Alyssa Bids Farewell to Fashionista

I earned my first byline on the site 10 years ago next month. In many ways, that's when my life began.
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Photo: Amanda Adams

Photo: Amanda Adams

When I had my official interview for an editorial internship at the old Fashionista.com offices on Mott Street in the fall of 2009, I was visiting New York for a much less exciting reason. I was recovering from a bilateral mastectomy — the final step in my treatments for breast cancer — and was due for a follow-up with my surgeons at New York-Presbyterian hospital. I had applied after reading a listing on the site, one that I visited several times per day while sick in bed, and I was convinced this job was a sign from the universe that things would turn around for me after an impossibly shitty year. During my stay in the hospital weeks prior, "Clueless" came on TV — a movie name-dropped on the site with frequency — as I woke up from a drug-induced nap. It had to be another sign, I told myself. Anything to get me through the day. 

The first time I met Abby Gardner, who would later become my editor and mentor, I was wearing a wig to hide my baldness from chemo and had both drawn-on eyebrows and false lashes to appear, well, well. She claims she did not notice, which I find extremely hard to believe, and somehow I was able to muster enough confidence and energy to impress her, because I got the gig. (That day, Britt Aboutaleb, my other editor and mentor, was out filming an episode of Alexa Chung's erstwhile MTV talk show, "It's On with Alexa Chung." Very casual and normal.) I sobbed with joy when I heard the news, as did my whole family. It was less about getting an unpaid internship, albeit a very cool one, and more about our being able to move on from the horror show we'd just lived through. Though I was still very much a cancer patient, I was able to pack up my childhood bedroom and relocate to my aunt and uncle's home on Long Island, where I'd commute to the city for my first post-college position in the fashion industry.

People say that timing is everything, and in my case, the cliché couldn't be more true. I happened to graduate right after the recession, and the lack of prospects opened my mind to some very new possibilities — particularly, those on the internet. Instead of applying for editorial roles at magazines, I reached out to the websites that were steadily gaining steam. I joined Twitter. I bookmarked top blogs. I became an encyclopedia for models and "It" girls. In other words: I made myself marketable, knowledgeable and adaptable. 

This helped me to thrive during my time at Fashionista, where Abby and Britt essentially gave me free rein to do as I pleased. In the days of the late-2000s Wild Wild Web, blogging was a blast; I was able to hone my voice, telling personal stories or sharing funny observations that I could see were resonating with readers in real time. They sent me to report on fashion shows, gave me a camera to shoot street style in Nolita (which was more terrifying than it sounds), allowed me to publish Hot Takes before they were addressed as such and so much more. Everything I learned in those few months in the office that fall, I have taken with me to each new position I landed. But, as you've likely noticed, I never truly left after that.

I was able to convince Fashionista's next crop of editors — namely Lauren Sherman and Leah Chernikoff — to keep me around. I pitched them in a freelance capacity for years, and they put an incredible amount of trust in me and my ideas for two people I barely knew. I will never forget their thoughtfulness and generosity, and I owe much of my career success to them.

I job-hopped for a while, until a handful of staff departures left an opening for me to join Fashionista full-time in 2013. These six years have proven to be the most exciting, exhausting and formative that I've experienced thus far. Not only has my position here taken me around the world — off the top of my head, I've traveled to Paris, Milan, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tel Aviv and Amsterdam — I've met (and interviewed!) my industry idols, watched renowned brands' runway shows from the front row and, perhaps most importantly, have been in the trenches as the fashion business has transformed and evolved around me. (Influencers didn't exist when I first joined Fashionista. Were we ever so young?)

My more surreal moments include, but are not limited to: flying across the Atlantic in a plane full of Victoria's Secret Angels, getting an unbelievable soundbite from the late, great Karl Lagerfeld, being called "a bully" by Whoopi Goldberg on "The View" after reporting that editors left a fashion show when they were seated near Tiffany Trump and going viral enough on Twitter to become actual pals with my dream girl, Bella Hadid. Of all of the things I left to chance in life, who knew that opting to pursue a career on the internet would have turned out to be the most valuable?

In September, I will finally, actually be leaving the Fashionista nest and heading to Nylon as its editorial director, a dream opportunity that will allow me to bring an iconic print magazine from my youth back from the dead. As emotional as my departure has left me, I know the site is in very good hands. Tyler and Dhani have been my right-hand women since I came on board in 2013, and collaborating with them every day has been one of the greatest joys of my professional life. 

I've been privileged to lead a wildly talented team — Stephanie, Maria, Maura, Whitney, Dara, Fawnia and Liza — that not only goes above and beyond when it comes to taking initiative and pulling much more than their weight, they make me laugh, they make me think, they make me proud, and they make me want to do what I do better. You're nothing without your team, and I owe my ride-or-dies immense gratitude. I am thrilled for Tyler's new era as editor-in-chief and to see what my brilliant colleagues continue cooking up every day.  

I still can't wrap my head around the fact that my first byline appeared on this site 10 years ago next month — in many ways, more than I could ever outline here, that's when my life really began. I will never forget Fashionista or what it's given me, and I can't wait to keep reading through its next decade of greatness. While I selfishly hope you follow along with me as I start my next chapter at Nylon, you'd be foolish not to stick around here, too.  

— Alyssa Vingan Klein, editor-in-chief 
@alyssavingan