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!”
Recent interview I did for Stylecaster.com. Thanks Nicole and Style Caster!
So gosh, I’ve been answering a lot of questions lately! I’m honestly flattered that you’re interested, so I’m more than happy to answer. I waited to round these all up into one post, so here it is.
First, Jessica, a student at Northeastern, contacted me as research for a paper she is writing about the fashion industry. We talked about fashion reality TV, surviving (and not surviving) NYC, and the best/worst of interning. I hope she gets an A+ or I’ll feel a little guilty. Read the Q&A under the cut.
That same day I got some questions for Cory’s blog In His Vogue Eyes. I’m thoroughly impressed by his journalistic attention to detail and truly thoughtful questions. He took the time to read up first which was awesome. Thank you Cory!
Then Sam at Missbehave asked me to do a Q&A for their new Internet Stalking feature, and today it went up (I flinched when I saw my face on the main page this morning haha)! Missbehave as been really sweet to me and I’m still flipping through their last issue for eye candy. Check out the interview here!
These all gave me a chance to reflect, be honest, and simultaneously turn up the fire under my ass. I’ve got so much more work to do before I’m where I want to be. Pressure, anxiety, ah!
Thanks again, Jessica, Missbehave, & Cory! And I guess while we’re at it, feel free to leave a question in the comments.
me with my folder en route to a summer interview in NYC
I have my first interviews with [a fashion magazine] and I’m wondering what I should do to prepare or what I should expect. If you could give me any tips for the interview process, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Firstly, congrats on landing the interview! That means your resume was in good form, your communication skills were on point (or mommy & daddy made the right phone calls). Either way, getting face time with boss (or boss’ assistant) is an accomplishment in its own. Not everyone gets an interview.
I would guess that for every 100 resumes you hand out, you may get a call back for 1/2 of them, and called in for even fewer. The number of job offers you get from there depends highly on you (and the market, and your competition).
So now is the time to consider what you will do, wear, & say when you have your foot literally in the door. Interviews are admittedly a bit intimidating because no matter how good you’ve made yourself look on paper, you’ve got to prove it in person. Here is some of the best advice I’ve received and put into practice (Note: Since I started working at 13, I’ve probably been on 50 interviews, wild guess, including schools, work, and internships – and I’m JUST getting comfortable with them.)
- Always bring: Pen, Notebook, 3 Resume copies [1 is for you to read along, 1 for your interviewer, and 1 more in the event of a tag-team interview]
- Have on-hand: 3 Reference copies, Portfolio/Clips (in case you’re asked)
- Dress: Keep it cool. No denim ever – but also no business suits ever. [Follow-up post to come]
- It’s okay to say that you’re a little nervous. [Fantastic advice from my mom. It shows you care, and aren't afraid to admit it.]
- Treat the interview as a two-way meeting: you should also be making sure this publication is the right fit for you.
- Ask questions.
- Don’t belittle yourself. Have confidence.
- Do your homework on the publication & staff.
And here are the most common questions I’ve been asked on fashion interviews:
- Tell me about yourself. [obvious, but can trip you up if you're not prepared]
- Do you have a copy of your resume/references/clips?
- Who are your favorite designers?
- How long have you read our publication?
- What’s your favorite section of the publication?
- What other publications do read regularly?
- What interest you about XYZ publication?
- What do you think is your biggest fault?
- Do you have any questions about us? [have questions!]
- What kind of work did you do at your past jobs? Did you write?
And don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the job or even a call back. I’ve been left high and dry PLENTY – I really do learn from every single interview, and my interview skills climb steadily with every single one. And sometimes, all it takes it one.
There is more to come on interviews (specifically, what to wear) and if you have any questions or your own advice, you know where to leave them.
I got a lot of questions from those of you attending Teen Vogue‘s Fashion U this year, and here’s what I had wanted to tell you:
- firstly, I have never attended (though I’d love to be a panelist there one day) Fashion U.
- please don’t waltz in there hoping it’s your “gateway into the industry”
- it’s a mock-university setup because you’re there to maybe learn something you didn’t know, and maybe see something you wouldn’t have seen, but not get a job.
- instead of focusing your attentions on the big names/editors, you should take it as an opportunity to make some connections and have fun with your peers – they’re the ones who may be getting you that job in the future!
- The way I see it, Fashion U is more of a money-making plot than anything substantial in term of “experience” but that’s not to say you won’t meet some great people and have a good time.
- If you can pay your way to NY, I think it’s a cool opportunity, and Teen Vogue DOES care about you getting your time/moneys worth.
- If you, like me, probably can’t afford it – you’re not going to be behind in anything. Really.
- The emails I got about ‘making an impression on the editors’ via a standout wardrobe and such led me to believe some of you still think this industry is a lot easier than it is, and I don’t want you to be disappointed.
- I love Teen Vogue SO much. Really, I do. They’ve been there for me since Day 1, and TV was my first foray into this industry almost… 6 years ago now. Looks like I’m due for a retrospective post soon.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get arund to posting this before the event. So, now that it’s over… you tell me: how was it? worth it?
PS - I also still have a video coming, as soon as I get back to NY (in LA right now) and can borrow a laptop that doesn’t make an awful broken fan noise :/