What have we all learned from Dormify? Fashion and interior design go hand and hand. They are practically like sisters – they they live in the same place, copy each other, and they usually look alike. They can compliment each other – like when your most extravagant pair of shoes is displayed as an art installation, strategically placed on top of your book shelf, and like sisters, they can get on each others nerves (ie: when there isn’t a proper organization method in your closet to house your ever growing wardrobe.)
This week I am focusing on CollegeFashionista’s founder Amy Levin. Amy focuses on college fashion everyday and everyday I focus on interior design of college dorm rooms and apartments. We have met for coffee and lunch several times and can never stop talking about the two – fashion and interior design. Amy manages over 300 Style Guru’s from over 200 colleges and Universities that write for CollegeFashionista and has formed a ton of fabulous partnerships. She is so driven and successful at the young age of 24 – so I wanted to give you a peak inside of her inspiring life.
SH: What inspired you to launch CollegeFashionista?
AL: The inspiration behind CF stemmed from a series of internships. What really inspired the idea was my internship that I had while studying abroad in London for WGSN as a trend reporter. WGSN is a trend-analysis and research service providing intelligence the fashion industry. My job was to go around London and take photos of fashion from the streets, and WGSN would use my photos for photo boards that they would package and sell as trend reports. Now, more so than ever, trends on the street are dictating what buyers are carrying in stores.
My experience in London was followed by an internship in LA at a boutique trend reporting company that focused on fashion on the west coast. They would package our books together to collect information for stores like Forever 21 and brands like Charlotte Russe who wanted to imitate trends from the streets in their stores.
Between my experiences in London and LA, I decide to create a personal blog my senior year at Indiana University, focusing on street style. One thing led to the next and CollegeFashionista was born.
SH: Since you are your own boss, how do you set goals and time lines for yourself?
AL: Every night I make an agenda of what I need to do the next day so I stay organized and on schedule. I’ve seen people start their own companies who think, “Oh, I can wake up at 11 AM!” I wake up at 7:30 and start work by 830. It is all about self-discipline. Every day is crazy and different but I always have a schedule for what I need to do that day.
SH: Do you find yourself constantly working? Even when you aren’t working?
AL: All the time. When you start your own business, and as a young person in this industry, you can easily have a really hard time separating your work life from personal life. I have writers from all over the world. Even when it’s time for me to go to sleep I may be emailing one of my writers from Europe who needs an answer ASAP. Watching CollegeFashionista grow and seeing where it has gotten to today is an incredible feeling – a feeling that inspires me to work harder everyday!
SH: Was it a hard decision to work for yourself instead of for a company post college?
AL: At first, I was super nervous. I had 13 internships before I graduated college and I was nervous that I was taking a risk by working for myself. It ended up being a great choice and I have never looked back. My family has been so supportive and encouraging.
SH: 13 internships!? Please share…
AL: I interned at Gen Art, BWR, WGSN, Armani PR, Wardrobe Studio in LA called Western Wardrobe, Angeleno Magazine, Chicago Social Magazine, TrendWest to name a few. I was a serial intern! One summer in LA I had 3 internships.
Have these internships shaped how you run your company today?
AL: Learning about all aspects of the industry including events, marketing, PR, trend reporting, and styling has been beneficial. Now I see how all the different piece can work together in the best way possible.
SH: When you were interning abroad in London, did your style and taste change?
AL: So much so. Before studying abroad it was like ‘how much stuff can I have’ and ‘how many new outfits can I buy.’ After studying abroad, this completely changed. I went for quality instead of quantity. Between London Fashion Week and working at Armani, I was exposed to the most high fashion I was ever exposed to in my past. People in London, young people specifically, take so many risks with fashion.
My time abroad in London was when I came into being my own person. When I got back to school, all of my friends were dressing alike and I wasn’t. London was a turning point in every way imaginable – career, personal style, and my overall being.
