Teen Vogue Fashion University is an absolutely surreal event. Surrounded by 500 fellow young fashion professionals and learning from the best in the industry in New York City, the weekend event can sometimes seem more like a dream.
Luckily though, it’s not. So, when I got the chance to attend Teen Vogue Fashion University a few weeks ago, I took full advantage of the opportunity.
Teen Vogue Fashion University started out on a high note with a kick off party at the Express in Times Square. With the tri-level retailer bursting at the seams with fashionable young men and women from all over the world, it was definitely the place to be. Plus, with a photo booth, lash bar, flash tattoos houre de voures and more, the Express party was not lacking in entertainment.
To make it even better, Chelsea Leyland, “It Girl”/DJ, was spinning at the event. However, the excitement couldn’t last too long. Teen Vogue Fashion University was less than 12 hours away, and it was time for bed.
The first day of Teen Vogue Fashion University took place on a rainy morning at the Conde Nast headquarters at One World Trade Center. After being placed in the Editorial/Social/Pr Major (Group B), I made my way to my first seminar featuring the Youtube star Michelle Phan.
Led in a discussion by Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Amy Astley, Phan shared her path to success, tips for engaging your social media audience and plans for her future endeavors. The session was super inspiring, and really demonstrated how important it is to not only present yourself well, but be the best business person you can be.
After the first seminar, FashionU students got the chance to browse the sponsor lounge. The lounge, placed on the 63rd floor of One World Trade Center, included plenty of Cinderella-inspired artwork (like the beautiful Zac Posen dress above), sweet treats, social media opportunities and chances to win free stuff.
Following Phan were the PR duo responsible for Black Frame, Brian Phillips and Juliana Ribeiroand, and Instagram Art and Fashion Community Lead, Kristen Joy Watts. Echoing many of Phans sentiments, these speakers emphasized the importance of hard work, attention to detail and understanding your brand/story.
Phillips and Ribeiroand’s shared the thought and dedication that went into creating press for clients such as Kenzo and Rodarte. Aside from their cutting edge designs and innovative runway shows, Black Frame is a prime reason these brands are getting such mainstream attention, and hearing the secrets to their publicity was definitely interesting.
As far as Kristen Joy Watts seminar goes, the professional Instagrammer (yup, that’s a job) wasn’t shy about expressing her intense love for photography and uniting communities through the platform. She had us do a fun exercise where we partnered up with other students to determine if our Instagrams communicated who we are by evaluating the message our profiles gave off as a whole.
After lunch, which was held in the ultra-sleek Conde Nast cafeteria, was the Teen Vogue Editors Panel. Featuring Drew Elovitz, Elaine Welteroth, Erin Kaplan, and Dana Mathews led in discussion by Amy Astley, these editors shared need-to-know information for reaching your fashion magazine dreams. Astley’s biggest piece of advice for aspiring editors? Babbysit.
It can be extremely hard to network, so working as a sitter or nanny can put you in direct contact with parents who may know somebody working in your desired field and have a first-hand knowledge of your work ethic. Hell, Lena Dunham babysat for Astley’s children when they were younger, so it obviously works for some people.
Following the Editors Panel was a seminar featuring Aliza Licht. As if it wasn’t obvious by her portfolio of work (ahem, @DKNYPRGirl), Licht has had a pretty interesting career. Whether it hiding her online identity for years or overseeing global DKNY campaigns with Cara Delevigne, she’s proof that creativity is key for standing out. To top it all off, she gave us the scoop on her new book, “Leave Your Mark,” slated to come out May 5, which I’ll definitely be picking up.
Finishing off the first day of FashionU was a seminar with Mickey Rapkin and Teen Vogue Senior Entertainment Editor, Dana Mathews. As the mastermind behind the novel and hit-film Pitch Perfect, and award-winning magazine cover stories, Rapkin had a breadth of knowledge (and embarrassing stories) to share. From mishaps with celebrities, interview blunders and more, Rapkin’s story was inspiring, especially for young writers.
However, the best part of his seminar was undoubtedly his humility. Despite his super-stellar job and accomplishments, Rapkin is still incredibly down-to-earth. His humor and ability to brush things off has been a strong asset to his career as he learned the best way to chase story leads and write for some of the biggest magazines in the country.
After Rapkin’s seminar, FashionU students congregated for a brief mixer with the editors of Teen Vogue. This window of opportunity was crucial for quick snack, phone charging and chatting all things fashion, social media and magazine with editors and fellow students.
“Get over yourself.”
That was the best piece of advice I received during my time at Teen Vogue Fashion University 2015. This piece of advice was dished out during Erika Bearman’s (aka @OscarPRGirl) seminar, and in a way it concluded and encapsulated all the emotions I felt during my weekend at Teen Vogue Fashion University.
Bearman was the Keynote Speaker for my major, and the last event of the weekend. Elaborating on “get over yourself,” Bearman recalled a time in her life when a random person on the subway said those three words to her. At first surprised by the strangers outburst, Bearman got over the shock and took the words to heart. She went on to explain how we get so involved in focusing on what we’re doing, where we’re going, how we look, whatever, and at the end of the day maybe we just should get over it. When you get over yourself and what you’re supposed to accomplish, look, feel, whatever, you miss out on actually having fun and being you.
Bearman’s seminar was the last one of the weekend, and afterwards Teen Vogue passed out diplomas to each of us, and invited us to take photos of the un-foggy view.
Oddly enough, when all was said and done, the most important things I learned while at Teen Vogue Fashion University weren’t necessarily fashion industry specific at all. Each speaker and person that I met at FashionU was absolutely inspiring, and here are my biggest takeaways from the weekend:
1. The truth is, there are a lot of really, really, talented people out there. They’re smart, funny, charming, pretty, and chances are they might want the same job as you. Chances are they might get that job over you. That’s the truth. Harsh? Yes. But honest? Absolutely. Just like Erika Bearman so eloquently said, you need to learn to get over yourself and believe in yourself.
2. Nothing is holding you back except for yourself. That’s the bottom line. The fashion industry is hard, and life is hard, and if you want to be successful in anything you do you have to learn to just work really hard, keep trying and not beat yourself up when it doesn’t work out.
3. Humility and kindness will take you far. No matter what level of your career you’re at, a simple please, thank you, you’re welcome, etc., can go a long way. You can be the most talented person in the room, but if you’re an asshole then nobody is going to be around you. Remember to stay grounded, appreciative and nice, and people around you will take notice.