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.

Amy’s Beginnings

- 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.”

The Book

- 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.

Obstacles

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)

COMMENTS / 26

  • modelizer / October 20, 2009

    I love Amys advice and how open she is about much of the process. I’m looking forward to the new show and hope it’s not something that has been done before!

  • Olivia / October 20, 2009

    no no no I love your intern stories! I just wish we had Teen Vogue in Australia :( I admire you so much and think it’s awesome that you’re following what you love doing. i left a massive comment on your richard nicoll diy post weeks ago your blog is awesome :)

  • M / October 20, 2009

    Amazing! Just from your notes I felt inspired. I loved the advice she gave, especially the parts about starting small, doing everything to the best of your ability and always with a positive attitude because you never know who is who and who you might meet again along the way, not fixating on that “top” job, not falling victim to gossip, jealousy, partying, and last but not least HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSLTE!

    I am glad you were in attendance, and thank you for sharing your observations with us.

    Also, please keep your intern experiences coming. I can’t get enough!
    The video idea sounds great, looking forward to it!

    You seem like an amazing girl Jazzi. I hope that there are more people in the industry like you. Talented and passionate, and in it for the right reasons. I wish you nothing but the best with all future endeavors!

    :)

  • Tyler J / October 20, 2009

    Thanks for another great post! I cannot wait to see Ms. Astley this weekend at Teen Vogue Fashion U :)

  • Kimmi / October 21, 2009

    This was really interesting :) Thanks for sharing.
    The video idea sounds really good, you should definitely do it.
    Also, the Santa Barbara thing. I have a feeling that’s a reference to The Lost Boys perhaps? :)

  • Erica Sanae / October 21, 2009

    Thank you for covering Amy Astley’s talk. It really brought everything, not only the content, but also Amy herself, down to earth. I really appreciated reading her advice on the industry and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the book. Those are some inspiring words, and really makes me happy to do what I’m doing. Keep doing what you’re doing- I know a lot of people out there really want to hear what you have to say. thanks again!

  • Kim / October 21, 2009

    def. want to hear more about Teen Vogue! You took good notes: ), Amy seems like a very inspiring indvidual. I have already put into practice a few of here points, like having pretty friends model for m., work with what you have and hustle! I also love your point on Rachel Zoe, so true! I love your blog! kmalacollection.com

  • Lindsay Sue / October 21, 2009

    I LOVE her comment on partying. Sadly, I see too many people get caught up in that whole scene.

  • Brittany / October 21, 2009

    Bring it on, sister! The more advice the better.

  • JazN / October 21, 2009

    I like that she didnt choose between LA and NY. They’re two completely different worlds so of course the clothing will reflect that. Its such a minor part of the interview you posted here but that really stood out to me.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • [...] TV on TV: In reality television news, Teen Vogue might be making its way back to the small screen but in what capacity, we’re not sure. Ah, remember the good old Lisa Love days on The Hills? {Fashionologie via Jazzi McG} [...]

  • Fashion Scoop | RDuJour / October 23, 2009

    [...] gave a talk to FIDM students in Los Angeles and one of them copied her lecture notes on to her fashion blog. Under the “future of Teen Vogue” section was bullet point “working on a new TV [...]

  • Mattaya / October 23, 2009

    thanks for taking note, i loveee advice :)

  • TMWKTM / October 25, 2009

    Wow. Seriously one of the best blogs I have come across since ages!

  • Maria / October 25, 2009

    I can’t believe I missed this! I’ve met Andre Leon Talley before at The Ivy & he was THE nicest & funniest man!! He’s like come sit on my lap when I wanted to take a picture with him haha! i wish I made it to FIDM. I enjoy your blog & I think we’re friends on facebook hahah

  • Maria / October 25, 2009

    Oh & I also wanted to mention how as a 21 year old, I still prefer reading TeenVoge over Vogue, because it portrays the style of the everyday girl more than the Prada-wearing women in Vogue. Wish you the best of luck in your intern!

  • Milly / October 26, 2009

    Hey lady, seperate bit from my emails to you =]]
    My work exp got cancelled so SO SO gutted :’( been rearranged for FEB so bit screwed for personal statement for uni / gonna be tight if i want to include it in summer ’10 internship applications :(
    My week is now totally empty.
    BUT i have been flicking through your blog and have decided on Wed I am going to town and SHOPPING for individual, stylish things to completely overhaul my wardrobe :) lovely inspiring outfits you wear!

    Lotsoflove,
    M x

    ps: do another blog post! I keep checking back!!

  • lauren @ la petite fashionista / October 27, 2009

    ah jazzi, no such thing as too teen vogue-d out (in fact thats exactly how i discovered your blog a couple of years ago)! i just bought the handbook today actually. love all the images & great inteviews.

    LOVE even more that you snuck in for the q&a. a girl after my own heart for sure.

  • m / October 28, 2009

    love amy and have loved teen vogue since the very issue with gwen on the cover! great work there jazzie and good luck with ur endeavors!

  • Annie / December 28, 2009

    I have to say, everything I’ve heard about AA is that she is an absolute babe, and I know anna is great and all, but it does show you can be nice AND get to the top. also, jazzi, you seem to be the one person who has interned EVERYWHERE and a lot of prospective interns read this, so, keep it coming!

  • kids designer clothing / May 11, 2010

    “Fashion is not the road to riches. But there is definitely room to make a living.”. Heres hoping!

    Amy does make some great points, and she comes across as a very real person too. Keep up the good work Jazzi!

  • nicole homer / August 5, 2010

    Amy’s advice is very helpful especially to us teens. I really like her stories.

  • Krystal / September 20, 2010

    Great post, will definitely pick up the book!

  • Callado / December 22, 2010

    Amy’s totally right, we all start small and with hard work, determination and patience, one is bound to make it to the top and that is where i am heading.xoxo

  • flower_chloe / January 16, 2011

    She is so my hero….inspirational, directional, just so rad! :) I’m bookmarking this post for future inspiration.

  • LaShic Patterson / March 3, 2011

    I will definitely be picking up a copy of the book at Barnes & Nobles. I saw it a few weeks back and hesitated to get it, but now, I feel like it would be worth it.

    While we are in a horrible economic condition, I’d rather be doing what I love in fashion and penniless than doing what I hate and just getting by check to check although the book is a guide to collecting those pennies prospectively lol.

    Thanks for this!

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