It’s no secret that I'm obsessed with anything and everything related to Rachel Zoe — and her style director Brad Goreski is no exception. From shirtless photos taken by Terry Richardson, to his spot-on personal style, Goreski is quickly and widely becoming recognized as a style star and perhaps, as The New York Times’ Ben Widdicombe suggests, the zeitgeist of current men’s fashion.
But before the two talked about that, Goreski had to explain the difference between look and lewk, and go over a few other points of vernacular:
“A ‘lewk’ is like, ‘I’m wearing a lewk today,’ it’s something that everybody will notice. It’s like you’re out of the pages of a magazine, that’s a lewk.”
“ ‘Werk’ is a feeling,” he continued, “like you werk your lewk. Like, was it werking? Was it happening, was it going on? A mayjor lewk is, like, above and beyond actual major.”
And as it turns out, there’s a lot Idon’t know about Goreski — and he wants to keep it that way:
Not all about Mr. Goreski’s life is apparent from what is seen on the reality show. He said he moved from his native Port Perry, Ontario, to Los Angeles nine years ago “for love.” And although he is still in that relationship, he declined to give any details about his partner, other than to say the gentleman is from Queens.
Goreski did let Widdicombe and readers in on secrets about his childhood, like what it was like growing up chubby — and how Terry Richardson got him to take his clothes off.
Also, he didn’t always look so good in a fitted blazer and cropped pants. “I was a little chubby, rosy-cheeked kid,” he said of his teenage years. “When you grow up being overweight, sometimes it doesn’t leave you.”
His transition from vulnerable small-town teenager to pop-culture fodder was cemented in May, when pictures of a shirtless Mr. Goreski taken by the art photographer Terry Richardson were splattered across blogs and Tumblr pages. Mr. Richardson, he said, coaxed him in front of the lens while the intended subject of the day’s shoot, Cameron Diaz, was still in hair and make-up.
“He said: ‘You’ve got a really big bicep, I wasn’t expecting that. Take off your shirt,’ ” Mr. Goreski recalled. “From being a chubby kid from Port Perry, Ontario, to having your picture taken shirtless by Terry Richardson is a big, feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway moment.”
Joe Zee, the creative director of Elle, put it this way about Mr. Goreski: “Brad has become a style icon for this entire new generation of young, cool, preppy, dapper guys. Fashion goes in cycles, and there’s so much of a return to this stately elegance that men want to dress like, but not in a stuffy, uptight kind of way. And I think what Brad does is reinterpret it in a very modern way so you can put on a bow tie but not feel old.”
Janie Bryant, the costume designer for “Mad Men,” said Mr. Goreski was a style icon in the mode of designers like Thom Browne and Paul Smith, who triumph proper fitting and tailoring. “In the 1980s men’s stores really lost the knowledge of how to fit a man’s body and sizing, because the styles were oversized, and the culture became more casual,” Ms. Bryant said. “Now men are really thirsting for that knowledge of: ‘What’s my size? What’s a proper fitting shirt? How do I buy a suit?’ ”
Rachel Zoe, who tried to give Mr. Goreski a fashion makeover in a recent episode with limited success, had a similar theory about his stylistic appeal. “I think men today are more interested in well-tailored pieces that are sophisticated and timeless,” Ms. Zoe said, in her read of the male fashion zeitgeist. “Brad has been a champion for the return to very classic, traditional men’s wear.”
For his part, Brad seems to understand that to trumpet his own style influence would be to undermine it. “I feel like because of a lull in men’s fashion and because of the platform to be on the show, it was an immediate way for people to see a style that has been around for a long time.”
Still, he adds, “at the time I was wearing it, it was not really that prevalent.”
“The Rachel Zoe Project,” whose third season concludes Sept. 21, has enjoyed growing ratings in its Tuesday night time slot. According to figures released by Bravo, the second episode of the current season received a series-record viewership of 1.28 million people. This year’s average is a respectable 1.12 million an episode, a 35 percent increase on the season before.
Unusual for reality TV, the show features a cast that actually seems to like one another — at least this season. Ms. Zoe’s previous style director, Taylor Jacobson, injected tension into the first two seasons with her brusque manner, at one point reducing Mr. Goreski, then merely an assistant, to tears. But Ms. Jacobson was dismissed in the hiatus between the second and third seasons, elevating Brad to his current position.
Extra screen time has its privileges. Brad now routinely accompanies Ms. Zoe to major fashion shows both here and in Europe to secure the most promising new red carpet gowns for their paparazzi-bait clients. At the spring 2011 collections, held last week in New York, Brad found that he was famous enough in his own right to command a seat in the front row.