Caroline has spent time at Anna Sui, Marie Claire, and then managed to take a freelance position to a full-time assistant role at Teen Vogue. She has been the digital fashion assistant at InStyle for the past year.
This interview took place between Tate and Caroline at Hudson Eats in New York
TVPS: How did you get your start?
CV: I was a little bit of a late bloomer in the internship game. When I was a sophomore in college, I became determined to get experience in the fashion industry. I just started applying, and I was lucky enough to land an internship at Anna Sui. I got to learn so much about the company since it was a smaller work setting.
I was originally placed in the production department. Then I became interested in the showroom, in sales, and how each department varied. So when the time was right, I told my boss that I'd love to learn everything there is to learn about this company. She was like, "That's brilliant. That's such a smart idea. You should totally be taking advantage of everything this company has to offer." So I got to try a little bit of everything. I got more face time with everyone. I think if you work really hard you can ask to try out different things or what interests you.
Also, since I was the right size, I got to be the fit model. That's another way that I got to get a lot of face time with Anna, it was every day at four o'clock we'd go upstairs to this area outside of her office, and I'd try on everything, all of the newest pieces. That was really cool that I got to try all of these amazing clothes.
What is the company culture there?
It's cool. It's not too buttoned up but it's not super laid back. I would say it's friendly, it's fun, it's collaborative, very creative.
How did you land the Fashion Market internship at Marie Claire?
Through a girl at my school, she interned there.
And what did you learn?
I got to learn pretty much everything that goes into being a market editor. I was the personal intern to the associate market editor at the time. She really took me under her wing, and taught me everything I know about this industry from, from how to put in a proper request to the difference between front of book and back of book. She was always willing to sit down with me and explain everything, which really made a difference. This all made me realize that you need to ask questions. I know that as an intern, anytime I would ask her a question I would be a little bit timid about it I'd go up and be like "I'm so sorry to bother you and interrupt you..." and she said, "Don't apologize." This experience really helped me fall in love with this industry; I owe so much to her and my experience there.
And the company culture?
Corporate but people still wear jeans and sneakers.
How did you take your Teen Vogue freelance position to a job?
Networking. The job was supposed to only last 3 months, and they really liked me, but since nothing was open, I started looking elsewhere. Then maybe a week or two later, they had hired a new fashion director, and they were looking for someone to assist her. I didn't have any time to prepare for the interview though, because they were like, "Oh, meet with Marina today." I didn't even get to pick out a nice outfit.
So what was your role there?
At Teen Vogue I was the assistant to the fashion director and senior editor. When I was there it was, Marina Larroude and Jessica Minkoff. I would help them with their pages in the magazine by calling in products and creating story boards. I also assisted with their expense reports, scheduling, and anything else they might need. I was pretty much their right-hand girl. I also got to assist Jessica on set whenever she was styling a shoot for the magazine which was always very exciting. A big part of my job was being organized and being able to think ahead. Knowing what my bosses might need before they even ask. Also, having a positive attitude and doing every task you are assigned, no matter how small, to the best of your abilities. Marina and Jessica are incredible people to work for and such good mentors, bosses, and friends- I was so lucky to have gotten this opportunity.
And company culture?
Fun, really like a family and that all comes from the top, down, from Amy.
Why did you take the leap from that position to Digital at InStyle?
With digital becoming such a big part of the industry I thought it would be a good idea to explore it more. Up to this point, I had only worked on the print side of a magazine, so I figured it was time to learn something new. Also, I did start writing for TeenVogue.com when I was there, and I really loved it. I figured if I could find a position where I got to do that all of the time then that would be great!
How did your past experiences help prepare you for your role at Instyle?
I think all of my experiences have helped me gain more confidence in myself and a better understanding of the industry. Teen Vogue definitely gave me the ability to try a little bit of everything since the team is so tight knit so I was able to start writing for online there and I definitely think my work there helped better prepare me for my role now.
Tips for being a good assistant?
