A penny purse from the To Tommy, From Zooey collection. The collection draws on Hilfiger’s classic red, white and blue palette and Deschanel’s love for vintage design.

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Zooey Deschanel collaborated with designer Tommy Hilfiger to create a collection of flirty frocks.

MATT SAYLES •Associated Press,

Zooey Deschanel teams with Tommy Hilfiger for new fashion line

  • Article by: Booth Moore
  • Los Angeles Times
  • May 28, 2014 - 2:13 PM

She’s the star of television’s “New Girl” series, She & Him singer and creative director. Now, Zooey Deschanel has added fashion designer to her list of talents, with a recent collection of dresses for Tommy Hilfiger that hit Hilfiger and Macy’s stores last month.

Deschanel’s distinctive quirky-preppy-feminine style — on-screen, on red carpets and in real life — is what attracted Hilfiger to her.

“It’s unusual and spirited. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is nice,” he said. “We love red, white and blue; she does, too. We love the vintage look; she does, too. It was a marriage made in heaven.”

The 34-year-old actress-musician is a down-to-earth California girl, the daughter of cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel and actress Mary Jo Deschanel. She made her film debut in 1999 in “Mumford,” and starred alongside Will Ferrell in 2003’s “Elf.”

In 2007, she and singer-songwriter M. Ward released their first album as indie rock duo She & Him. And since 2011, she’s been the lead character on the Fox comedy “New Girl.”

Deschanel has also been in the spotlight recently for being featured on a single by Prince titled “Fallin­love­2nite.” (Prince also guest-starred in a “New Girl” episode this season.)

Over the years, Deschanel has developed her unmistakable personal style signatures — a warm chestnut hair color with a fringed curtain of bangs; make-you-smile nail art; red lips (Chanel Rebelle, although now that it’s been discontinued, she’s on the hunt for a new shade); retro-feminine frocks with a nod to 1960s and ’70s icons Audrey Hepburn, Catherine Deneuve and Mary Tyler Moore.

On the red carpet, where Deschanel favors ladylike looks by Oscar de la Renta and others, it’s refreshing that she never seems to be trying too hard — or letting it all hang out.

“When you first start out, a lot of people are telling you what you should and shouldn’t do,” she said. “It took a little bit of time for me to speak out and say, ‘I kinda want to wear what I like.’ It’s freeing to be able to express yourself that way.”

Deschanel’s “New Girl” costumes have spawned style blogs devoted to cataloging her colorful Kate Spade dresses and cheerful parrot-print pajamas.

But despite all of her glittering Hollywood success, Deschanel has always been a down-to-earth DIY-er at heart. Her mom taught her to sew at an early age, after catching her trying to wrap thread around a straight pin.

Her relationship with fashion started with shopping for fabrics at F&S and Michaels stores and sewing her own clothes. Then it progressed to a love of vintage.

“I have a huge vintage clothing collection,” said Deschanel, who lists Shareen and American Rag Cie among her favorite L.A. sources. “But I’ve also had the privilege of touring and shopping in so many cities. Last summer when I was on tour, I had to ship two giant boxes home. I went to Goodwill, Salvation Army, any thrift store in any town we were in.”

Mod plus nautical equals...

Part of the appeal of collaborating with Hilfiger was getting to adapt details from her vintage favorites to today. She has her own term to describe the To Tommy, From Zooey collection: “modical,” as in a marriage of ’60s mod and Hilfiger heritage red, white and blue nautical.

“Most ’60s shift dresses are really boxy, but ours are more A-line and flattering. They are designed for women, not just coat hangers,” she says. “And modern fabrics are soooo much better and more comfortable.”

The collection — which includes 16 dresses, two purses and jewelry and is priced from $35 to $199 — has a retro feel, with lots of special collar, pocket and button details. A white bouclé sleeveless shift has a red sideways patch pocket and a row of red dome buttons down one side, for example, and a navy-and-white color-block jersey dress has a hidden side pocket, with red lining peeking out.

“I made a dress with box pleats that had a hidden pleat detail like this when I was a kid,” Deschanel said. “It was my crowning achievement.”

A positive style

The Season 3 finale of “New Girl,” which aired this month, featured Deschanel wearing three dresses from the new Hilfiger collection.

“It happens to take place on a cruise ship, so it was perfect,” she said.

As sweet and easygoing as she comes across, there is a serious side to Deschanel, which prompted her to launch the lifestyle website Hello Giggles in 2011 with producer Sophia Rossi and writer Molly McAleer. With recent articles about the ins and outs of swearing, religion in the age of the Internet and American Apparel’s controversial miniskirt ad that shows a woman bent over and exposing her panty-clad crotch, the site is designed to be an empowering place “where young women can go and feel safe and supported,” she said.

In other words, positive thinking, not Kimye gossip.

“I certainly can think in a snarky way; I’m capable of snark,” Deschanel said. “But I have the discipline to not engage in it because I see that it’s destructive. I’ve realized that if you try really hard, you can spin anything in a positive way. It just takes creative thinking.”

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