Caroline Vazzana: Thriving in Manhattan

October 05, 2020

Photo: Jenna Cappabianca, @jennaalexaxo

Caroline Vazzana may look like a dream in a cloud, but this fashion influencer has her feet firmly on the ground on the streets of NYC. Hard work and perseverance have made her a successful writer, editor and stylist, but more importantly, this is an influencer with an eye toward helping others join her in the fashion industry. Her book, Making it in Manhattan, goes backstage to reveal how a dream becomes reality. The lofty heights she has reached do not keep her from being the down to earth New Yorker who has room for you at her table.

Caroline took the time out of her hectic schedule to chat with me about her book, Making it in Manhattan, her career in the fashion industry, her take on NYFW this season, and the future of the fashion industry.

How do you think living in New York has affected your personality, style, and career? 

There’s just so much creativity in New York. Even if you’re just walking down the street in Soho or sitting at a restaurant, you see so much artwork and everyone has amazing style. I feel like I’m walking down the street and everyone, even if they don’t work in fashion, just dresses so incredibly. New York has an indescribable energy. If you’re not here, it’s hard to describe that energy, but just between all of the graffiti art on the streets in Soho and little vendors set up, selling their artwork — there’s just so much creativity everywhere. I feel like every single day I’m sparked with an idea or I’ll walk by a space and think “oo I need to come back here and do a photoshoot, it’s so beautiful.” There’s so much creativity, it’s really endlessly inspiring.

Photo: Caroline Vazzana
Photo: Caroline Vazzana

Since you’ve also styled quite a few celebrities, what do you consider first when styling a particular client? Trends? Personality? Their own personal taste? 

I try to really look at what they like because when you’re styling someone else, you need to put all of your own style preferences aside because maybe I love tulle and crazy colors, but my client really likes black, or maybe they really only like wearing sneakers. So, I think it’s super important to take into account what they like because you never want the person to look like the clothing is wearing them or you never want them to feel uncomfortable. So, taking into account what they like and what they feel most confident in, then creating options for them to try on, is my typical process. You can always try to say “I think this looks really good on you” or “this is trending right now,” but at the end of the day, I really like the final decision to be as much theirs as possible.

You tend to be very active on social media across multiple channels. How much do you feel that your social media presence impacted your career or still impacts your career? 

Social media is the way I’ve grown my career so people have discovered me or discovered my brand or learned about Making It in Manhattan through social media. Social media is the best way to market yourself in 2020, whether it’s Tik Tok, Instagram, Youtube — it’s free advertising, literally! So, I think the way I grew my brand over the past 4 years has truly been in a great way thanks to social media. 

Looking at your social media page, how do you hope people perceive you through your content? 

That’s a great question — no one really asks me that. I hope to be perceived as someone who is very approachable, kind and fun. I feel like the fashion industry really gets a very bad reputation for a “You can’t sit with us” mentality — kind of a Mean Girls vibe. I hope to be the exact opposite of that.

In writing Making It in Manhattan, my goal was to kind of pull back the curtain on secrets of the industry and to inspire people to want to pursue fashion. You know, you can make it. It is an empowering and supportive industry. Obviously, in every single industry there are people who are not very nice. You just really have to find your group and your people. So, I want people to look at me as if I am like their best friend or best friend’s older sister who they look up to and ask for advice. Someone who is relatable and kind and approachable — someone you look to and want to be like one day, you know?

When I wrote Making It in Manhattan, I feel like there were a lot of books out there written by people who were obviously super successful, but a lot older, so you’d read the books —  and yes they were so inspiring — but it feels like their careers aren’t very attainable for someone who is maybe 22, 23, or 24. So, I wanted to write a book for someone who is a bit younger and who you could look at and say “WOW, in a couple of years I can be like that!” 

You have been involved in several facets of the fashion industry. Is there anything that you think is not taught about often in the fashion industry, or would be a surprise to new entrants?

I mean, when I was in college they didn’t teach about social media at all back then. I think now classes and schools are doing courses on social media marketing and branding, which is amazing! I think those courses are so important, because no matter what you’re doing, whether you’re an influencer, a stylist, a writer, a publicist, a designer, whatever it might be —  social media is a big part of the world we live in. So, being up to date on that and just knowing about social media is so important. It’s so beneficial to be able to market yourself and know how to promote yourself properly on social media. It can really help make or break your career.

You wear so many hats in your career and seem to work so hard. Where do you get your energy, and do you ever find yourself overwhelmed? 

I always tell myself I really do enjoy fashion and I love the fashion industry, so if at any time I’m not enjoying myself in some sense, I just take a step back and take some time to decompress and have a personal mental health day. Because at no point should I be like “oh my gosh, I’m miserable I hate this” because it’s so much fun and I’m so thankful to have a career that I really do love and enjoy. So, with that being said, I think it’s always so important to take time for yourself, take mental health days, and take a step back. Also celebrate the little wins. If you’re just going, going, going and not taking the time to step back and say “oh wow, I published a great article today” or “I was featured in XYZ” or “I love the way today’s outfit post came out,” then I think you need to take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back to say you did a great job. If you don’t take this time you can really burn yourself out. 

