Designer Wife Rory Tahari Wants to Be Your List Mistress

A decade ago, Rory Heather Green, a driven 26-year-old television producer from Atlanta with a broadcast journalism degree from Boston University, attended the 46th birthday party of Elie Tahari—a fashion designer known for his tailored lady suits, and a noted bachelor—and fell in love. But before she could marry Tahari the person, she had to agree to work for Tahari the brand.

“He said, ‘My business is my life and my life is my business. If it’s not going to be your life, then you won’t be happy.’” said Rory Tahari, now 37, speaking from Spain, where she was celebrating another birthday—that of her friend, documentary filmmaker Beth Murphy—last week. “There couldn’t have been a more honest thing he could have said to me. It was very difficult because I didn’t want to give up my career. My mother was always giving me advice like, ‘Don’t ever give up your career!’ But I was in love and I wanted to get married.”

‘One can argue it’s another brand extension, but to be honest with you, I didn’t write anything about fashion because I didn’t want it to be a brand extension.’—Rory Tahari

The first few years of the marriage she did a lot of sitting by Mr. Tahari’s side and learning the design process. Then she took on the branding and marketing of the company and became its vice chairman and creative director. In the past decade or so, she helped expand the fashion house from its stable of bankable career suits to a complete line of runway-trend–conscious, wearable clothing. Terry Richardson, the hip snapshot photographer, now shoots Tahari campaigns. 

But having helped grow Tahari into one of Bergdorf Goodman’s top five labels, with sales up 10 percent in a dismal year of retail, Ms. Tahari is bringing the focus back to her own brand. This week, she will publish a book titled Lists for Life: The Essential Guide to Getting Organized and Tackling Tough To Dos (Simon Spotlight): a collection of tips about buying a house, getting married and parenting (the couple has two children: Jeremey, 8, and Zoe, 5). And while she declined to reveal details, citing disclosure agreements, this is just the first in a series of listy lifestyle books that we can expect from Ms. Tahari.

“It’s a way of life for me. I’m a compulsive list maker,” she said. “My mother likes to tell the story when I was 12 years old where I listed every single piece of clothing I had in my closet and decided to see how many different combinations of outfits I can make. I think I came up with 112.”

Ms. Tahari created lists each time she went through major life changes, like getting married (Chapter 1, Wedding: 1. Figure out how many people you want to invite. 2. Pick a date. 3. Set a budget) and having children (Chapter 3, Nursery Must-Haves: 1. Air purifier. 2. Alcohol for cleaning belly button. 3. Baby calendar).

“Over the years, it got out that I had these lists!” said Ms. Tahari. “A friend would call me up and say, ‘Do you have a checklist for blah blah blah?’” The checklists most in demand were for pregnancy and parenting, topics which now occupy the third and fourth chapters of the book, after Wedding and Home. (Ms. Tahari covers life’s events chronologically; toward the end, readers will find the chapters Divorce and Death.)


DURING HER CONVERSATION with The Observer, Ms. Tahari received an email; it was from the application department at Apple, reporting that it had approved her travel-packing list iPhone app, a spin-off of her personal packing list (Chapter 5, Travel). Over the next year, she plans to create additional apps. Perhaps a virtual social secretary?

Since their marriage, in 2000, the Taharis have not only inflated their company, but also their calendars. In the past year alone, they have hosted benefit parties for the Annual Winter Antiques Show at their Manhattan store and God’s Love We Deliver (guest list of 500) at their home in Sagaponack, as well as attending Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon’s private Hamptons party celebrating their nuptials. They often invite friends like chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Martha Stewart over for movie nights at the vast Soho triplex they bought from Rupert Murdoch in 2005 (Chapter 2, New Home To-Dos: 1. Run all water, turn on lights. 2. Have a practice fire drill. 3. Place flashlights around the house).

Last October, while the economy was in free fall and retailers needed smelling salts for each agonizing price cut, the Taharis welcomed the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s newest members with a cheerful party at their place on Prince Street. Ms. Stewart lingered in the kitchen, inspecting the catering. Actress Leighton Meester hung out on the bi-level roof outfitted with cream-colored banquettes, bottle service and a DJ station. It was four weeks before the end of the presidential race, and Ms. Tahari thoughtfully encouraged her guests to watch the debate scheduled that same evening in the screening room.

Designer Wife Rory Tahari Wants to Be Your List Mistress