Two months ago, Derek Blasberg released his first book, Classy: Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady which means he’s a) embarked on a whirlwind book tour hosted by starlets across the country b) enjoyed even more attention than usual and c) gone from a successful freelance fashion writer to a New York Times bestselling author.
But what, exactly, does he do all day? How does he balance the work with the travel with the parties with the self-promotion with the fashion weeks with the friends? Does he read the stuff that’s written about him—from Eric Wilson to Gawker? Does he care what people think about him? Is it fashion or writing that’s his first love?
We wanted to know. So we took him to breakfast and asked all of our questions, some of which he liked, some of which he hated, but all of which he answered. In conclusion, we got the idea that he’d like to be taken more seriously, without taking himself too seriously.
Before I turned on the recorder he asked me where exactly I came from and how I ended up at Fashionista, which led to a discussion of the internet, blogging and the mixed up world in which journalism lives right now.
So do you think you’re not a real journalist if your writing’s only published online?
Oh no! I think you are. I’ve always thought that, but I’m curious about when in the past decade—between when I started college in 2000 and the kids starting college now in 2010—did that change? Or maybe that hasn’t changed? Do people say the same things?
I think so.
There’s a stigma attached to online journalism?
I don’t know if it’s a stigma, but there’s definitely a differentiation. We may be the last generation to really feel like print equals validation.
But even with all of these stories coming out now, the Times, the WSJ heralding bloggers…
It’s definitely changing. I don’t know, what do you think is the answer?
I don’t know! Because I’m not in school anymore I just don’t know. Who was I with last night who was talking about how they used to fax their homework in?
When I worked in house PR just four years ago editors had to fax in their ticket requests.
I miss fax machines. Don’t you think they were so amazing? Fax machines I mean—Karl still faxes. We have a fax machine at V and that’s how we communicate. Stephen Gan’s like Karl’s partner in crime and he’ll fax notes, like “Dear Stephen, thank you so much for coming to St. Tropez.” And he’s also really smart, and really funny and you get all those nuances of one’s handwriting. You can underline things like, “I’m really sorry I was late to breakfast!”
At this point, we order breakfast which somehow transitions into my not eating pork because my dad’s Muslim which turns the conversation toward the Middle East.
When I was a kid I used to do all of my reports on Egypt. I think it was all of the gold, and the eyeliner. I used to dress up as a Pharoah for Halloween.
Did you wear eyeliner when it wasn’t Halloween?
No. I’ve never had a tranny phase. Or a pharaoh phase!
Hah. So. Tell me what you do all day.
Well, I work all day.
That question sort of frustrates me, Britt. That frustrates me because all of the interviews I do they’re like so where do you shop? What do your girlfriends order for lunch? And I think that maybe people think that because I go out so much at night I just lounge around all day.
I’m not asking that! You write for so many publications, and sites, and travel so much and you do go out a lot—so how do you make it all work in one day?
Well I never go into Style.com. I normally go into V, if I’m in New York. Although if I have a really big deadline or a really big piece to work on I’ll probably work form home just because there are so many people in the office, no distractions. But I travel a lot, too. I’m supposed to be in Moscow today, but that ash-hole, that volcanic ash-hole…
Hah! So you go into V…
Yeah I go into V. I try to do a Blasblog three or four times a week.
Do they ask you what to write?
Sometimes they’ll send me an email if there’s something they really want me to go to. But I usually get the same invites and I know what’ll be fun or who’ll be where….she looks so familiar [the waitress]. Did I go to college with her? Do you have any friends from college?
Because I don’t have a single one. I mean I had friends that I had in college, but not like from college, actually. I obviously have really good friends that I met while I was in college. It’s just weird because I have friends who went to like a proper college campus and it’s so different.
Are you on Facebook?
I’m not on Facebook. I’ve spent years and years building walls between myself and the people I went to high school with and now at the click of a button they can be like “Found you! Found you!”
But don’t they find you on Twitter?
I guess, but I don’t really—I’m sort of a selfish Twitterer in that I give and I give and I never take. Like I don’t ever read anyone else’s tweets. It also doesn’t work on my phone, like I have Twitter beta or something…so it’s like I have to log on and scroll and it’s a very unsophisticated system with which to twit.
