7 Former Fashionista Staffers Tell Us Why the Site Holds a Special Place in Their Hearts

Join us for one last trip down memory lane for our 10th anniversary.
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Lesson number one: never log off. Photo: Imaxtree

Lesson number one: never log off. Photo: Imaxtree

Break out the bubbly: This January, Fashionista turns 10! We know, we can hardly believe it ourselves. To celebrate the place where so many of us got our start in the industry, we'll be taking a look back on all the things that make Fashionista one of our favorite fashion sites out there (not that we're biased!).

At the risk of sounding boastful, we can't deny that Fashionista is a hotbed of talent when it comes to burgeoning, authoritative voices in fashion and beauty writing. Our former staffers have gone on to accomplish great things at storied media brands (Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie ClaireThe New York Times, InStyle, Vogue, WWD), at younger publications on the rise (The Business of Fashion, Racked) and beyond. While the Fashionista voice and inclusive, often-silly approach to covering the industry can't easily be replicated elsewhere, the lessons you learn from being thrown into the digital content fire here are invaluable — and prepare you to be resilient, creative and quick enough to take on anything a future employer throws at you.

Here, six Fashionista editors past (and one present!) share what makes the site so special to them, and what lessons they learned while working here that they still carry with them to this day. Enjoy!

Chantal Fernandez

"The most important thing I learned from the magical coven of women at Fashionista.com was how to jump headfirst into things I had no idea how to do — whether it be reporting from a red carpet, writing an obituary for someone I've never heard of, going to Russia or manually counting ad pages in all of the September issues. More to the point, the team taught me how to write, review, report, edit, tweet, breathe and slide into DMs. 

On the last day of my first fashion week at the site, something possessed me to have an Instagram photo of Ralph Lauren caressing Kanye West's cheek enlarged to poster size at Duane Reade. I didn't tell anyone I was doing this, and when I walked back into the office with it hoisted over my head and everyone 'got' why it important, I felt deeply understood.

Around that same time, I told the one and only Cheryl that I would, in fact, test and review an at-home bikini wax product. It didn't go well and remains a formative memory of my time at the site. Another thing I will cherish forever is the short-lived but passionate column I started with Eliza called 'Shop It Out!' that was both an inside joke gone too far and, in my opinion, delightful content for frustrated, fashion-loving women everywhere.

Which leads me to my final point: The best thing about Fashionista is all the people I worked with there, prominently including but not limited to: Lauren, Alyssa, Dhani, Eliza, Tyler, Maura, Maria, Nina, Fawnia, Karina, Chloe and our infamous neighbor we like to call the Barefoot Contessa. They all changed my life for the better and helped me become, as DVF would say, the woman I want to be."

Chantal Fernandez is a senior editorial associate at Business of Fashion.

Cheryl Wischhover

"I've already told the story of my weird career change (here), but it's worth repeating that I would not have the career I do without Fashionista. I loved working there because we were always encouraged to say what we really think. That's rare for a lot of fashion sites. Mostly, though, Fashionista taught me how to find a story, to be creative and look beyond the obvious while doing it. One of my favorite examples is this story on a Japanese hair diffuser, which I wrote after a particularly boring season backstage at NYFW. 

When I first started at Fashionista as an intern in 2010, Britt and Lauren used to have me scan editorials straight from magazines to post on the site. It was by far my least favorite task, but I was exposed to a lot of indie magazines that I previously didn't know existed, so it was a good education in models and photographers. (Now, all models look the same to me. Thank god for Alyssa, who I could always text a sneaky backstage image to for an ID.) 

I've written so many stories I'm really proud of (like this and this), but the most memorable, for being particularly cringey, was a post entitled "The Best Celebrity Nip Slips." Dhani and I were alone one afternoon, and decided to post this gem, which became one of our most-read stories for many months. Hey, this was before clickbait was a bad thing, OK?!"

Cheryl Wischhover is a senior beauty reporter at Racked.

David Minkin

"It's hard to believe that Fashionista is 10 years old. As publisher, my entire goal was to sell advertising (fact: our first sizable ad deal was with Max Factor). Something most readers probably don't realize is that Fashionista was almost not the name — there was a real split among the founders whether it was too generic and whether the domain would even be affordable.

So, here are some of the other candidates:
—victimsoffashion.com
—hemlines.com
—savekate.com (one founder, a big Kate Moss devotee, was really pushing hard for this)
—and the runner-up to Fashionista: sizezero.com (ugh, terrible)

In hindsight it's so obvious that Fashionista had to be the name, especially from among this list. And we ended up negotiating the purchase of the domain for far less than what we ever would have expected. It was all meant to be, and I'm proud to be a part of Fashionista history."

David Minkin is the GM, revenue operations at Dow Jones.

Eliza Brooke

"For me, it all comes down to models. Following their careers across high fashion and commercial work, through agency switches and dramatic haircuts, is a pretty niche interest, but it's one of mine. As a teen, I spent hours clicking through Style.com runway slideshows, inadvertently learning the names of every working model in the mid '00s; I soon turned to YouTube, intentionally, to devour FashionTV's interviews with these young women. You won't find a lot of people eager to dissect the modeling industry with you, though, unless you hit up TheFashionSpot's online forums or, as I discovered in January 2014, visit the offices of Fashionista.