SH: You launched College Fashionista while you were still at Indiana University. Did you talk to any of your professors about advice for starting your own business?
AL: YES! I had an amazing professor who is still a mentor of mine. We met about the site several times as it was launching. He worked at Fossil before working at the business school at IU so he was, and still is, a great person to talk to about starting and running my own business. He is definitely a huge influence, and now sits on my Board of Advisors.
I remember that in 2008, when I was a senior at IU, he was very in tune with social media. He forced our class to create our own twitter accounts and none of us even knew what twitter was yet!
SH: Well then, I have to ask – what’s your favorite hash tag?
AL: I think I’ll go with #nbd
SH: Describe your freshman year dorm room at Indiana University.
AL: Oh my gosh! It was PINK. I loved pink. I had a bright pink comforter and I had photo collages everywhere. It was so girly and so cliché ‘freshmen year dorm room.’ My roommate had a tie-dye comforter. Needless to say, I hated pink after freshman year. Everything was neutral from then on. Until now – Now, my apartment has a ton of pink in it. It’s funny how it all came full circle.
SH: What is your favorite Dormify product?
AL: The Hook Heart Pillows. Love, love, love those. I have similar ones in my office. Dormify has amazing throw pillows. What’s amazing about them is that students can easily change the look of their room. For a college student who doesn’t want to spend a ton of money but wants their room to look great, adding throw pillows can brighten up their room tremendously.
SH: In the past 2.5 years you have lived in LA, Chicago, and now in New York. How have you changed up the design in each of your homes in these 3 different cities?
AL: In LA, I went for a very Parisian look. The building I lived in had a European feeling and my apartment décor seemed to flow naturally with the style of the building. Also, I was heavily inspired by a recent trip to Paris and brought back inspiration for my apartment look. Think lots of floral artwork, deep hued velvet pillows and gold galore. In Chicago, I lived in a high-rise building. It was a very modern building and the unit had floor to ceiling windows so I went for a contemporary look with Andy Warhol art, bright yellow bedding and floor length mirrors. It had a raw feeling that fit great with the type of apartment it was.
My apartment in New York is a fusion of everything I have had in LA and Chicago. I have a bit of Parisian intermixed with uber modern and of course trinkets of vintage items thrown here and there. I The apartment is eclectic and my first place that I absolutely love. There was always something missing from the apartments before and I think I finally figured out the missing pieces! But it is tiny-I mean it’s New York City!
Amy gave us a sneak peak at the CF office, also very eclectic! A few interesting pieces can make a simple space have a ton of character.
SH: What current fashion trend do you love?
AL: Leather pants. You know that! I wear mine all the time.
SH: Me too – they are like my version of sweatpants!
SH: You recently spoke at Teen Vogue Fashion University among other notables like Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Shouler, Michael Kors, and Rebecca Minkoff. Is it surreal to be working side by side with this group of people?
AL: It’s crazy. It is such a honor and I am still so humbled by it all. Speaking at Teen Vogue was such a wonderful experience. I am very appreciative about these types of opportunities.
SH: Aside from this, what has one of your most surreal moments been?
AL: I was standing outside of a show during Fashion Week and Anna Wintour stopped and posed for a photo for me. I had a mini heart attack.
SH: While you were on campus at IU did you network with professionals who came onto campus to speak?
AL: A lot of the speakers when I was in college were very corporate and business oriented. Had they been more design-orientated speakers, I would have loved to attend! I know that now at IU they are starting to do an awesome job with getting younger, more creative speakers and entrepreneurs. Utilizing these opportunities is super important and I recommend that everyone get involved.
SH: Advice for young aspiring entrepreneurs?
AL: Really do research on the market you are about to enter. Make sure there isn’t something exactly like what you want to do out there. If there is, figure out what are you going to do better and what you will do to set you apart. Take time, have patience, and be prepared to work hard!
Most importantly, find something you love. At the end of the day work takes up 99 percent of your time– so you may as well love what you doing.