In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.
Stylist extraordinaire and the ultimate self-starter Danielle Nachmani has one of the most varied careers in the the fashion and styling game: Aside from her red carpet, editorial and runway styling gigs, she's managed to carve out a new business category with her creative content company Edtn (pronounced "edition"). And it was all part of the plan from the very beginning.
"I knew what I wanted to do since I was 15 or 16 years old," Nachmani says about her early ambitions to be a stylist. "My high school had a fashion show and I offered to coordinate all the clothing for it."
The future red carpet guru to celebrities including Lake Bell, Adam Driver and Bobby Cannavale boldly seized the moment to kickstart her career during her first internship with her dad's best friend at Island Def Jam records. One fateful day, when A.L.C. designer Andrea Lieberman came in to discuss a Jennifer Lopez video, the then-teenager jumped on her chance.
"I literally went up to [Lieberman] and said, 'I want to work for you for free,' and she was like, 'uh, sure,'" Nachmani says. The industrious high school student interned with Lieberman three days a week (and Island Def Jam the two other days), which then led to another carpe-diem moment. While on vacation with her family before her senior year, she "randomly" met then Vogue fashion editor Karla Martinez and offered herself up for another internship, which led to more permanent roles at the title — and she hadn't even started college yet.
"My parents made me go to college," she says. "I was like, 'I know what I want to do.' They’re like, 'you're going to college, it’s not a discussion.' So I was really focused every summer on putting forth all my effort because this is the end goal, not my credits or what I was graduating with." She started out in Syracuse University's fashion program, but felt it didn't align with her already established view of fashion. So she switched to the prestigious S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, which made sense for her work experience at the affiliated Condé Nast.
Nachmani continued interning in the Vogue closet, first under Martinez and then Virginia Smith. Along the way, she paid her dues, added to her skill set, developed her minimalist cool-girl aesthetic and cultivated relationships that she values to this day. "The senior people at PR houses and the senior editors [I work with] now are all people that I interned with," she says.
But her big break came when she assisted a stylist working with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on a promotional tour. The twins were so impressed with Nachmani's style acumen and dedicated work ethic that they hired her for her first celebrity styling gig. Nachmani then seamlessly transitioned over to the Olsens' business endeavors. "I was just working with them as a stylist and they were developing these brands, so it only made sense for me to kind of be a part of that as well," she explains. Nachmani ended up styling a lookbook and a Vogue Japan editorial for The Row and a campaign for little sister line Elizabeth & James. "It's when they say, 'preparation meets opportunity,'" Nachmani says. "I've been preparing for this for so long. In my mind, at the time, it just made sense."
Realizing how much she enjoyed helping designers communicate their brand message through imagery, Nachmani started styling runway shows for Misha Nonoo, Timo Weiland and Osklen and lookbooks and campaigns for the likes of Suno and Steve Madden. "Because I'm freelance, I'm able to take advantage of anything that I'm really just immersed in at the moment," she says. "But ultimately for me, I really loved working with brands so much that I was itching for another outlet. And that's how Edtn came about."
Nachmani's creative content consultancy Edtn developed just as organically as her continually expanding styling roles. She was working on an online feature for Vogue Australia and was "messing around and shooting" on her iPhone with the photographer in between takes. Her caught-in-the-moment images — including the above candid of a model against a backdrop of colorful breakfast foods filling bodega shelves — perfectly captured the vibe of the feature and ended up in the story, instead of the professionally shot ones. The Vogue Australia success led to a billboard campaign for jewelry designer Jennifer Fisher, then more projects, including lookbooks for Solid & Striped and Ayr.
"I started to see my images reused on random sites for just content and it just seemed evident to me that this was something that I should really be doing," Nachmani explains. "So I emailed all the brands and all the PR companies I worked with and was like, 'this is a service I’m offering.'" Last May, she established Edtn officially as a one-stop-shop content creator service that barely requires any overhead because it's just Nachmani and her iPhone 6.
"A brand will present me with a collection or a product and then I conceptualize, cast, location scout, style and shoot the entire thing," explains Nachmani. "And they get [the images] in 24 hours. That's kind of the clincher." Even more clever, since she's not toting an unwieldy camera setup, Nachmani doesn't have to apply for permits (or pay an exorbitant fee) for her shoot locations. "Nobody can say anything to me because we don't have cameras or lighting," she adds. "And everybody has an iPhone."
For the speedy turnaround, she makes use of natural light and edits the images on her phone as she goes using the VSCO app. Edtn services are also versatile for the needs of each client, whether it be lookbooks, print campaigns or imagery to be disseminated via Instagram. "I'm pretty much re-branding all of Jordache’s social media accounts," Nachmani gives as an example.
She's also working with her agency The Wall Group's digital magazine The Thick on Edtn's first editorial feature, which she affectionately describes as a "family affair." Fashion actually does run in the Nachmani family as her sister, Arielle, is the blogger behind Something Navy. The shoot was also a chance for Nachmani to style and photograph her younger sister in a pared down way that's the "antithesis" to the Something Navy aesthetic.
While Nachmani continuously finds new ways to grow her styling talents and business portfolio, her ultimate goal isn't necessarily to turn herself into a brand or amass millions of Instagram followers. Rather, it's to have a consistent, recognizable body of work. "I really hope that one day, people look at an image and go, 'oh, that's Edtn.' The same way I feel about when I'm styling. I hope that people are like, 'oh, that's Danielle.'"