Learn some life lessons from ‘All On the Line”s Joe Zee

 Most people will likely be distracted by the Eastern seaboard being washed away this evening, but for those not watching the Weather Channel (and who still have power), the good news is that the TV schedule just keeps rolling along. Tonight “All on the Line with Joe Zee” (Sundance Channel, Mon. Oct. 29 10:00 p.m.) will wrap up another season, this time with Zee guiding designer Nicole Richie to QVC greatness. It seems struggling designers couldn’t have a better mentor than Zee, whose other job is Creative Director for Elle magazine. Here are a few tips on enjoying life (or, if you’re a designer, for improving your business) that I gleaned from an interview with Zee during a recent trip to Los Angeles. You’re welcome.

Zee, who has been known to take red-eyes from London to L.A., admits he tends to “catch up on television” instead of sleep in the air. But no matter. “I just pretend not to be jet lagged. Otherwise, I’d never get anything done.”
While some fashionistas like to declare a season as being all about arms or sweaters or whatever, Zee is not that kind of fashionista. “I’ve done this for so long, that instead of expecting things, show me whatever, then when it’s all over I’ll distill it in my brain. But I’d rather go to every single designer and be pleasantly surprised, not expect anything, and have no expectations. That’s so much more fun for me than saying, oh, this season’s going to be about ’50s.”
Having focused on Los Angeles designers for half the season, Zee thinks the change in location for the show reflects a change in focus for the fashion world in general. “Rodarte and Band of Outsider singlehandedly changed the perception of L.A., at least with New Yorkers,” he says. “People thought of L.A. being American Apparel and the denim brands. But I think having those different types of designers helped to dispel this notion.” 
In addition to his belief that L.A. has better restaurants, he also thinks it’s a pretty nifty place in general. “I’m excited that half of the season is in Los Angeles, because I love, love this town. I love it here… I feel like in L.A., no matter how hard you work, you still feel like you’re having a life. In New York, it’s just bam bam bam bam bam. I would look at my watch and I’d be coming home at 11:30 at night. Here I can get up early, go to the gym. It’s kind of great. I love that everyone here eats early. It’s a much calmer way of life. Civilized.
And he’s not talking about Lane Bryant, either. “I don’t know if designers would say they’re resistant to it, but it’s very hard to find out there… everyone in plus size is hungering, hungering for fashion… and yes, they will spend. They want someone to pay attention to them and they want fashion, and I think that’s okay. I’m not sure if designers think it’s uncool. I think it’s more they don’t know how to tackle that space. They don’t know how to grade it up, and it’s a very difficult thing. With Nicole Richie, what was most fascinating about doing a collection for QVC is that everything had to be able to grade up from extra small to 3X. If it didn’t grade up, it didn’t exist. So it was fascinating.”
Obviously, some designers (think Michael Kors) know how to I say this all the time. My boyfriend is a professor of design at Parsons and we talk about this all the time. I think there’s a romanticized idea of what fashion is, and a lot of students approach this as I’m a great designer, I have a great idea for a dress, and you can have the best idea for a dress, but if you don’t know how to sell it, it won’t matter. You need someone to understand how to market it, you need a business voice as present as a creative voice. 
And if not Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the rest. Not as a time suck, but to grow a business. “Every major brand is on social media. There’s a lot of white noise, but if you can do it right there, you can get it out there. But social media is actually free, so start! Just throwing a bunch of stuff out there isn’t going to do it, but what are you saying, what are you putting out there that’s good for me?