Be attentive; be willing to do anything, to make your bosses lives easier. Be very helpful. Be personable. I mean, I’m not saying you're going to be best friends, but you’re going to be sending things to their apartment and possibly seeing their kids and things like that, so it’s important to build a good relationship.
Stay on top of everything because your boss is super busy. If you know she has a meeting at two o'clock remind her; you have to be her go-to person, her second set of eyes, ears, hands, everything. So be that. Try to go above and beyond as much as you can. You’ll definitely be doing some not so glamorous things, but take everything in stride.
How do you prepare for a job interview?
Do your research on the company. But at the end of the day, be confident in yourself, don’t stress too much. If it is meant to happen, it will happen! Who are you? Why do you want to work here? What's the brand's aesthetic? What are they about? What's their message? Things like that. It's all about presenting yourself and showing the brand that you understand what they're doing and you understand their aesthetic.
What's the most rewarding aspect of your job?
I love getting to network with people and getting to meet new people. Specifically, in this job I love the opportunities that I have to possibly feature a new designer or feature an up and coming small brand. The smaller brands are always so thankful and appreciative, and you can tell it makes the world of a difference. I love being able to have that opportunity to give them that feature.
Any good stories from being on the job?
Oh my gosh. There's so many. Hard to choose.
There was one time when I was at Teen Vogue, and we had a cover shoot the next day. I had to run around the city and pick up a million things. I'm literally walking down 10th Ave. With twenty garment bags, or at least it felt like twenty, in my arms, struggling. I ran into an assistant at Lucky on the street, and this is while I was picking up more stuff. Was it Lucky or was it Allure? It might have been Allure. Scratch that, it was Allure because Lucky wasn't around anymore. I ran into her, and she was like, "I'm getting a cab back, get in with me". I had never met her before, so that was so nice. We get in the cab. We're smushed in with these garment bags. Then when we leave and I go to get out I fall, cut my knee, rip my tights, all for the love of fashion. My moral of the story, it's not all glitz and glam like you might think it is.
No, not at all. Where do you think magazines are headed?
I mean that’s definitely hard, but I think digital is becoming more and more prominent. I would say the emergence of tech in fashion is the way of the future. And this past fashion week with all the see-now-buy-now collections, that’s definitely where it’s going. “I see it now; I want to have it now,” like that kind of mindset is becoming so important. I mean with Instagram you can see it right away. Everything is being force-fed to you and in fashion in particular; you can feel like you're right there. I think accessibility and high demand has a big impact on the industry.
Bringing down the barriers?
Yeah, it’s becoming such a big theme. I mean tech in fashion is huge. I just feel like magazines are having to adapt with the times and that’s why unfortunately there have been some magazines folding, changing some or adapting. I think it’s only natural with time for magazines to have to move forward and maybe downsize print but amp up their web team and things like that.
I think the niche brands that you listed don’t have a direct competitor and that helps. Also, a lot of them are bi-annual which definitely helps because you don’t have to push out a new issue every month. Who knows exactly what’s going to happen though. The whole industry is changing.
Yeah, I think we need to stop slapping bandaids over the holes and instead re-build from the ground up.
Who are your role models in the industry?
Oh my gosh, there's so many. I admire Eva Chen. I think her career really is amazing and how she's taken her role from Editor in Chief and made the leap to teach at Instagram. Now she's also such an icon to those trying to make it in the industry. She's kind of like the first real tech editor in a way, which I really admire. Also, I think Amy Astley is an incredible boss. I was so lucky to have gotten to work with her when I was at Teen Vogue.
Because she was so friendly. I was just an assistant, and she would take time to get to know me. She was so personable, it made me feel like I was actually apart of the company and I was important.
What do you like about the fashion industry today?
I feel like it's a family. As much as it feels huge and there's so many brands, and so many this and so many that, once you start working in the industry it's like a little tight-knit family. Everyone knows each other; you'll see everyone out at events, you'll see everyone at Fashion Week, you'll see everyone out at press days; it's such a small town.
