For the majority of aspiring fashion editors, scoring a position at Vogue — along with the possibility of sharing an uncomfortably silent elevator ride with Anna Wintour — is a lifelong dream. For a select few talented and/or lucky individuals, that fantasy becomes a reality.
But what happens when your career at the esteemed style glossy no longer feels so... glossy? Where does one go when she exits the Condé Nast offices at One World Trade for the very last time? Yes, there is life after Vogue — and lots of former staffers with successful follow-up gigs to prove it.
We've rounded up 10 women who left Vogue and the publishing world behind to start their own fancy business ventures. For a much-needed dose of girl power and entrepreneurial spirit, read up on their careers below.
Cynthia Cook Smith: From Vogue Market Editor to Wedding Stylist
Smith was a market editor at Vogue for nearly a decade before waving goodbye to the Wintour wonderland and setting up shop as a wedding stylist. She attributes her knack for putting together upscale fashion looks to her years of working with the likes of Grace Coddington and Oscar de la Renta, who showed her "firsthand the magical and transformative power a dress can have."
But lest you think that means she's a glorified event planner... not so fast. Smith's actual job involves only what's arguably the most fun part of getting ready for a wedding: choosing the outfits, starting 10 to 12 months before the big day. According to her website, Smith's gig entails "work[ing] with brides to create the perfect head-to-toe looks to complement their personal style and taste for every important wedding moment, from the engagement party to the big day and all the way to the honeymoon."
Meredith Melling and Valerie Boster: From Vogue Senior Market Editor and Bookings Editor to Designers and Consultants
Melling and Boster were longtime Vogue staffers — holding the titles of senior market editor and bookings editor, respectively — before leaving in 2013 to start not one but deux business ventures together: La Marque, a branding and consulting agency, followed by La Ligne, a direct-to-consumer luxury apparel brand specializing in striped clothing (and co-founded by Rag & Bone's former business development lead, Molly Howard — center in the above photo).
Last spring, Melling told Fashionista about quitting the Condé title, saying, "It was hard to leave [...]. I loved my job, it was a great job, and there were a lot of things not just happening in the industry, but in my own personal life [which] brought me to the decision that it was time to move on and do something different — and [Boster] happened to be feeling the same way."
But unsurprisingly, the women's Vogue connections have helped La Ligne reach a big-spending clientele much more quickly than most burgeoning brands. It counts Net-a-Porter as its sole wholesale supplier — plus Lily Aldridge and Leandra Medine have both appeared in campaigns.
Emily Holt: From Vogue Fashion News Editor to Bay Area Boutique Owner
New Yorkers often wonder where they'd move if they ever left the Big Apple. For Holt, who served as Vogue's fashion news editor from December 2010 to June 2014, the answer was easy: Her hometown of San Francisco.
After putting in her notice at the glossy, Holt packed up for the West Coast and began working on her first retail endeavor, Hero Shop — which opened this past summer. The boutique, which carries womenswear, home goods, and accessories by contemporary brands like Veronica Beard, Creatures of the Wind, Adam Lippes and Jennifer Fisher, aims to bring an aspect of fashion that Holt feels is lacking in the Bay Area by "flipping the script" on the hoodies, jeans and leggings-look that's come to represent San Franciscan style.
In short, she'd like to bring a bit of NYC's sartorial sensibility to SF. "I don't know that there is a fashion community out here," Holt told the San Francisco Chronicle shortly before Hero Shop's opening. "I would argue that there are people who work and participate in fashion out here, but there's not a community. That's what I'd like to foster."
Lauren Santo Domingo: From Vogue Market Editor to Runway Retailer
After two stints at Vogue — first as a fashion assistant and associate market editor, and then as a contributing editor — Santo Domingo let her editorial career take a backseat when she co-founded luxury e-tailer Moda Operandi in 2010.
Unlike other luxury fashion sites, Moda allows shoppers to purchase what might typically be considered "runway only" items by requiring a 50 percent down-payment prior to the pieces being put into production. So, by buying through Moda, a woman can secure rare designer pieces that aren't available anywhere else.
