Fast Talk: Rebecca Moses
Published: June 2009
By Jaime Gross
Globe-trotting fashion-industry veteran Rebecca Moses has plenty to say about traveling, style, and traveling in style. Twelve years ago she left her hometown of New York City for northern Italy, where she met and married a local mill owner and built her namesake collection. In 2001 Pineider, a 229-year-old stationery company based in Milan, approached her with a new challenge: to design its first lifestyle and home-accessories collection. Since then, she has successfully revived the prestigious brand, which had been "pretty neglected in the past several years." We caught up with Moses at her home in the Valsesia Valley, near Milan, to discuss her transition from fashion to lifestyle designer, her take on style today, and her favorite places to shop in northern Italy.
1. You had only about three months to pull this collection together. How did you manage this feat?
I've been in fashion for over 25 years. My mentality is very entrepreneurial; I never take no for an answer. As a fashion designer, I had to create three to four collections a year: that's a lot of details, a lot of sourcing. And me, I just think all the way around: skirts, pants, dresses, jackets, coats, blouses, shoes, hats. So that's how I approached this project with Pineider. I thought about everything you need in a home and decided to center my collection on four elements: ceramics, crystal, silver, and wicker. I brought my sketches around to factories until I found the places I wanted to work with—places that were as passionate about the project as I was. And then I basically lived in the factories for three months until I'd created nearly 500 new products, from umbrella stands to home fragrances.
2. Do you apply the same principles for designing clothes to designing other objects?
Absolutely. Anything I create must be luxurious, timeless, functional, and beautifully colored. Those are my main principles, my starting points for anything I design.
3. What does "style" mean to you?
It's knowing yourself, knowing what works for you, and being consistent about it.
4. Is it possible to travel in style?
A person who knows how to pack well can be very stylish; when you travel, you have with you only the most essential items in your wardrobe. Personally, my choices are comfort-driven. I pack pants, sleek underpinnings, and lightweight coats—like Chinese kimonos or robes—that are easily dressed up.
5. What makes a great piece of luggage?
I always need extra space for the return trip, so I designed a series of adjustable travel bags, including an everyday bag that converts into an overnight tote. They're called Tri-bags, and they're made of a beautiful grained leather lined in linen.
6. What's the best thing about the area where you live?
The beauty of living in Italy is that it really feels as though we're at the center of the universe. I love London—it's a great town—but living in Milan you are close to everything: an hour and a half from incredible skiing, two hours from the south of France, half an hour from Switzerland. And you don't even need to get on a plane—everything is accessible by car.
7. Do you draw inspiration for your designs from the places you've visited?
If I didn't travel, it would be difficult for me to grow as a designer. Traveling cultivates my eye and keeps my mind stimulated. I'm inspired by the way people live, dine, and entertain. For example, I recently had lunch at a small B&B in St.-Moritz. When we sat down at the table, two waiters brought a long wooden board that had two leather handles. They laid it along the center of the table and we saw that it was covered with olives and cheeses, and little slices of salami. I thought: what genius! So naturally these are things that I am going to bring home and show my friends—who will then show their friends. I think that's what brings the world together, sharing traditions and customs and learning about how other people do things. I hope I can continue to live life like that.
8. Can you tell me about a recent favorite trip?
I was just in Jerusalem for a wedding—the first pleasure trip I've been able to take in a long time. I think Jerusalem is one of the most magnificent cities in the world: the smell of the city, the air of the city, the light of the city, the people and the passion. They're having a very difficult time right now, but you really feel something when you're there. Even my husband—who is not as familiar with Israel as I am—said "I can feel it." I mean, my husband is an Italian Catholic, I'm a New York Jewish girl, and both of us said the exact same thing. There is something there that really strikes you in your heart.
9. What are your favorite stylish destinations?
New York and London are great for shopping, as are Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. The Amalfi Coast is incredibly chic, and Naples has such passionate earthiness. You can't beat the south of France, though, for its spirit, glamour, and food—it has a very natural and organic style.
10. Any secret shopping spots you can disclose?
Near my home, you can buy cashmere and wool factory-direct from Loro Piana and Agnona and have a tailor stitch you a pair of pants at Ser Lory for $80. In Milan, the Istituto San Celso is great for skin-care products. And I have to say, the concierges in Milan have great contacts for custom-made clothing and linens. If you get to know the people at the Principe di Savoia, the Four Seasons, or the Grand, they'll really help you out.