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Why Family Matters to Rachel Antonoff

Why Family Matters to Rachel Antonoff

Rachel Antonoff makes clothes fit for cool, clever, and unabashedly original girls—because she just so happens to be one herself. She began her career as a writer, but after a fateful meeting with Teen Vogue, she quickly shifted gears to design and hasn’t looked back since. The NYC-based designer enlists her mom, dad, and musician brother Jack (of the indie pop act Bleachers) to help with everything from prop styling to heavy lifting. Below, she told us about the best, worst, and weirdest parts of working with family...and why she wouldn't have it any other way.

My parents in general have always been very supportive, but I remember my dad saying [when I was starting my line] that this was going to take focus away from my writing. I was like, "No it’s not!" But it did, in the best way. Now my dad is my business partner. He was sort of an unofficial advisor at first, and then he came on relatively early as a full partner. He’s handled all the finances and is the business hand of it. I’ve always compared our relationship, from a business perspective, that he’s the guy standing on the ground and I’m a balloon he is trying to hold onto.

My mom has been more unofficially involved with my line. She comes on during Fashion Week, and the best part about her is that she is not above doing the things that need to be done. She will get coffee; she will paint 25 pairs of shoes in tonal pink; she’s always down. She’s like the greatest intern you’ve ever had. The help of family is so different. There’s an unconditional ethic to it, which is so lovely.

Jack has always been good to bounce ideas off of. He used to help a bunch with the heavy lifting, until we understood that we could just hire people to do things. But when fashion shows were more DIY, I remember him lugging enormous set pieces into venues. Now he’s too busy for that and not always around, but he always gives me his two cents on my ideas. Once Jack and I had this idea for a morning talk show called Hi, Good Moaning. It was sort of like a Wayne's World type of thing and the set was in our parents’ house. We tried to film an episode with a friend, and we had all these creative differences. We laugh about that now.

I think one reason it works out for my family to be so involved with each other is that everyone is still doing their own thing. Plus, there are so many ways that my family can collaborate with each other. Whenever there’s a family dinner that includes my extended family, I’m like, “If I just wrote this down word for word, I would have an amazing show on my hands. You people are out of control.” But I never do it. 

And then there are my friends, who I've known for a decade-plus. So I think when you are younger, there’s more of a need to surround yourself with acquaintances, as well as friends. But then you get older and you realize that you really just want to have your good friends around, and there’s less need for lunches with people you don’t know very well. I’ve seen my friends through so many different incarnations of themselves and experiences and failures and successes.

I think that having friends who you feel truly know you, and who you know, is such an incredibly supportive thing. Just having an extensive library of shared references with people is so valuable. In my life, the scope of fancy to regular is narrower than, say, Jack’s life. For my family, that has just been a fun, silly thing. Like, we get to go to the Grammys, that’s bizarre! That’s just hilariously wonderful. I don’t think that ever feels unexciting or uninteresting or pedestrian. When it does, that’s weird. We are still in a place, as a family and as our friends in general, where we think that is terribly exciting and so cool and funny. That’s how we look at it, as a novelty.

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