And those women are buying lots. According to The Telegraph, the average customer spends $2,000 per transaction — and $7,800 during fashion month. In fact, Santo Domingo told The Observer that Moda "can't get rid of" items priced below $700.
But selling to only the '1 percent' seems to be working: Moda Operandi's revenues reached a staggering $68 million in 2015. Said LSD, "I'm excited for people to learn what a substantial business this is. We're 125 full-time employees, seven in London, it's meaty. People who have been shopping with us since the start, they feel like they are part of the success. We've all grown together."
Sylvana Ward Durrett: From Vogue Director of Special Projects to Kids' Clothes Curator
This past spring, 14-year Vogue veteran Sylvana Ward Durrett left her post as the mag's Director of Special Projects after nearly seven years of organizing high-profile fashion events like the annual Met Gala in order to focus on something a bit smaller. Namely, children's clothing.
Ward Durrett's new endeavor is Maisonette — an online marketplace for kids and babies, reportedly set to launch in February 2017. According to Maisonette's Instagram, the platform will feature an aggregation of "the coolest baby [and] child products from the best boutiques and brands around the world," allowing customers to "shop [its] assortment of clothing, accessories, furniture, decor and gear curated by us so it's easy, beautiful and convenient." Fellow Vogue alum Luisana Mendoza de Roccia is cited as a co-founder.
As Ward Durrett told WWD, "It's à la Farfetch — a similar model where we aggregate kids' boutiques from around the world into one platform." Added the mother of two, "[It's inspired] by my annoyance while shopping for my children, that it doesn’t exist on one platform. You still want curated, differentiated product that is unique and cool and stylish, so I'm just making that easier for moms to find."
Still, Ward Durrett isn't abandoning her glamorous gala gig entirely: She'll still be involved in the Met Gala's planning, now as a consultant.
Jessica Richards: From Vogue Stylist to Brooklyn Beautifier
Jessica Richards's second career as a beauty and skin-care guru was never something she planned. But less than two years after landing a coveted position as a fashion assistant and stylist at Vogue in 2008 (and shortly after having her first child), Richards struck out on her own to fill a void that she noticed in her own Brooklyn neighborhood.
The birth of her beauty boutique, Shen, began with a broken pot of face cream. "It wasn't until [I needed to buy new face cream] that I realized Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill had absolutely no beauty stores so I decided to open one," she explained to Coty.
And so, in 2009, she did just that. Now seven years in, Shen is a beauty destination ripe with curated skin-care and wellness necessities and hard-to-find, cult favorites, with an emphasis on organic and natural products. Services such as facials, stress relief and a brow bar are also offered at the store.
"I think that fashion and beauty are very much the same," says Richards. "People want something special, they want to feel cool — like they have a gem, and then they tell their friends about it. I love hunting for cool brands and supporting the people behind them."
Liz Lange: From Vogue Staff Writer to Maternity Maven
Liz Lange joined the Vogue team as a recent college grad in 1988 — the same year as Anna Wintour. But after four years as a staff writer, she fell in love with the idea of manufacturing fashion herself, and opted to leave her cozy position in order to assist Stephen Di Geronimo — who was, at the time, a young designer working in New York's garment district.
Soon after, several of her friends got pregnant, and Lange found herself a sounding board for all of their complaints about the lack of stylish clothing options for expectant women. Their gripes ultimately inspired her to develop one of the world's first-ever, fashion-forward maternity wear lines — Liz Lange Maternity — which, with the help of a $20K investment from her dad, she officially launched in 1997.
Lange explained the ah-ha moment that led to her post-Vogue success thusly:
"My friends were spending (they had no choice, nothing in their closets fit!) So I knew that pregnant women were definitely spending on their maternity wardrobes, and they were spending on items they didn’t like. And two, that they looked much better when squeezed into a stretch tight non-maternity outfit than in an oversize traditional maternity outfit. So I thought, 'I get it, maternity clothing needs to be fitted and stretchy, and women will buy it because they will like it and they will actually look great.' Believe it or not, stretch fabric was new to the market place in the mid '90s, so my idea was to create a line based entirely on stretch fabrics. Today we take it for granted that everything from our jeans to our jackets stretches, but back then only sweaters and tee shirts stretched."