How’d you feel about Eric Wilson’s piece on you?
Um. I think whenever you read—I mean, as a writer, if you read a piece about yourself there are always things you’d change. I mean if someone wrote something about Fashionista you’d feel the same way, but also I think, I mean I read it, I picked it apart—I feel like it’s weird to acknowledge a piece that’s been written about myself.
Because my first thought was, “How does Derek feel?”
I think whenever anything’s written about you and you read it over and over and then, because I’m that kind of person, you pull it apart and it’s like, “Oh, are you making fun of me?” By nature I’m, I mean, at the end of the day it’s just flattering to be a subject in The New York Times. It’s weird to read about oneself and wonder, “Oh is he really saying that?” Like when he says, “He likes to go out and party and travel,” I wonder is he saying that’s all I love? You start to pull it apart and, I mean, everyone said it was nice and the way people think of me is all I care about so that was really amazing.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
That I don’t work!
Do people really think that though? Because I see your byline everywhere.
But you probably—you’re someone in the industry. I think that some people think that I don’t work, that I go out too much, there was one that always used to bother me. I think whenever it comes to work or my career and whenever that’s impugned or someone questions my morals or work ethics I get irritated because I think the reason that I have a New York Times bestselling book right now is, well it comes from hard work so whenever my integrity’s questioned, whether work related or on a personal level it kills me.
Do you think of yourself as being famous?
No! What an awkward, awful question, you can’t even answer that question without sounding like a dickhead. No, of course not.
People don’t approach you?
No! I mean maybe a few people who are like, “Oh I follow you on Twitter.”
See that’s what I mean! You have legions of Twitter followers.
I have less than 10,000 people following me on Twitter, but I like to think it’s quality not quantity.
That is a lot of people.
It’s not Demi & Ashton, boo!
Will you ever write a novel?
Yeah I’ve tried to write a novel a bunch of times. About a young guy from Missouri that moves to the big city with big dreams.
How long until you write a memoir?
I don’t think I’ll do that. For one, I don’t remember shit. And if I do write a novel it’s not going to be some thinly veiled account of my life. I always thought that seemed so easy, just change your name and keep a diary.
Do you keep a diary?
I don’t have time! No time for a diary, no time to blog.
You have Blasblog! Has anything changed at Style.com since you became Editor-at-Large?
Kind of. I want to, I mean not really. I love Style.com, but I think Style.com is like the best—with all due respect to Fashionista—when I was in high school I was like I’m going to work for Style.com. I’m going to march in there and meet Candy and I’m going to tell them they have to do men’s reviews and I’ll go to Paris and Milan and write them, which never happened because they launched Men.Style.com before I graduated…and now it’s no longer! So I sort of fulfilled that dream!
So how did Classy happen?
Well I’d worked with the Olsens on their book, Influence, and that’s how I got hooked up with Penguin. They really wanted me to do some sort of guide or something and I did worry about maybe selling out, but it turned out to be perfect.
I’ll be honest, there was a hesitation to do such a commercial project. This book is aimed at, I mean for someone who does V and Interview it is a little less avant-garde.
But it’s done in a sassy way.
Sassy? That’s the sequel!
How’d you get Byrdie and Lyle involved?
They were, I think, it took some convincing and hand holding. You know, when I first moved to New York, my parents were really nervous for me, but I really lucked out. I’ve got friends who are willing to make fools of themselves in a New York Times Bestseller!!!
You should start commenting back on blogs, anytime they say something bad about you—
Well I’m a New York Times bestselling author and I’d just like to chime in here and say, “Everyone get a job!”
A friend of mine pointed out that I always get annoyed when people call me an ‘It-boy’ or a ‘male socialite.’
An it-boy?? I’m horrified by that term. Moments pass and boys get old!
