Believe it or not, Fashionista turns five years old this month. Which is, you know, pretty old in blog years. To celebrate our big bday, we’ve asked all of Fashionista’s former editors (in chronological order that’s Faran Krentcil, Natalie Hormilla, Abby Gardner, Britt Aboutaleb, and Lauren Sherman) to reflect back on their time at Fashionista from the highs (seeing a Chanel show) to the lows (being chewed out by Arianne Phillips for leaking her fashion week plans and costing her a client).
To Begin With: Everything.
Some people think I started Fashionista from my bedroom with a pinch of magic, an overdose of ambition, and some Skittles. That’s not really what happened. Not even close.
I was 25, and tearfully leaving my post as staff writer at The Daily. I’d gotten a cult following thanks to my zany fashion stories there, and also a blog called The Imaginary Socialite, and somehow because of that, I was asked to lunch by Elizabeth Spiers. Now she’s the editor in chief of The New York Observer, but in the beginning, she was our editorial director. She ate a steak, I ordered a creme brulee and a glass of milk, and she asked why there wasn’t a truly great fashion website. Between slurps of sugar, I replied lazily, “Because I don’t run one yet.”
Be careful what you wish for. A week later, I moved into Breaking Media’s HQ. Back then, it was a one-room studio in NoLita with a huge TV permanently tuned to CNBC, and a vintage Nintendo with Dr. Mario. (Best. Game. Ever.) Elizabeth took care of the design and the back end, I created a logo and an editorial lineup, and on January 21, 2007, our publisher David Minkin pressed “go.”
I still remember the stories we ran on Day One: A street style shot of an adorable art student with a silver Marc Jacobs satchel (I’d taken it while walking home from yoga that weekend), a party primer called “A Guide to Recognizing Your Socialites,” an interview with Rachel Roy, the DIY recipe for Chanel black satin nail polish (which was sold out everywhere at the time), and a feature called “Deal or No Deal” where Tinsley Mortimer, Lydia Hearst, and Mickey Boardman advised whether to buy a pair of Miu Miu shoes on Bluefly. That afternoon, Gawker dared us to explain why so many “cool” girls wore white Converse. I phoned Jane Keltner at Teen Vogue and Dani Stahl at NYLON and posted a piece called “Explain: White Converse” (groundbreaking, right?) thirty minutes later. I think we had 100,000 visitors on the first day.
When we launched, the idea of a stand-alone fashion news blog was shocking. I was prepared to cover Fashion Week really “creatively”–ie: with no actual tickets. But the industry was–for the most part–incredibly welcoming. One morning, David came into the office and I was alone, crying. He asked what was wrong, and I coughed up snot and YSL mascara, and said, “Nothing, it’s just–I got a Marc Jacobs ticket!” This was pre-Twitter; literally, I was writing copy on my Sidekick and texting it back to the office so Fashion Week news could go up in real time. We broke a lot of stories that way–like Sonic Youth playing at Marc’s show, and Meghan Collison booking the Prada campaign. I took camera-phone pictures of Agyness Deyn on her bike.
Then Sarah Jessica Parker announced she’d design a clothing line for Steve & Barry’s. All the images were top secret, so naturally, I had to find them. A “big sister” of mine was the fashion editor of a major magazine, and she slipped me SJP’s look book at a party. We posted those photos online a month before Vogue’s “exclusive.” Within an hour, AOL and Yahoo were linking the story on their home pages. Within two hours, Steve & Barry’s president was screaming at us on the phone. I was really happy about that.
“Adventures in Copyright” came a little later. My friends and I loved going to Forever 21 – believe it or not, the Sunday Styles did a piece praising its accessories–but I started noticing their stuff was cute for a reason–because it was a direct copy Diane von Furstenberg’s! I started posting comparison photos on the blog. Pretty soon, The Wall Street Journal named our site as a catalyst for Anna Sui’s lawsuit against Forever 21. Backstage at her show that year, she actually thanked me. (Cue the crying from happiness and ruining expensive mascara, part two.) If you look at fast fashion now, it’s harder to find things that are direct copies of designer pieces. I hope we had something to do with that. (Although hello, Jeffrey Campbell–are you serious?!)
I did a lot of things wrong. I was learning Photoshop literally on the job, and for a while, the site looked like a Burn Book from someone’s sophomore year. That personal touch could be charming, and handwritten notes became a real hallmark of the site in its early stages. But often, it was just messy. And we reported some things we shouldn’t have, even if they were true. I’m not proud we announced Mr. McQueen was occupying Kate Moss’ former rehab suite. I still quake remembering when Arianne Phillips chewed me out for announcing her fashion week plans – and apparently costing her client a WWD story in the process. And it was cruel of me to post skeletal photos of Lily Donaldson and Kim Noorda to spur a model health discussion. These women were my age, in my industry, and I wish I’d been more positive and less barbed with my words.
On the other side of things, I had a stable of incredible interns and assistants like Natalie Hormilla, Natalie Matthews, Sabrina Bacon, Allie Merriam, and Britt Aboutaleb, who grew into amazing young women while meeting Karl Lagerfeld in Gramercy Park, trying on Prada’s plastic bathing suits, and photographing Georgia Jagger in her favorite jeans. (All actual assignments from back in the day.) Natalie is now a writer for Lucky; Sabrina works as a stylist; Allie is at Pop Sugar, and Britt’s at ELLE. (I’m sure you read her stuff as voraciously as I do!)
Working with such bright, talented young women was one of the best parts of “Old School Fashionista.” The other part was the honest, thoughtful, and often funny discussions sparked by the readers. They were constant and undeniable proof that the fashion world has a community of smart, cool young women with a million opinions and just as many creative ideas. The readers were everything.
I left Fashionista exactly a year after I’d started, and I wept like it was the last day of summer camp. But as Henry David Thoreau said, “I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away.” Mine was that of a longtime mentor, Marvin Scott Jarrett; four years later, I’m still in his neon pink stable of NYLON girls. (It was my favorite magazine in high school, so the job is a bit of a dream.) But building Fashionista was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences ever, and seeing the long line of incredible women who have contributed their visions and brains to the site makes me feel like maybe, I’ve helped grow something right in the world.
(Oh yeah, I also got to interview Kate Moss. That was really awesome.)