Speaking of overwhelming things, fashion week is this crazy event normally, but how did you feel about it being digital this year? Did you feel like you had more of a chance to attend certain things or create more content?

Yeah, I think definitely in August I was feeling a little bit lost. I still feel a little bit lost because normally I’d be in Europe right now for Milan and then Paris ,which is literally my favorite time of the year. So, definitely I was feeling mixed emotions: on one hand, it’s kind of nice to have a break and to not have a super crazy fashion month where I am running around and stressing myself out about dumb things. It’s great things like “oh, did I get a look for this show?”, but also people are dying in the world. I stress myself out about things that are important to me, but with everything going on in the world, I have to remind myself even though I’m sad about fashion week being cancelled, there are people who are really suffering right now. That being said, I did participate in a lot of digital shows and I had three in-person events, which obviously I do a little over 40 in-person events just in New York, which is crazy.

WOW, that is crazy! 

You’re running on adrenaline and you’re just so excited. No complaints in that sense! You look back at the end and think “I’m literally exhausted and I had the time of my life.” This season, I went to 3 events though and I was able to really focus on those events and appreciate them. Like you said, you really have more time to create content, too. Daily vlogs and TikToks are things I would have still tried to do during normal fashion week, but I was able to have a little bit more time to sit back and work on them more than I maybe normally would have, just given how busy it usually is. So, yeah I think it was kind of nice! I’m definitely missing it now, but I think come February, when hopefully we get back to some fashion week normalcy, the excitement and energy will just be so special!

I loved your content during fashion week, especially that blue dress look! 

Thank you so much! I LOVED that look, it came together so great. Yeah, it was definitely, like, one of my favorite moments of the week. 

You were able to incorporate your mask with it, too. I think that’s a major thing that happened during fashion week as well. 

Yeah, masks are so important to show people you can wear them in stylish ways. 

Definitely! What inspires you to pick those looks and what was your favorite out of them? 

That’s a hard one — I love all the looks! I really liked the blue one a lot, it was such a statement. Then, the pink bow mask I wore was such a cool piece. I loved those green pants with the white feathers on the bottom. I think all of them were really fun and cool looks. I mean, the Cynthia Rowley look I wore too — the floral dress and matching mask — was fun and it also had a fun memory since it was for her video shoot. I think when it comes to putting together outfits, I’m very much an emotional dresser, so I put together things that are happy, fun, and colorful. Especially during fashion week, it’s all about taking risks, even if it is digital. It’s about pushing your style and maybe not just wearing something you’d wear every single day. I think just experimenting and pushing limits and wearing things that are like dream looks. Like the blue dress, I wouldn’t wear that on a normal day to go grocery shopping! You can wear it to fashion week and it’s totally appropriate.

Photo: Caroline Vazzana
Photo: Caroline Vazzana

When you were watching the shows, were there any trends or looks that you liked in particular?

I really liked the Anna Sui show which was beautiful. The Ulla Johnson show was also gorgeous and the setting was amazing! It’s funny — I think maybe because we’ve been in such a sad time in the world, there was a lot of color and prints and fun in the collections. Come spring, hopefully people will want a rejuvenation or a rebirth of their wardrobe — more color, more prints, more fun! I saw that in a lot of collections. It definitely was not minimalistic. I’m eccentric, so it’s definitely a lot of things that I would want to wear. 

If you could start a fashion trend now and know it would be successful, what would you start, and why? 

A trend! That’s hard because I feel like with fashion there’s nothing that hasn’t already been done yet. Even if somebody creates something or starts a new line, nothing is totally original, if that makes sense. I mean, I definitely wish people wore more sequins! I love sequins! I think sequins during the day is something that’s very underrated because you can totally wear sequins during the day, but some people think you can’t. Some people are like “oh no, sequins should be left at night time events”, so maybe sequins during the day.

Photos: Caroline Vazzana

Now to close out the interview, I just wanted to ask what you think the future of the fashion industry will be. Many industry experts have called for a rise of “slow fashion” post-COVID-19 due to the wastefulness and environmental harm that fast fashion propagates. How do you think the industry will change after the pandemic if in any way? 

That’s a great question — and I feel like a lot of people have been asking me that in a lot of interviews. It’s hard for me to say, honestly, I’m really not sure. I don’t exactly know where we are going to end up after this. I hope we stop being so wasteful. So much clothing gets thrown out every single week — it’s terrible. There’s already so much clothing in the world. Supporting brands who are being more sustainable or buying second-hand yourself could help a lot. I think even during the last couple of months, I saw so many people going thrifting. I was like “that’s great ‘cause I love thrifting!”. With that being said, people will hopefully be more mindful about who they are buying from and supporting. I mean, there’s no saying exactly what’s going to happen, but it seems like that’s already happening while we’re still in quarantine.

To learn more about how Caroline Vazzana’s perspective as a fashion industry insider, read her book, Making it in Manhattan: The Beginner’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the World of Fashion, and check out her website, Making it in Manhattan!

Connect with Caroline on her socials: 
Caroline Vazzana | NYFW (@cvazzana)  — Instagram
Caroline Vazzana (@CVazzana) | Twitter 
Caroline Vazzana – YouTube
Caroline Vazzana (@cvazzana) — Official TikTok

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