The woman in the dress

Ac­tress, mu­si­cian and now de­signer, Zooey Deschanel is hav­ing more than just a mo­ment.

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar - BY char­lotte her­rold

Ask Zooey Deschanel about women in com­edy and it’s prob­a­bly the clos­est you’ll come to see­ing the ac­tress bris­tle. Sit­ting on an ap­pro­pri­ately preppy couch in Tommy Hil­figer’s spa­cious West Hol­ly­wood flag­ship, her turquoise eyes fire brighter when we broach the well-worn stereo­type that women can’t be funny. “There are a lot of silly no­tions from the past that need to be for­got­ten,” says Deschanel. Barely tak­ing a breath, she whips through a list of her funny-girl in­flu­encers: “You can’t say Lu­cille Ball wasn’t funny. You can’t say Mary Tyler Moore and Ca­role Lom­bard weren’t funny. You can’t say Katharine Hep­burn wasn’t funny. The list goes on.”

Were she less hum­ble, Deschanel could have added her own name to the list of fe­male comedic greats. Though she first hit our radar in the early 2000s for her en­dur­ing roles in flicks like Al­most Fa­mous and Elf, her por­trayal of bub­bly, some­times bum­bling, teacher Jes­sica Day in Fox’s run­away­hit sit­com New Girl has so­lid­i­fied her sta­tus as a chick with se­ri­ous com­edy chops.

In real life, she’s just as quirky and af­fa­ble as the on­screen per­sona that has rock­eted her to the top of ev­ery woman’s girl-crush list (those bangs!), but, re­fresh­ingly, she’s much more self-as­sured. The Los Angeles na­tive talks about her cur­rent projects like she’s giv­ing you the weather re­port: non­cha­lantly, with­out a hint of ar­ro­gance, but also with­out the slant of self-dep­re­ca­tion that so many women are tempted to em­ploy as if apol­o­giz­ing for their suc­cesses.

Breezily, she tells me about the movies she’s work­ing on this sum­mer and about the three tele­vi­sion spots her pro­duc­tion com­pany, founded with her pal Sophia Rossi (for­mer pro­ducer of The Hills), sold to Fox and NBC this year. This is all in ad­di­tion to mak­ing mu­sic with She & Him, her in­die out­fit with mu­si­cian M. Ward, for which she sings and plays the piano and ukulele. The duo re­leased their fourth al­bum last year, and Deschanel also re­cently col­lab­o­rated with Prince on his lat­est sin­gle, “FALLINLOVE2NITE.”

On­screen and on the red car­pet, Deschanel has be­come a mod­ern muse, beloved for what col­lab­o­ra­tor Tommy Hil­figer de­scribes as her quirky yet so­phis­ti­cated style.

This spring, the 34-year-old added yet an­other slash to her ac­tress/pro­ducer/mu­si­cian ti­tle: cloth­ing de­signer. Our in­ter­view comes in the mid­dle of a long day of press ap­pear­ances to launch To Tommy From Zooey, her retro-fem­i­nine cap­sule collection for Tommy Hil­figer. But if she’s ex­hausted, she doesn’t show it, greet­ing in­ter­na­tional jour­nal­ists with a warmth that ri­vals the balmy af­ter­noon.

Deschanel tells me how she and Hil­figer met through friends at a party in Los Angeles and im­me­di­ately bonded over a mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion for each other’s work and for clas­sic, all-Amer­i­can style—in­clud­ing a pen­chant for seer­sucker, which Hil­figer would use to de­sign Deschanel’s cus­tom gown for the 2013 Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art Cos­tume In­sti­tute Gala.

But the collection is not Deschanel’s first foray into fash­ion. The red-car­pet dar­ling has been sewing her own clothes since she was in high school. “I re­mem­ber be­ing two years old and cry­ing be­cause I got car­sick and my mom had to change my dress. She had jeans in the trunk and I was cry­ing be­cause I just wanted to wear my dress,” she says with a laugh. “I also in­sisted on wear­ing party dresses to preschool ev­ery day. I was two or three years old—it was just pure in­stinct.”

Does she have a favourite from her Tommy collection? “I love them all!” she en­thuses, sound­ing like Jess Day. But, more im­por­tant, she hopes the women who wear them will love them too. “We want young women to feel great about them­selves and feel beau­ti­ful and con­fi­dent. That has al­ways been re­ally im­por­tant to me,” she says, straight­en­ing the cuff of the navy-and­white chambray num­ber she is wear­ing from the collection.

In fact, a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment was the im­pe­tus for Hel­loGig­, an on­line project she launched with Rossi and 2 Broke Girls writer Molly McAleer in 2011. The hu­mour site, touted as “a pos­i­tive on­line com­mu­nity for women,” has a loyal Twit­ter fol­low­ing and has been lauded for its silly-but-sharp lady-friendly con­tent—cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from beauty trends to bul­ly­ing to pup­pies to pol­i­tics (some­times even sewing projects).

It’s im­por­tant to Deschanel to show that women don’t have to be pi­geon­holed. And the girl hus­tles. Af­ter our in­ter­view (plus sev­eral oth­ers for in­ter­na­tional me­dia) at Tommy Hil­figer, she’s film­ing a seg­ment for Ellen. In the evening, she’ll co-host, with Hil­figer, the of­fi­cial launch party for her collection at the Lon­don West Hol­ly­wood’s swish rooftop. What’s even more re­mark­able is that Deschanel doesn’t rel­e­gate any of her projects: She gives her mu­sic the same se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion as her act­ing ca­reer, and her pro­duc­tion com­pany is just as im­por­tant as her new role as de­signer.

“There’s a ten­dency to com­part­men­tal­ize people’s cre­ativ­ity,” she tells me when I ask if she iden­ti­fies with one of her roles more than the oth­ers. “I think there are many people who can do a lot of dif­fer­ent things. For me, one cre­ative out­let leads to the next. They all in­spire one an­other.” ■

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