Aliza Licht — better known as DKNY PR Girl — has built an entire side career off of dishing out advice for those looking to advance both inside the fashion industry and outside.
The product of that work? "Leave Your Mark," in which Licht expands her 140-character quips into a 288-page guide to getting where you want in your chosen field. It covers everything from handling social media gaffes to negotiating the different personality types you're likely encounter in your career.
But of course, as a fashion PR maven, Licht also has some seriously great advice for developing personal style as part of your own branding — something that can be especially tricky when you're just starting out. We hopped on the phone with her Monday night to ask her how she developed her own signature style and what she's looking for in would-be employees. Despite her imminent book release and the Met Gala, she sounded as cool as a cucumber.
You touch upon this in the book, but why is it important for style to be personal and not just a copy of something you’ve seen somewhere else?
In general, people should wear what they feel most comfortable in, with regards to the image that they want to portray. I think that when you look like you’re wearing a costume, people know you’re uncomfortable in that. Personal style comes from within, first and foremost, but at the same time, I think that it should match the industry you work in and the reputation that you want to have. I think that image is a huge part of reputation. In the book, I used the example of the lawyer; people do make judgements with regard to thinking how style affects credibility and ability.
What was the process like for you in developing your own signature style?
For me, I always just went with what I knew looked good or what looked best — red lipstick, because I look like I’m dead without it. It’s very simple. It wasn’t like ‘Oh! I want to have a red lip!’ It was more like, 'okay, how do I look alive, like I’m actually a human walking on this earth?' Someone would say to me, ‘oh my god you always have that red lipstick on,’ and then you start to think like, ‘oh do I? oh, yeah, I guess I do!’ I think it’s very external, a lot of it, that people sort of decide for you what they see as repetition and then that becomes your signature.
You’ve had so much experience working in the fashion industry, and I think that because it is such a creative industry, sometimes when people come in to interview for internships they don’t quite get it right when it comes to dressing. What do you look for when people come in to interview with you?
It goes back to research, researching the company and understand, as best you can from an outsider’s perspective, what the culture might be like. We are a very visual industry, so if you come in and you’re super buttoned up in like a black suit and a collared shirt and wearing very sensible heels, it doesn’t show your style. It doesn’t make an employer think, ‘wow, this is someone I could totally picture on my team who loves fashion.’ If you’re going on a fashion interview, have fun with fashion and show the employer that you get it.
Certain brands have very distinct visual cues. If you’re showing up in a pink cable knit sweater, I’m gonna say ‘hey! I know someone at Ralph [Lauren], would you like to work there?’ We’re with Ralph in this building, so you always know who works with us and who works with Ralph based on who steps in the elevator. When you go on the interview, you want to think about that and you want to show that you can be part of that culture.
It’s getting warmer, and I feel like that is also very tricky for people. What tips do you have for dressing appropriately for work in the warmer weather?
Be careful with the skin. I think that people start to think about summer and their summer wardrobe, and of course your brain goes to plans out with your friends and the weekends and all the recreational fashion, but I still think you have to be careful with strapless, cleavage, super short-shorts, flip flops — God forbid, I don’t think they should ever be on anyone’s feet in the office! But I think just minding that it is a place of work and you really don’t want what you wear to distract people from what you’re saying. I think that’s really important: Just making sure it’s an asset, not a hindrance.
Want more career tips from Aliza Licht? "Leave Your Mark" is available to buy now.