I even have gone back to read “Eva Luna” and I couldn’t get through it, but her excerpts are beautiful crafted and magical. I love Roald Dahl for quotes, “You always have to look for the magic. And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” Those sorts of things I find very inspiring. I’m not one for reading books or watching movies again, once I’ve done it once I move on.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
RT: Charlotte Bronte has an amazing biography I read, “A Fiery Heart”. I really enjoyed that. Quite a wacky family. “Loving Frank” was awesome. One of my favorite books is “The Uncommon Reader” I love this book! It’s like a novella. I love the concept of a novella. That reminds me: Ian McEwan book “On Chesil Beach” is also a short book and happens to be one of my favorites. Anyway, I read “The Uncommon Reader” on paper. It’s a marvelous book about the Queen of England discovering a mobile library that comes to the palace every week. So she starts checking out books and gives up being Queen because she just wants to read all the time. That has to be one of my all time favorite books. Particularly for anyone who identifies as a reader!
GAL: Why read?
RT: Why not read?! It’s the best thing ever. This is what I tell my kids; you can go into another world, you don’t need the tv, you don’t need Digital you don’t need it, cause it’s all here!
What you can create here is so much more interesting than anything else.
GAL: Please name at least 3 books you would recommend and why.
RT: Nemesis by Phillip Roth – A fascinating account of the polio epidemic after WWII, it’s a story told with such clarity and tenderness.
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende – My favorite Isabel Allende book so far. Its’ a beautiful share of a retrospective of this women’s life. I learned so much about WWII, America and how the Japanese were treated.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I am so intrigued by the idea of how the different paths you take can change everything, the people you meet and the person you become.
“When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – This was a beautiful story about a man who approaches his own mortality with love and clarity. It took my breath away.
GAL: And if you were to write your memoir what would you title it?
RT: 50 shades of pink….and beyond