Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Amy Astley recently held book signings and a Q&A at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles, CA. I did some investigative journalism, pretending not to hear the security guard who asked for my "student I.D." & sat front row to jot down pages of notes to bring to you.
Photo from Teen Vogue's Bergdorf book signing in NY by Julia Chesky
A gaggle of fashion students sat in Room 500 of the FIDM building buzzing about courses, clothes, and Halloween plans in their best "I don't usually wear this to class" ensembles. Apparently, the place to be this Halloween is Santa Barbara...
"We're sorry to keep you waiting, but Amy is running a little late, she had to take a call from Anna Wintour, I'm sure you understand."
An audible gasp then collective giggles broke out around the room. Soon after, some FIDM figurehead or another introduced "Amy Astes" as a former Art History major, who once worked with "Anna Wintar." A little cringe worthy, but Amy politely corrected her, she was an English major at Michigan State, and all was quickly forgiven. The fashion aspirants were all smiles, sitting with eyes wide and notebooks ready as Amy took her spot at the head of the classroom. I whipped out my pen and took 4 pages of notes, just for you.
- though she trained to be a ballerina, Amy always loved writing and aesthetics, ending up an English major at Michigan State, where her father was a professor.
- first editorial job was as an assistant at the late House & Garden, where she learned the ins and outs of publishing.
- when HG folded, a Creative Director she had impressed on the job recommended her for a position at Vogue where Anna Wintour tapped her to launch Teen Vogue
- Teen Vogue spent 2 years in development, and after 4 test issues Conde Nast decided there was real potential in the market and deemed TV viable.
- Was massively intimidated by Andre Leon Talley at first, but he's actually "the sweetest man," and says Anna is the "ultimate editor."
- Since taking the helm at TV, nearly every girl she encountered had questions about breaking into various roles in fashion. Basically, on a personal and marketing level, it made sense.
- Why isn't her name on the cover as the author? "I didn't write the book!" she said. The handbook is comprised of industry professionals advice as a "roadmap to careers, whether you want to be the next Karl Lagerfeld or Anna Wintour or not."
- Karl Legerfeld gave her favorite quote from the book.
- Wanted to keep the book visually appeal with the usual great Vogue photography and design integrity.
- On reality TV "I don't want to be a media personality. I've seen people laughed off Madison Avenue for taking the reality star route, it can really backfire." That's also why you didn't see so much of her on the Hills.
Getting Your Start
- "Fashion is not the road to riches. But there is definitely room to make a living."
- NY vs LA/everywhere else: Who cares? "Fashion is so democratic now! With the internet, you can gain exposure in fashion from anywhere. The Rodarte sisters live in Pasedena at their parents' house!"
- Believe in yourself and hustle. Guido Paulo was kicked out of Vidal Sassoon, and Thakoon interned at Harper's Bazaar while working and attending Parson's at night. [And I've done the same.] You can work yourself silly when you're young, no excuses.
- DIY at the beginning. You may not have access to the best models, etc. but "start small" using whatever resources you have to test (and use a pretty friend as a model).
- At this point, everyone should do an internship in college.
- Teen Vogue will interview ANY college-credit receiving intern who sends their resume and is willing to get themselves to NY.
- "Work and dedicate yourself to a support team, don't just fixate on the top job."
- Aspiring designers especially: Work under someone else first. Any other path is a rare exception. Michael Kors & Marc Jacobs are two big house that have a lot of internship opportunities.
- Always do your best work with a smile whether it's for your boss or not. The CD who got her the gig at Vogue wasn't even her boss, just someone she had impressed with her good attitude. It's a small world, you never know who could help you. Also, don't be a bummer.
- "Dolphin Speak" This came up a number of times. Mostly in reference to getting an education and expressing yourself well. Not everyone has the ability to be both good with visuals AND words (i.e. Rachel Zoe, "shoes! bananas! omg! i die!"), but if you are, that can be a very valuable skill-set. If not, know which roles cater to your specific talents.
A lot of them are on your head... More failures of confidence than anything real. Amy's athletic/ballet training taught her to never say "can't". "I believe in patience, karma, all that Mom stuff!"
- Make your own luck. There's a certain degree of serendipity, but you make sure you're positioned to take charge when the time comes.
- See too many talented people fall victim to the gossip, jealousy, and partying. Don't be one them.
Future of Teen Vogue
- her works not done yet - she finally feels out of survival mode, and can focus more on growing the brand.
- working on a new TV show!
- will continue to grow on the web
- Has already established the Teen Vogue/CFDA scholarship with Target, and now the book, but wants to give back even more opportunities to the young people who have supported her and made her own career possible
I talked to girls after, they all loved the advice, and were glad they weren't talked down to. Many waited in line to have their copies of the book signed (which sold out at the school by the way), some even trying to be last in the hour long line, hoping to get more face time - and more camera phone pictures - with Amy. She answered every question and signed every copy with genuine care and love, before heading off for another signing at OTIS, then a red eye back to NY. She said she'd be back home by 7 a.m., just in time to see her kids off to school, before she headed back to work. Incredible, right? That alone is inspiration enough for me. Thank you Amy for having me, I am infinitely grateful for all you've done for me and hope to follow in your inspiring footsteps.
I haven't finished reading yet, but I can already say the Handbook is WELL worth reading and beautiful to look at. I'm thinking about doing a video review with some more personal experiences as a former Vogue & Teen Vogue intern in both LA and NY. Unless after my last 3 posts you're all Teen Vogue'd out...? (and in that case, I'd be equally happy to save myself the time haha)