Q&A with Joe Zee

The Elle creative director on Fashion Week, weightlifting and his Hunger Games addiction.

For Joe Zee, the creative director of Elle magazine and host of the Sundance channel's "All on the Line" fashion reality show, today marks the beginning of Fall 2012's fashion weeks — and his whirlwind sartorial tour through New York, London, Milan and Paris. We stole a moment with the famously social media-savvy Zee while he was wrapping up a cover shoot in LA and reveling in the (relative) moment of calm before the madness begins.

His weekly workout:
I always take a hip hop or street jazz class from my friend Abby Goldenberg at Equinox Greenwich Ave. and work out with my trainer, Nick Rodocoy. He's so awesome; I never thought I’d be the kind of person who loves pumping weights. At first it was fun just because it was a new routine. But then you cross a threshold and you really start to love doing it.

His typical breakfast:

Coffee with almond milk and Splenda. That’s it. I’m really bad. 

The advice he gives young designers most often:
Be true to yourself. If you’re trying to be something else that’s not organic to who you are, we’re going to be able to see it. We don’t need any more of that "wannabe" fashion. We need things that are genuine.

His style icons:
I’ve always loved Kurt Cobain. Also John Kennedy, Jr. They both had a specific style that was genuine to who they were. They didn’t set out to be fashion icons, it was something they became along the way. I love that sort of nonintentional intention.

His "healthy living" hero:
I have to say, I am always impressed by Gwyneth. I have her cookbook, and I use it so much when I’m cooking for my friends. There’s something that’s healthy but not regimented about it. I love that attitude.

His latest obsessions:
My Vitamix blender. I’m obsessed with smoothies. And having dinner parties. 

I always tell people that [Fashion Week] is exactly like camp, except all the girls are in high heels.


What totally relaxes him:

Dance class. I always try to find one, wherever I am in the world. I love that I get to free my mind from everything else that’s going on because I have to spend that hour-and-a-half concentrating on choreography.

Three things still on his bucket list:
Style Mrs. Obama, cook with Mario Batali and dance with Madonna

His favorite decade thus far:
I’d say my 30’s, because in your 20’s you think you know it all, but you really don’t. I have so much more to accomplish, but I feel like I accomplished a lot in my 30’s in a way that I was really proud of; it was setting the groundwork for everything else.

His biggest vice:

Sugar-free Red Bull and ice cream. How’s that for a combination?

What he’s looking forward to this week:
I’m always excited about New York Fashion Week because it’s supporting friends who have been working so hard on their collections. Plus it’s a gathering of people who I grew up in the industry with. I see them once really intensely for four weeks, and then we all disappear for another six months. I always tell people it’s exactly like camp, except the girls are in high heels.

What he’s not so excited about:
It’s always such a long haul. New York is first, so it’s fun, but by the time I get to Paris, it’s not really that fun anymore. Fashion Week is really Fashion Month-and-a-Half, and I always get sick. But no complaints. I love what I do.

The wardrobe items he can’t live without:
My Adidas shell-toe shoes or high tops and J.Crew jeans. If I could live in them all the time, I would.

The books in his carry-on bag:

I was just on vacation and read The Hunger Games in one day. I’ve been carrying Catching Fire and Mockingjay around because I’m going to finish them both just as quickly as soon as I have time. I know I’m late to the game, but I’m obsessed. 

What he’s totally over right now:
Negativity. Instead of saying something’s not possible, I would rather you try or find an alternative. Tell me what is possible. 

His number one reason for taking care of his body:
It makes me feel stronger and much more energetic. It allows me to do all the things I want to do.

Message he’d send to the world with one request (Only catch: It has to be 140 characters or less):
Have purpose and be the best person that you can be.