My plane touches down at Laguardia airport, and I can’t believe that I’m in New York City for Teen Vogue’s annual “Fashion University” conference, March 13-15. I don’t know what to expect– I’m just excited to be here and attend.
I get to the hotel (about one block away from the new Conde Nast offices), quickly change into a trendier outfit for the attendee’s mixer, hail a cab and head to Times Square. At 5:50 p.m. I arrive at the Express store that’s playing host to the event. There’s a long line, so I weave my way through, eventually stopping when I reach a place near the end. There we all stood on the street– in a line– anxiously waiting to go in and meet the Teen Vogue editors in attendance. We chat politely about the insanely cold, windy weather and everyone’s very much on-trend outfits as the line eventually moves forward. By the time we make it the front doors of the store, I see press and Teen Vogue greeters. I walk in the door, and there’s Andrew Bevan, one of the most recognizable names to come of the brand. I couldn’t believe it. The Teen Vogue features editor, whose columns I’ve been reading for years, is standing only steps away from me. This is crazy.
Upon walking in, I follow the crowd as it wanders up to the second floor and snakes around the showroom in a line. There are lines for a photobooth/flipbook station, “flash tattoos,” a “lash bar” and countless other lines to meet the editors. After leaving the photobooth area, a blonde-haired figure in a bright printed dress caught my eye: it was Amy Astley, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue! I couldn’t believe that I was even in her presence. Next step: find the the line and meet her. We found the line and waited, then she was moved to do interviews, so we left that line. Later, her line resumed, so we circled back to meet her. That was thrilling: getting a photo with her and asking her for career advice.
The next day- Saturday- is the first full day of the seminar. I get up bright and early, dress in one of my trendiest outfits, and walk one block to the Conde Nast offices. I wait in line for what seems to be forever to check in, get my nametag and head to my first destination.
I was a part of the “Editorial/PR/ Social” major, as opposed to the Business of Fashion and Design/Styling majors who had different agendas. Our group heard from the likes of editors, reporters, photographers and public relations agents and representatives.
At the first speaker, YouTuber and beauty guru Michelle Phan, Teen Vogue publisher Jason Wagenheim introduced the event, “there were thousands of applications from all over the world, and we only took around 500 [of you here today.]” He encouraged us to meet, connect and ask questions while we were here learning all sorts of industry knowledge.
Michelle Phan, digital entrepreneur and beauty vlogger
This digital and beauty entrepreneur discusses her experience with Astley, as the ‘Dean’ speaker for the major. She mentioned social media, branding, her own products and an intimate relationship with her followers. For a brand, she mentioned how it is crucial to figure out your message, what you will support. “I always believe you can make anything work,” Phan said. She discusses her new makeup brand ipsy, a themed beauty subscription that features personalized products. She adds, “it’s important not just to have a brand, but to have a personality behind the brand.” She advises small YouTubers to follow their passion and to keep making videos.
“It’s important not just to have a brand, but a personality behind the brand,” Phan said. “That’s the beauty of digital: you are in charge of you own image; be authentic.”
Brian Phillips & Juliana Ribeiro, Black Frame PR
The next two presenters are successful PR agents for their agency, Black Frame. Black Frame works for clients such as Kenzo and Rodarte. Phillips, CEO for the firm, said how
“influence is changing people’s minds” in a “visually-driven” world. The two discuss more about brand images and making show they go together well and to form authentic relationships.
As a PR agent, they explain how you must research the clients and audience and tell a story about the brand with the event of the clothes. As Phillips said, your job is to find “what will people talk about,” and how “fashion is all about what’s new.”
Kristen Joy Watts, fashion and art for Instagram
Watts is “obsessed with visual communication” and photography, where they both work together for her fashion, advocacy and events job at Instagram. Her previous jobs including launching the Lens blog for the New York Times and telling stories digitally for R/GA digital agency.
Her seminar focused on inspiration for taking pictures and the overall message of your own personal Instagram stories.
