We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what's "you"? These are some of the questions we're putting to prominent figures in our column "How I Shop."
Amelie Zilber has built a massive profile around intention. Her 7.2 million TikTok followers, 2.6 million Instagram followers and other hundreds of thousands of followers on other platforms tune into her because they know that she'll speak candidly, earnestly and urgently about what she cares about, whether it's a social issue or a beauty product she genuinely loves. This applies to everything she does, on camera and off — from what she posts about to who she partners with to how she harnesses the reach of her platform.
Yes, she's signed brand deals, attended fashion shows as a guest of the designer and been on a Revolve trip or two, but the 19-year-old college student has also hosted a series aired on Facebook and Instagram titled "Don't @ Me," which brings together a panel of thought-leaders to discuss issues ranging from colorism to environmental justice, and been invited to interview White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the American Families Plan and Secretary Pete Buttigieg about bipartisan infrastructure. The daughter of Jouer Cosmetics founder Christina Zilber, she's also had a longstanding appreciation of beauty and fashion, and is now setting out to pave her own path within those industries, too.
Ahead, we talked to Zilber about how she determines whether she can work with a brand, how working with a stylist has shifted her approach to getting dressed and how she picked what she was going to wear to the White House. Read on.
"I try to focus on timelessness. I like timeless fashion — brands like Chanel, brands that will never go out of style, that have that classic, elegant, Audrey Hepburn-ish vibe to them. I also like to throw in trendy, fun colors and patterns, but I would say for the most part, it's timeless and elegant, with a twist of fun, trendy, young, of the time.
"My mom is gorgeous and so elegant. She's exactly who I am, in the sense of being someone who works super hard and is incredibly intelligent, but also loves fashion and beauty; I think I kind of mimicked her style growing up and have made it my own. She taught me the timeless fashion. She got a lot of beautiful pieces from her mother, which were handed down to her and then handed down to me. Then the trendiness comes from being a young person on social media. You're constantly seeing trends, seeing influencers and fashion bloggers and celebrities wear all these incredibly cool pieces. It's a generational attachment to timeless fashion and then being a young person on the internet.
"Being a person on the internet with a public following, I kind of, in a way, am a trend-setter, just like every other influencer. I would say that a lot of the times, the way that I promote myself on the internet is in that elegant, timeless way. I like to remain a little bit conservative on the internet, not too bold or crazy. But in the same vein, the style that I have plays into my character and what I'm feeling in the moment. If I'm wearing something bold, it speaks to the fact that I want to be loud and strong; when I wear something conservative and elegant, it speaks to the nature of what I'm speaking about. A lot of what I wear goes into whatever I'm speaking about.
"Ever since I wore a pantsuit at the White House, I've been really into pantsuits and more conservative sets, that speak to the loudness in the voice that I have and also to the fashion element. There's a lot of power in choosing what to wear when you have these more respectable, academic opportunities.
"Truthfully, I had a lot of options, and it was really hard to find the right piece... I didn't necessarily want to make the moment all about fashion. I didn't want what I wore to be overpowering. So I went with a simple navy suit, and I think that was perfect for the opportunity [to interview Secretary Pete Buttigieg]. It was elegant and conservative, and it didn't take away from the conversation I was having. In the same vein, I wanted to make myself look as respectable as possible, but I also wanted to keep it young and fun. I wore gold jewelry and accessories with it because at the same time, I don't want to present myself as a 40-year-old professional in the space because that's not who I am. I'm young, but I'm also smart. And I think what I wore really was perfect for that moment.
"When I went to visit the White House Christmas decorations, I ended up wearing a beautiful black Elie Saab dress. I've been wearing Elie Saab a lot recently — I wore Elie Saab to Cannes, in Paris for fashion week. I'm part Lebanese, so wearing a designer that represents who I am in that sense was amazing. Elie Saab does the perfect blend of that timeless, elegant Audrey Hepburn-esque fashion.
"Everything I do has a socially-conscious twist to it. So when I'm picking out an outfit for a specific opportunity, I tend to shy away from fur, because that doesn't align with my politics... I generally don't work with brands that ask me to quiet down my voice during a promotion. If you have to ask me to silence myself, I will not be working with you, because that's who I am. I believe that the power of my voice is much more important than whatever brand deal I might be making. For me, it's about working with brands that have the same beliefs as me, that want to see society progress and move forward, evolve and change. It's about making sure that the people I align myself with reflect my values and beliefs.
