Rachel Zoe might be the in-demand celebrity stylist who made famous her own brand of bohemian chic several years ago among such partygoing celebutantes as Nicole Richie, Lindsay Lohan and Mischa Barton. But it was her two warring assistants, Brad Goreski and Taylor Jacobson, who found themselves at the center of the action during the first season of Bravo's buzzed-about reality series "The Rachel Zoe Project."
Goreski, 32, a former Vogue magazine staffer with a penchant for bow ties, became the frequent target of Jacobson's fiery temper, leading to any number of emotional meltdowns that quickly relegated Zoe's eye for wearable haute couture to the background.
By the season finale, during which Goreski committed an Oscars-day boo-boo that sent Zoe's team into a tizzy, Jacobson, 27, gave her boss an ultimatum: "It's Brad or me." Separately, a teary-eyed Goreski also told Zoe he had reached his breaking point.
Jacobson quit for an hour or two -- before apologizing for the flare-up and un-resigning. "You saw it," she said. "I felt bad. I knew he was trying."
It's been a year since that outburst, and over breakfast in West Hollywood, Jacobson and Goreski now appear to be best friends, giggling and blushing as they recalled the good and bad times, which start anew when Season 2 of the series premieres tonight.
They still fight, they say, but they also see movies and visit restaurants together and regularly call each other at 3 a.m. after a particularly ugly work nightmare hits.
Neither wants to leave Zoe's employ any time soon, considering that her growing client roster now includes A-listers Cameron Diaz, Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Garner and that she's working on a product line that will include a wide variety of accessories plus a line of faux fur due out this year.
What happened between seasons to achieve this new spirit of camaraderie? The two say they found a balance that works. "I just do whatever she tells me," Goreski said.
He's only half-kidding. When Jacobson politely asks the waiter for room temperature water, Goreski explained, "If there's only cold water in the studio, it's not pretty." Jacobson smiled but nodded in agreement, pointing out that "the clients like it too."
Jacobson might seem like a newly minted fashion-reality TV star, but the Beverly Hills native has been paying her dues for years.
She assisted with wardrobe for singer Gwen Stefani before moving on to work for other big-name celebrity stylists, including Jessica Paster and Andrea Lieberman.
She said both were demanding bosses who instilled in her a tireless work ethic, perhaps part of the reason she's generally unconcerned with the more overtly glamorous aspects of her job, such as attending parties or schmoozing with the fashion crowd.
Zoe said she often is asked why she tolerates Jacobson's temper. Her reply is always the same: "Taylor's my rock. She's 100% about getting the job done."
When Jacobson first learned of plans for "The Rachel Zoe Project," she said she wasn't keen on the idea -- "I'm an awkward individual," she explained -- but she agreed that the exposure would help bolster Zoe's brand.
Watching herself on TV, however, was a bit of a wake-up call. "I remember thinking, 'Oh, my God. Communication needs to be worked on. Definitely need more patience,' " she said. That idea was reinforced when fans of the show would greet Goreski with hugs but call Jacobson names that, well, aren't suitable for a family newspaper.
"The good thing about Taylor is that she'll make the adjustment," Goreski said. "There are still moments when I have to let her get it out, give her a few minutes. But there's not like that terror anymore."
Added Zoe, "Yes, in a fit of rage, she'll say things, and then five minutes later she'll feel horrible about it. It doesn't come from a bad place."
Goreski, on the other hand, thrives on working the social scene with his boss. He grew up reading Vogue in Port Perry, Canada, and was working as an assistant in the magazine's West Coast offices before joining Zoe's team, a position he e-mailed Zoe about once a month for a year before landing an interview.
His last assignment for the magazine was helping to style then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at her Wasilla home before she made her vice presidential run. (They weren't allowed to get creative with her now-iconic look, he said.)
"Brad reminded me very much of myself when I started, with his enthusiasm and excitement about everything that had to do with the red carpet, the designers, going to fashion shows," Zoe said.
Jacobson said she is more singularly minded: "I love fashion, the art of it, but I don't like the red carpet. There, you have to please the masses, you have to be so conscientious. It's not about the fashion."
There are exceptions, she qualified. In tonight's episode, for example, Diaz dons a stunning, one-of-a-kind pink Karl Lagerfeld gown to rave reviews. "That was a moment."
During tonight's premiere, however, Jacobson seems to be getting impatient all over again. After four years at Zoe's side, she wants to move away from styling clients to working on the upcoming Rachel Zoe product line.
So even if they all better understand one another, life isn't exactly problem-free as the second season gets underway.
"We're like the son and daughter you wish you never had," Goreski said.
"Those two have weeks where they're inseparable and weeks where they want nothing to do with each other," Zoe said. "But I can't work without them."