Dana Mathews, Drew Elovitz, Elaine Welteroth, Erin Kaplan & Amy Astley: Editors Panel
After a whirlwind morning and lunch break in the new Conde Nast cafeteria, it was time for one of my most anticipated lectures: the Teen Vogue editors panel, moderated by Amy Astley. Mathews is the entertainment editor who books the covers, Elovitz is the social media manager, Welteroth is the health and beauty director and Kaplan is the PR director. They represent a “few key departments” at the magazine. They all discusses their careers and how they got here, then opened the floor to questions from all of us in the audience.
When hiring, they look for ‘promotable’ people, who convey their passion for Teen Vogue and know who the magazine is talking about. Astley said, “there’s always room for talent,” as she explains how she uses sites like Instagram to gauge talent and creativity.
Aliza Licht, DKNYPRGirl
Licht used DKNY’s Cara Delevigne capsule collection, #CaraD4DKNY, as a case study for this seminar. She discussed Cara and the brand’s inspirations and then explained how the campaign was launched. First, they made sure to take behind-the-scenes pictures and craft a genuine press release (here written by Cara herself). Then, she explains the picking the right long lead magazine to get the exclusive, the Instagram casting campaign, how being “nimble” and proactive is the best way to handle a leak, the launch itself, the press release and hook, the “sizzle reel” of photographs and then she had us explain how we’d sell DKNY watched following her process.
Her audience activity asked students to choose an ambassador, press hooks, a press headline. Then, she urged us to focus on a launch strategy: the long lead release, short lead release, social media promotion and an opening event to promote the product.
Mickey Rapkin, author “Pitch Perfect”
This next presenter I was looking forward to all day: Mickey Rapkin, author of “Pitch Perfect,” and several magazine feature stories, including the current cover story of “Teen Vogue.” Along with four other girls, I booked it out of Aliza’s seminar to make onto the first elevator downstairs: we were determined to sit front row for Mickey Rapkin’s talk. Plus, he was the only editorial writing perspective we had the entire day. He sat with Teen Vogue’s Dana Mathews where they agreed to talk candidly about booking and interviewing celebrities.
He explains how his job is “just trying to sit down with people and have a conversation.” Rapkin thinks you learn a lot about people by going into their homes and seeing what they have their shelves, which is what he often does for Teen Vogue (and other magazine) cover stories. He ended up giving us plenty of advice for young writers and journalists, such as seeking out internships, finding stories and keep up up your passions. “What I love about my job: these stories are all an adventure,” Rapkin said.
After Mickey Rapkin’s seminar they moved us swiftly upstairs for a “mix and mingle with Teen Vogue” event, where you could introduce yourself to the editors of the magazine. That ended Saturday: such a great day, so unbelievable that amount of executives I heard from, in the industry that I want to work for someday!
Sunday, after waiting in line to check in, it was time to head to our keynote speaker: OscarPRGirl/ SVP of Global Communications for Oscar de la Renta, Erika Bearman. As a journalism major and not a Public Relations major, I wasn’t sure what to make out of this one: but it was really interesting to hear about working for a brand, maintaining a certain image.
Erika Bearman, OscarPRGirl
Our final presentation was the face behind OscarPRGirl, Erika Bearman. She opened her talk by explaining her background working in the fashion industry. “Getting press on the stuff is the most simple definition of PR,” Bearman said. She discusses advice for students to begin working and “learning and contributing.” She gives advice about following your passions, setting yourself up for success, asking for help and how to help land the job or an interview. She adds how “every day is a learning experience” in the industry.
“This couldn’t have been a more perfect job,” Bearman said of her time with Oscar de la Renta. “I organize all the ad campaigns and bring everyone together [for each shoot.]”
Her presentation ended with a numerous amount of cheers, as a large group of girls push forward in a circle for the opportunity to introduce themselves to her, exchange business cards and snap a selfie with OscarPRGirl.
Walking out of the room and the Conde Nast building with my certificate of completion in hand, I couldn’t believe the amazing experience I had: from meeting industry executives, networking with other students from around the world and learning advice about breaking into the industry! It was a weekend in New York that I’ll never be able to forget.
Street Style Best Looks: Click through for a photo slideshow of some of the different looks participants wore for this fashion seminar.