There, the seasonal arrival of show packages — shiny comp cards of the models each agency is sending to fashion week castings — were cause for celebration and analysis. When New York Fashion Week began, we'd track which new faces were about to hit the big-time and which runway veterans were changing up their pace. We didn't cover the modeling business with half the intensity with which we discussed it in the office, because that would have been truly excessive.

I bring up modeling, of all things, for a few reasons. First, in a media landscape where so many publications seek to divert traffic to their sites by writing about every semi-relevant news moment, Fashionista is single-minded in its focus on fashion, and it goes deep. Its editors are experts, even when their knowledge — of, say, Molly Bair's early editorial work — won't directly serve a story any time soon.

Second, people in New York spend a lot of time — probably too much — at work. There's a lot of joy in surrounding yourself daily with people who speak your language and share your curiosities, however specialized, however strange."

Eliza Brooke is a senior reporter at Racked.

Faran Krentcil

"It's hard for girls to admit they're doing something great. 'Bragging' and 'bossy' are too close to 'bitch,' and none of those words make life easy. But I'll break with convention and say that creating Fashionista was great, and we were great for making it, because it sparked a conversation and a community that are still thriving today. That couldn't have happened if it weren't for some brave and slightly bat-shit kids, especially — gasp — me.

But not just me — not even close. From day one, Fashionista fueled a tribe of readers who lived our Truth: that young women could, and did, love fashion because it shaped identities, dreams and careers. But sometimes, it also broke our spirits, especially when we felt we'd been excluded in favor of punishing standards and mostly male, mostly white, mostly rich viewpoints. We wanted more than just great jeans — we wanted a say in the conversation, too. Because of the amazing readers and the brilliant writers, Fashionista was a place where hard work and innovation mattered more than seniority or protocol.

Fashionista was also — and we all know this — a place that went a little bit bonkers in the early years. I wrote handwritten notes because I didn't know how to make a real web page; I leaked confidential contracts and embargoed images because I fully (and sometimes wrongly) believed truth was power, and that was that. Sarah Jessica Parker's publicist threatened to sue when we ran shots of her first clothing campaign — an honor supposed to be reserved for Vogue. Bravo TV had a meltdown when we outed the Project Runway finalists weeks before they were supposed to be 'picked.' And Jezebel called me 'a rabbit with curls,' which is, to this day, my secret motto.

People still ask me why — after building a site that mattered so much to so many, and getting paid to do it — I left Fashionista to be someone else's employee. The truth is, there were things I couldn't learn as 'The Boss,' and skills I couldn't develop as a 24/7 content machine.

But there's another truth, and it's a more important one: Fashionista wasn't "mine." It is yours. It is ours. It is a place that knows beyond the runways and the campaigns and the parties, fashion is about one girl and one garment, seaming together to become the best version of her vision. It is a place that matters because editors and readers alike are brave enough to admit that we matter. If that's the only thing we ever learn from this site, then you know what? We're doing something great." 

Faran Krentcil is a contributing editor at Yahoo and Elle.com, as well as a writer and digital strategist.

Fawnia Soo Hoo

"I've contributed to Fashionista for most of writing career and I'm venturing into 'Van Wilder' territory in terms of sticking around. Because, honestly, being part of this is probably my favorite thing about #freelancelife. 

I've always looked to Fashionista for that sharp, unique, insightful and laugh-out-loud clever take on fashion (and beyond). My first editor at Fashionista was Leah, who instilled in me the fundamental rule: "It's just a party report unless you get an original interview." In other words, get that celeb/designer quote... no matter what. That experience gave me the confidence — or lack of shame, rather — to hover around a celebrity during cocktail hour or push my way through the aggressive paparazzi photogs to reach the front row at Fashion Week. Once, before a Narciso Rodriguez show, Leah just casually mentioned, "Oh, Claire Danes is going to be there," which I heard as, "you better interview her." I was almost kicked out of the venue multiple times before the show (PR: "I've asked you nicely so far, but if I catch you on the runway again, I'll have to ask you to leave"). I got my quote after the show, by the way.

Fashionista also lets me essentially live my dream of writing about television for a living with my costume design coverage. Since it's Fashionista, I have the opportunity to totally nerd-out beyond where to buy the clothes (although, I ask that sometimes, too). Now when I watch a show or movie, I appreciate how wardrobe helps develop the characters, tells the story and can even explore race and sexism through vintage ‘90s outfits. Plus, now I know where all the fabulous costumes go after all my favorite TV shows wrap. 'Gossip Girl' forever."

Fawnia Soo Hoo is a contributing editor at Fashionista.

Hayley Phelan

"Where to begin? I still remember the sunny (fateful) day the summer going into my Junior year at NYU that I buzzed into Fashionista's old offices on Mott street for the very first time. It was for a summer internship and I had chosen plaid trousers from Zara, ballet flats and a thin wife beater for the occasion — which seems oddly casual now that I think about it. Britt and Natalie showed me to a couch in the middle of the office. I thought that they seemed so adult and put together. In fact, they were only a couple years older than me. 

I don't remember much of what they asked of me but — spoiler alert — I got the gig. And it wound up being the best learning experience I could have asked for. Over the years, I've come and gone at Fashionista, but no matter where I am, it's always felt like home. No wonder when I run into Britt or Lauren or Faran or Leah or Dhani out in the world, we like to joke that we're part of the same fashion family, despite the fact that some of us never even worked directly with one another. Basically, it was part writing and editing boot camp and part sorority — but in a cool way."

Hayley Phelan is a freelance writer, contributing to the New York Timesthe Business of Fashion and more.