Taylor Hill struts through a light-flooded photo studio, wearing a patchwork minidress with a ruffle that hits high on the thigh—very Annie Oakley goes to St. Tropez—while Nicky Zimmermann sits, watching approvingly. The Sydney-based designer cops to being a bit jet-lagged as she preps for her New York Fashion Week show, but she’s very much at home on this side of the globe. Though she’s been in business since 1991, when she and her sister Simone founded the brand, Nicky’s designs have recently found favor with starlets on the big and small screen.
Zimmermann doesn’t see herself as a typical Hollywood designer making red carpet fare. But she is, nevertheless, filling a film-industry void: the carefully curated off-duty outfit. In the Old Hollywood studio days, we might see a single, carefully released shot of Elizabeth Taylor on vacation. Now the coffee runs, getaways, and backyard parties of the very (and even semi-) famous are a runway unto themselves.
Issa Rae in Zimmermann
Margot Robbie in Zimmermann
Sienna Miller in Zimmermann
Zimmermann’s designs split the difference between studied and oh-so-casual, with a side of innocent, “Who, me?” sexiness—think ab cutouts on an otherwise Laura Ashley–esque floral dress. Chrissy Teigen throws on one of her trenches for a casual L.A. dinner; Beyoncé comes into the West Hollywood store “all the time, never with a stylist” to buy her own playsuits and floral dresses. (“She comes in with her whole family. I find it unbelievable.”) And then there’s Kate, er, the Duchess of Cambridge. “That was a pretty incredible moment,” the designer says of the royal sporting her broderie anglaise shift in 2014. “We had absolutely no idea it was going to happen. Even my parents were like, ‘Wow.’ ”
When placing her designs in the hierarchy of Hollywood style, it’s useful to think of them as being the fashion equivalent of no-makeup makeup. “To look relaxed and undone and chic is a lot of work,” she says. “These things do not happen easily. It takes a lot of grooming and having amazing products. And the perfect outfit where you can look at total ease.” Consider that half of the equation covered.