Fashion Week Interviews

Refinery29 Editor Rachel Besser’s Super Cool, Super Confident Style

The first few questions with fashion people during Fashion Week are highly predictable, almost rote. When Refinery29 market editor Rachel Besser and I first meet at The Hole, a supercool East Village art gallery, we go through the appropriate motions.

“How’s the week going for you?”

“Seen anything you’ve really loved?”

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All images by Kirby Calvin

And, because we’re almost to the last day of NYFW (Rachel and I met on Wednesday; the final shows are Thursday), I toss this one in: “What are you going to do to unwind and get the craziness out of your system?”

She tells me her seasonal tradition is to go home to Brooklyn on her final night and dream up the perfect five-course meal, taking dishes from however many neighborhood restaurants is necessary (a salad from here, a pasta from there …), and then have it all delivered via Seamless. Smart and decadent!

And sure: she’ll get back in her meditation routine, she’ll get started on her new Deepak Chopra book.

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And then she tells me she has to fly to L.A. to be in a wedding this weekend—sweet and fun, but not entirely low-key or stress-free. Not to worry, though.
She says it’s all good, because that six-hour flight will come in handy; her preferred method of release and detangling is writing.

“I just sort of let it all out,” she says. “It’s part self-reflection and part journaling, but it’s really just whatever comes out. Culture, what I’m seeing on the street, all that. A few days after Fashion Week is the perfect time to just sit down and write.”

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I’m so impressed by the sanity and perfection of it all that I almost can’t respond. Most people mention something like massages or facials or a weekend in Miami, if not the South of France, but here’s a girl who gets back to herself with the simple act of contemplation and composition?

And she’s wearing vintage wide-leg Fendi jeans? I sort of wanted to hug her right there on the gallery floor, but I kept it cool.

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Honestly, though, it all makes so much sense. Like other R29 key players I’ve met, her passion for work is equal parts writing and fashion. As market editor, it’s Rachel’s job to monitor the style and fashion landscape and file trend reports internally, for the company, and for readers. She says she joined the killer squad specifically because the mission of this media group isn’t just covering the industry but really exploring personal style and self-expression.

She files about a story a day; her specific beat is offbeat trends. Stuff that’s on the fringe and the edge.

“My favorite thing is like, ‘That doesn’t really work but it’s about to.’” she says.

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I think it’s fairly clear in these images—or in the ones she shared when she took over Nordstrom’s Instagram channel earlier this week—but let me assure you that she’s living that vibe.

“I like big, I like baggy. My style is about things that I think are kind of funny; the absurd things that are happening at any given time. I don’t really care about what’s ‘flattering’—I have literally told people that if I put it on and it makes me look like I instantly gained 10 pounds, it’s probably perfect,” she tells me.

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It’s a conversation I’ve been having more and more lately; call it the extension of the mom-jean thing, or maybe normcore’s positive conclusion. Or, at a more conceptual level, the Vetements effect. Who decided what it means for anything to be flattering, and who says we have to agree with them?

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“Exactly! ‘Flattering’: that word is suspect,” she says. “Who made the standards? I like to throw it all to the wind. You can tell when someone is really feeling themselves in their look, and that’s all I really care about. And really, that’s the part of fashion that really brings people together.

You do you, Rachel Besser is saying, and I’ll do me. 

New York Fashion Week—and the city itself—is better for it.

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—Laura Cassidy