I grew up as the oldest of seven kids in a small town in Wisconsin. I have to admit I didn’t grow up as an aspiring fashion designer. Let’s put it this way, if I got a hand-me-down DKNY skirt for Christmas I cherished it like couture. When I decided to move to New York after graduating from University of Wisconsin with a Journalism degree I wasn't looking to join the fashion world- actually, if we’re really being real with each other, I moved to Stamford, CT and commuted an hour to NYC everyday to job hunt. Pedaling my wares to anyone who would listen, I applied for everything from PR agencies to temp jobs in law offices. When a friend of a friend responded to the mass email I had sent offering to send my resume to Conde Nast’s HR department for an open Fashion Assistant role at Vanity Fair Magazine, I remember thinking it was just another resume of the fifty I had sent out that week. At that point I had no way of knowing that job would set me on a path that would shape my career.
Naïve to what I know now (and I think we all do, thanks to the likes of The Devil Wears Prada, etc.) I didn’t realize that I was going to be expected to dress the part. I was pretty much oblivious to the designer heels and front-row ready looks donning the hallways of Conde Nast, which ironically ended up being what got me hired. I met the Fashion Director wearing a NY Yankees t-shirt tucked into a new polka dot silk Banana Republic skirt (which I had splurged on for the interview…knowing that I needed to be well dressed…and that was well dressed where I was from.) I added a Nine West red patent heel for good measure (square toe…ekk! Don’t judge, mark my words, it will be back). I can’t tell you if the face my soon-to-be boss made was one of genuine surprise or confusion, but I found myself starting as VF’s newest Fashion Assistant one week later. IT Turns out after meeting so many people who only wanted the job for the business card and to bE sent on photo shoots, I was someone who came knowing nothing and could be taught from the ground up (literally, nothing. I pronounced Miu Miu – meeeeow meeeeow).
I succeeded because I was willing to work hard for no credit. I called my job “shipping and receiving” because I spent my days in a windowless room with a troupe of interns cataloging all the designer clothes, shoes and jewelry the editors were borrowing from every high-end designer under the sun for upcoming celebrity photo shoots. My job was to make sure that everything that came into the closet (which I much preferred to call my “office”) was accounted for, sent to the right shoot and ultimately returned in better condition than it was received in. I’m talking about gowns worth thousands of dollars, more diamonds than one girl could imagine and hundreds of pairs of Louboutins. I learned a lot in those years about design, the struggle of designers trying to make a living through their art and about creating a look and a persona for you. While nothing in that room was in my financial reach, what did happen to me was this incredible source of inspiration. Inspiration to create, experiment and allow your look to tell the world who you are. I still think there is hilarious chatter about the girl who wore large vintage fur hats with oversized soccer jerseys (What? You’ve never heard of the Russian Sporty trend???) and made skirts out of dust bags left behind from large Hermes overnight bags sent for photo shoots. (I honestly, can’t believe that no one thought of it before me…just cut the bottom off a dust bag!…I mean, the side ties are built in skirt cinchers).
Working in this environment made things that never seemed important or necessary before suddenly coveted- but I quickly realized that the world I was working in and the financial reality that I lived in were two very different places. This forced me to get creative and opened my eyes to the true secret of being stylish- don’t keep up with the Jones, you’ll never win. There will always be someone with more money, time, and resources than you. Instead, be different, be interesting and live life expressing your personality through everything you do. Have an unapologetic style point-of-view. It’s much more interesting to be liked and respected for your ideas, personality, humor and style than it is your money. This insight set the stage for a side of my personality that had always been there but I had never previously been in touch with as I embraced my high/low approach to styling. I found people asking, “is that a Prada vest” and I would respond proudly, “no, actually it’s a vintage jacket that I cut the sleeves off with a garden shears”!
My philosophy is, and has always been, if I can do it you can too. I’m not a tried and true designer, nor am I a master cook or a trained interior decorator- but I’ve been on the inside for a long time now taking notes on the lifestyles of some of the world’s most stylish people and finding a way to interpret these ideas as a magazine editor and Fashion Director for a major fashion brand and now as ELLE Magazine's Style Correspondent. I’m passionate about experimenting and constantly challenging myself to flip an idea on it’s head, make the ordinary more cool and empower other women to try it too. It’s very anti-fashion mentality to style and tell (especially when you cut corners to get there) but that is my entire goal…to cut every corner, seek out great ideas to look great, cook great, decorate (and some aspirational ones that are just fun to be in the know about)…and share them with you. All A-D-D style ideas that help you live your most stylish life. I’ve found a happy balance living in NYC but staying true to my roots and I’m hoping that The Style Scout gives you inspiration and ideas to discover your own personal style at its best too.
(To view my brand consulting work & on-air reel click here)