"I could talk endlessly about my stylist, Thomas Christos Kikis. I love him so much. He's truly so wonderful because he gets me. He loves that I use my voice. He loves that I'm political. That's what makes us such a good team, that he understands that as I'm a thought-leader in the world of Gen Z, and fashion goes with that, and he wants me to be a trailblazer and a thought-leader in the world of fashion. So when he puts me in Nensi Dojaka and Proenza Schouler, that's stepping into being a thought-leader in fashion, pulling pieces that aren't necessarily widely used on the red carpet and making statements with my fashion — but also keeping me incredibly elegant and composed, because he never wants to present me in a way that doesn't reflect my character or my politics.
"I started working with him when I went to Cannes, and I think you can see how my fashion progresses since then. Every time I have a red carpet, he tries to put me in something new, progressive and forward. It's really interesting to see the linear progression, of my first styling moment with Thomas in Cannes to my latest red carpet or my work at the White House.
"[Cannes] was such a cool experience. I went with L'Oréal, and as a L'Oréal ambassador, I was so humbled by that. L'Oréal is the perfect representation of feminism and beauty: They have a message, and they have something to say. That's why I love being so aligned with them. Going to Cannes with L'Oréal was perfect for who I am in that I love politics, and I love fashion and beauty. I wanted to mimic that with my fashion.
"At the time I hadn't really done any big red carpet moments — this was the first I had ever been called for. I'd been watching Cannes for years. I'm French, so I know Cannes very well, and Cannes fashion is viral fashion. You see it everywhere. So, I wore Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, and that was really fitting. Wearing these Lebanese designers perfectly encapsulate who I am, what I'm studying in school. At the same time, I wanted to be seen as high-fashion and beautiful, but conservative and elegant. I think it was the perfect moment for where I was at at that point in my life, doing my first red carpet and never having been seen as a fashion figure. If I go back next year, you'll see me in something completely different, because as an ever-evolving human, so too does my fashion evolve.
"I really loved my Nensi Dojaka dress [for the amfAR Gala in L.A. in November]. When a dress makes you feel truly beautiful, you know you found right one. I just felt so powerful in it.
"I really loved everything I wore during Paris Fashion Week, too. I loved what I wore to the Balmain [Spring 2022] show — it was my first Paris Fashion Week show, and I wanted to start off with a bang. It felt really elegant and classy, and really young at the same time, especially with how I did my hair and makeup. As I move in the fashion world, I want to remain true to my age. The Balmain dress was pink and pretty and fun, and I just loved it.
"I also loved what I wore to the Valentino show. It was a spaghetti-strap dress, but it was long and formal. I just did a Valentino Narratives post with the brand in December, and the dress that they put me in, I was like, 'You're joking. I'm obsessed with this.' Then, I wore an Elie Saab leopard pantsuit to the L'Oréal show; I was hesitant about it at first, but once I put it on the day of, I felt so powerful. It just felt very feminine and chic to me.
"I'm really looking at up-and-coming designers, like Dion Lee — I wore one of his looks to New York Fashion Week and loved it. I obviously love Chanel. It's a generational love in my family. My grandmother had some beautiful Chanel pieces that she passed onto my mom who passed them down to me, like this navy Chanel blazer. It's stunning. I think the reason I love it so much is because it fits really well into how I can dress myself as the age that I am. I wear that blazer with a pair of denim shorts and rocker tee, and it speaks to my age while also touching on that elegant, timeless side of fashion.
"I've been paying attention YSL as well; it's the perfect, chic, French 'it' girl [brand]. I've been seeing what Hailey Bieber wears when she wears YSL, and I've been obsessed. I got a YSL bag from Forward and I've worn it a million times throughout the holiday season. I got it weeks ago and I've worn it more than half the bags in my closet.
"My mom has such a beautiful sense of fashion, and she's my role model in every facet of my life, so whenever I have any question, concern or need advice, she's my call — for anything, including fashion, and definitely including things that I spend my money on. I'll also call my stylist. I will ask him, 'What do you think about this?' He and I have a really, really wonderful friendship, so he's very honest and candid with me when it comes to, 'Do not, absolutely do not spend your money on this.'
"Getting to explore my identity through fashion is something that I have just now realized is a huge part of everything I do with it. As I grow, so does my fashion, but vice versa, as my fashion grows, so do I. I'm excited to see where these future fashion moments lead me, to come to terms with who I am and how I like to express myself. I think 2022 is going to be a great year in terms of self growth and fashion growth."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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