The brand was an immediate success, and led to Lange opening stores in NYC and LA, forging long-lasting partnerships with Nike, HSN and Target, and dressing A-list moms-to-be like Cindy Crawford, Reese Witherspoon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett and more. In 2012, Liz Lange Maternity and Lange's HSN-exclusive line, Completely Me, were purchased by Cherokee Inc. to the tune of $14 million. Sure, quitting Vogue may be scary — but it can do wonders for your bank account.
Sarah Brown: From Vogue Beauty Director to Creative Consultant
In May 2015, Vogue's Beauty Director, Sarah Brown, surprised the industry when she left the glossy after a decade-and-a-half on the job. Her new project? An eponymous consulting service, focused on "beauty, fashion, lifestyle and beyond."
She explained her decision to leave Vogue to Beauty and Well Being, saying, "This is such an exciting time in the media, fashion, and beauty industries, and I wanted to be part of that change. It felt like the right moment for a new adventure."
Based in New York, Brown's new company, Sarah Brown Advisory, aims to "[advise] companies and individuals on everything from brand positioning to product development, product marketing, launch strategy and communication, collaborations and partnerships, social media optimization and initiatives, competitive analysis, and really anything strategic and creative."
Though let it be said that old habits — and careers — die hard: Brown is still listed as a Vogue contributor, and occasionally publishes posts to Vogue.com.
Kate Young: From Vogue Market Editor to Superstar Stylist
You probably think of Kate Young as being The Most Powerful Stylist in Hollywood, as she's now been declared for two consecutive years by The Hollywood Reporter. But before Young was dressing the likes of Sienna Miller, Selena Gomez, Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman, she served in Vogue's Public Relations department — eventually becoming a writer, a fashion market editor and at one time, Anna Wintour's assistant.
Young gained styling experience by assisting on photo shoots under Tonne Goodman — and forged relationships with brands during her time as a PR — and eventually became a freelancer before having her second son and deciding to focus solely on celebrity styling.
She told Into the Gloss, "I thought OK, if I'm going to work, I'm going to get the absolute most results for the effort I put in, and I feel like celebrities are where I have the most talent and I get the most recognition. At the time I started dressing celebrities, I got those shoots because nobody wanted to do them. Nobody wanted to dress celebrities! I felt like people thought I was a bit less of a fashion editor —and they still do. But it’s true! I’m not a real fashion editor, I'm a celebrity stylist. But to say someone is a celebrity stylist became less of a diss once Rachel Zoe happened."
Clearly, Young's leap of faith paid off — and these days, her name's more likely to be printed in the pages of Vogue than on the masthead.
Vera Wang: From Vogue Senior Fashion Editor to... Vera Wang
Surprise! Vera Wang — one of the most respected and beloved designers the world over — actually began her career at Vogue. Beginning just after college graduation, Wang served as Senior Fashion Editor for around 15 years (under Editor-in-Chief Grace Mirabella) before leaving the style bible in 1987 to join the design team at Ralph Lauren.
It wasn't until 1990 and Wang turned 40 that she decided to start her own line of wedding wear — a career move that changed the course of her entire life. Soon, she became the go-to source for celebrity bridal gowns and red-carpet dressing, outfitting everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oprah Winfrey and Chelsea Clinton. Lower-priced lines at Kohl's and David's Bridal followed, along with a line of housewares and engagement rings.
Today, Wang is ranked 34th on Forbes's list of America's richest self-made women, with a net worth of $420 million.
Said Wang in 2013, as she accepted a lifetime achievement honor from the CFDA, "The ongoing, unmitigating truth is I would have done anything to be in fashion. I would have swept floors, which I did at Vogue, swept up hair from a model's haircut, pack up clothes, stay on a Friday night after the store closed to get it ready for the next day, which I did at Ralph (Lauren). Still, I always felt privileged to have this job. How lucky am I to have gotten here?"
Homepage photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images