What has this industry taught you on a personal level?
Be ready to work really hard. You have to love it, give it your all but stay true to who you are.
What sets you apart from everyone else who wants to be an editor?
I love color.
I'm also very willing to speak to students who reach out to me. I always email back when they email me, if they write me on Linkedin, if they write me on Instagram, if you comment on my Instagram, I will always answer you because I remember what it was like being in that stage and wanting so badly to make it and not knowing anyone. If you send me a message, I will answer your questions, and I will get back to you, and I think taking the time to do that, I think that sets me apart.
Then I think sticking to who I am. I keep saying that because there was a patch in my career when I started wearing all black but then, I suddenly realized that I was only doing that because all of my coworkers wore all black, and I was just trying to fit in. Then I was like no, what makes me different is the fact that in college, I was the girl that, when everyone else was in their sweatpants and sweatshirts and Uggs, I was in my Betsey Johnson glitter boots, an oversized faux fur coat and a graphic tee and makeup with my hair done. That's who I've always been and who I always will be.
Yeah, absolutely. Coming back to what you said about answering emails, I literally want to scream into this microphone and be like, "Wake up everyone!" So many people don't take advantage of opportunities.
How did we even meet? Did you just email me one day?
I always answer.
I used to question when I was just starting out, "Why are these strangers giving me their time who are so high up, have the best spots in the world? Why are these strangers giving this dorky 16, 17-year-old girl who wants to go into fashion their time?" Then I slowly realized that's how this industry is able to thrive. It's a circle of life. It’s something that makes the industry even more powerful and amazing.
What would you like to accomplish?
Maybe one day I'd like to be an author or something, write about the industry. Also, I'd love to have an influential role in the industry but not as a blogger, there are enough girls out there who are giving you style advice. I want to be a voice in the industry you can turn to for advice; you can email questions to.
Like a mentor in a way?
It's like a mentor I guess. Every girl's bff kind of thing.
How would you like to see the industry evolve and how would you like to be a part of that happening?
I would love to get more involved with helping brands develop their online personalities. I love what Eva Chen does with getting designers on Instagram and I would totally work in something like that. To get to work with these iconic designers and be like, "I'm going to help you create an Instagram today." I think that's so cool.
It's hard for these older iconic brands to have to conform to Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter and all that stuff so having someone that can help them and parlay that way into it. I would definitely be open to doing something like that.
Definitely. What advice would you give someone reading this interview and they're like, "That's it. I want to be the next Caroline Vazzana.”
Aw. First of all, it would be said that I would say, "You're so sweet." I think the best advice I could give you is just to work hard, never give up, and never lose sight of who you truly are.
Stick to what you love but then work your butt off. Work hard at your internships, at your job, at whatever, especially your first couple internships. I feel like those are the most important; going into your internship with an open mind, working extremely hard, and then building amazing relationships with your bosses.
I think that's what ultimately helped me out and made me who I am. I think everyone has a different path. Somebody might get there on the high road. Some of them might get there on the side-ways road. I don't want to say low road, because that sounds negative. Everyone's going to get there differently, and everyone's going to be their own person. Right now, I feel like a lot of people say "I want to be the next- this person," or "I want to be the next- that person," but yeah, you can find inspiration in them, but always be yourself.
Yeah, that’s why I originally fell in love with this industry. I feel like most industries make you form to some type of mold, where this industry won't accept you do.
Exactly. The whole point of this industry, and even now with Instagram too, and with blogging, and with websites, it's what makes you different? There are a million Blonde Salads, there's a million Song of Styles, and the originals are amazing. I love Chiara. I love Aimee. I think they're incredible, but you can't just create a blog and think, "I'm just going to copy her style," or "I'm just going to dress like her." What makes you different? What makes someone want to look at your profile as opposed to just looking at Chiara’s, why? That's what you need to think about and that's the fun part of this industry is finding what makes you different, because you have to survive and to move forward and to move ahead. You have to think, why me? Why am I different?