How Joe Zee Recovered From A Disastrous First Interview at WWD and More Lessons From the Vitaminwater Panel at FIT

Long before Elle’s Joe Zee found stratospheric success as a stylist, editor, and yes, reality star, he experienced this horrid reality: As a recent college grad applying to be a fashion editor at WWD, Zee was asked to stage a photo shoot as a test. The results were even more disastrous than any conundrum Bravo or MTV could cook up: first, the location flooded; then, a light fell, exploded, and caught on fire. And his model? A no-show. By the time Zee did damage control and found another model to fit the clothes, the location kicked them out, closing before they’d even shot a single frame. Needless to say, Zee didn’t get that WWD job, and to this day he “can’t even explain the level of devastation” he felt. So how, then, did Zee become such a force in the fashion world?
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Long before Elle’s Joe Zee found stratospheric success as a stylist, editor, and yes, reality star, he experienced this horrid reality: As a recent college grad applying to be a fashion editor at WWD, Zee was asked to stage a photo shoot as a test. The results were even more disastrous than any conundrum Bravo or MTV could cook up: first, the location flooded; then, a light fell, exploded, and caught on fire. And his model? A no-show. By the time Zee did damage control and found another model to fit the clothes, the location kicked them out, closing before they’d even shot a single frame. Needless to say, Zee didn’t get that WWD job, and to this day he “can’t even explain the level of devastation” he felt. So how, then, did Zee become such a force in the fashion world?
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Long before Elle’s Joe Zee found stratospheric success as a stylist, editor, and yes, reality star, he experienced this horrid reality:

As a recent college grad applying to be a fashion editor at WWD, Zee was asked to stage a photo shoot as a test. The results were even more disastrous than any conundrum Bravo or MTV could cook up: first, the location flooded; then, a light fell, exploded, and caught on fire. And his model? A no-show. By the time Zee did damage control and found another model to fit the clothes, the location kicked them out, closing before they’d even shot a single frame.

Needless to say, Zee didn’t get that WWD job, and to this day he “can’t even explain the level of devastation” he felt. So how, then, did Zee become such a force in the fashion world? Today at FIT, Vitamin Water hosted a panel (sort of similar to our “How I’m Making It Panel"! Sign up now!) where Zee, Richard Chai, and Gossip Girl’s costume designer Eric Daman addressed that very question.

First up on the advice roll? Taking advantage of every, every opportunity afforded to you, as the panelists encouraged the audience—many FIT students themselves—to enter Vitaminwater & the CFDA’s contest to submit a portfolio of designs inspired by the Vitamin Water color palette. (With a $5,000 prize, we might just enter ourselves.)

Other themes of the panel were perseverance and hard work. "I can't stress the importance of hard work enough," said Chai, who began Parsons fashion design classes at the ripe age of 13.

Rolling with the punches, so to speak, was another lesson: A week after his WWD audition gone awry, Zee was called into Allure for a job interview. He marched in with confidence--despite his recent devastation--and nailed it.

After the panel wrapped, we caught up with the Zee, Chai, and Daman backstage to chat lighter topics than, well, success. Who, pray tell, does Joe Zee follow on Twitter as avidly as we follow him (@mrjoezee)? Conan O'Brien and The Office's Mindy Kaling are among his favorites. What current trend does Richard Chai wish would go away? Super short skirts (guilty).

And of course, it being Friday, April 29th, we couldn't leave without some royal wedding chatter:

What would the fashion experts change about Kate Middleton's bridal ensemble, if they could?

For Joe Zee, it was an emphatic "nothing!". As for Daman, he'd would've loved to see "a little more opulent of a tiara". We think Blair Waldorf, queen of the blinged out headbands, would have to agree.