You’re always everywhere—
I don’t mind ubiquitous! Because it’s an SAT word! But I hate, I hate, ‘it-boy.’ I mean I’ve been called worse, let’s be honest, but I feel like it insults the hard work I’ve done for the past ten years. I guess I don’t really care that much, but now I can be Derek Blasberg, New York Times bestselling author instead of Derek Blasberg, it-boy. Just in case you’re curious how to ID this story.
That’s pretty awesome though. Congrats!
I’m still waiting for someone to be like, “Wait, we miscounted.”
I think they’re pretty accurate over there. So we had a moment a few weeks ago where I said you’d been ‘inexplicably’ included amongst the stylists participating in Theory’s stylist program, and you pointed out that you’ve been doing sittings for years.
In May, or I guess it’s the June issue, I did a big sittings for Bazaar. My first job was actually assisting a stylist when I was a freshman in college and we did a lot of ad jobs and made a lot of money! I don’t know what happened to him. But I’m just giving you a hard time—I do read all of those things! And I thought it was an insult, “inexplicably.”
Well I didn’t know that you’d ever styled anything so when I see your name mixed in with Leslie Fremar, Kate Young and Andrea Liebermann…
I’m teasing, believe me, inexplicably is an adverb I can live with. I love doing sittings, like I love the personality involved if a friend’s getting a portrait done. But believe me, I’m fully aware, I mean Camilla Nickerson’s an icon and her work is amazing. But I do have a problem with the word ‘stylist’ now because everyone uses it and you get a lot of kids who all want to do it so when someone says, “Do you want to be a stylist?” I sort of recoil.
But you do like that side of things, too?
I love the pictures as much as the words. 100%. I like to do it occasionally. If there’s a story I’m writing about a friend I like to make sure the pictures are good at the end of the day. I enjoy that element of it, but do I want to be a consultant for Narciso like Camilla? No. A real creator and stylist is a hardcore full time job with hours of research and references and collaborations, I don’t want to do all that, I just want to put a fancy Balmain dress on… you know?
Are you going to the Met Ball?
I don’t think so, that’s Vogue‘s thing and Vogue and Style.com are very separate right now, which is great because it reaffirms the importance of online media that Condé Nast is just now embracing, that they need to have a stable of sites and not just one site that’s reinforced with a media hub. So everyone’s up in arms about Vogue.com and Style.com, and everyone’s trying to make a story out of it and I should not actually comment on the future of Style.com—I’m not in the mix or in those meetings—but there was something in WWD the other day about someone going to Vogue.com and is this the end of Style and it’s like chill out everyone. Their site is getting bigger and that’s great and our site is the same and I think it’s just Conde Nast—
Being smart about the internet, finally?
You can say that! I can’t. It’s validating to know that these huge brands are suddenly conscious of websites and building them up. I mean Vogue.com used to be one person, of course they’re going to build it up!
Ok, but if you were a girl and you were going to the ball, who would you want to make your dress?
Well it’s an American year, I don’t know…I’d do Ralph. I’m sure he’d put me in like a denim overall ballgown or something, with straps and a petticoat, but Ralph Lauren’s an icon. If I had to do American I’d do him. I wouldn’t do Calvin, because he’s such a minimalist. I wouldn’t do Donna because I don’t look good in jersey. Maybe Marc? You wouldn’t want to do one of the kids like Zac or Jack and Lazaro…
Ralph makes sense. Are you into overalls? I’ve read a few stories lately about how they’re so in, but I don’t think they’re flattering on anyone.
When I was in high school I was desperate for a pair of overalls and I finally got a pair and they do nothing for your figure. As a girl I’d do an apron dress before I’d do overalls, cinch that waist in. There was a picture of Gemma Ward on a cover of French Vogue and I think she’s holding ice cream and a coffee or something and she’s wearing one of Stefano’s apron dresses. I remember thinking when I saw that cover, I’d wear that. I keep all of my French Vogues—and I have every American Vogue from 1983 to the present.
That’s amazing. Any last words?
I think we covered it! Do you like me? Are you going to say nice things?
Yes! You’re really funny. I end up liking everyone after I interview them. Most people in this industry are actually really laid back and nice. I’ve only ever not liked one person, and I didn’t run the interview because I was so disgusted with her.
Who?! Tell me who!