College is, well, a questionable time for fashion choices. Those crucial four years are when you really figure out who you are. That could mean a bohemian phase followed by a goth moment, then a return to head-to-toe prep and who knows what else.
That’s where Amy Levin comes in. She started her blog College Fashionista while she was a student at Indiana University to offer advice to fellow budding fashionistas. Since then, the graduate and businesswoman has grown the network to more than 500 campuses worldwide and 1,500 contributors who write columns covering topics like what to wear abroad, fashionable guys around campus and must-have accessories.
Below, Amy schools us in the art of maintaining a super successful fashion blog.
What inspired you to the start the blog?
I went to college at Indiana University and felt completely isolated from the fashion industry. After studying abroad in London and spending summers interning in LA, I started to notice the influence street style fashion was having on the fashion industry as a whole. During my senior year I began documenting trends being worn by my peers at school. At the time, I felt so dorky having a blog—it didn’t have the same cache as it does now.
I graduated in 2009. One thing led to the next and here we are today at over 500 colleges worldwide with roughly 1,500 contributors a semester.
How has CollegeFashionista evolved since you graduated college?
I was very young and naïve when I started my business at the age of 22. From a personal standpoint, I was learning how to manage life post-college while also learning how to manage a business and contributors who were so close in age to me. I have always been a very organized person, so creating structure and a foundation were key elements to making the business scale. It’s been a learning curve the entire way, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing.
How would you describe your personal aesthetic?
I moved from L.A. to New York City two and a half years ago and my style has evolved tremendously. In L.A. I was obsessed with vintage pieces, heavy jewelry and one-of-a-kind dresses.
Now I am more refined, minimalist and appreciate wearing my “uniform,” which is a pair leather pants, a baggy T-shirt and whatever jacket I am hooked on at the moment.
How does college fashion differ from coast to coast?
At the moment leather jackets and crop tops are popular on campuses all across the country.
You grew up in Chicago and just opened an office there. Where should we go when we’re in the Windy City?
While I live in NYC, I spend plenty of time in Chicago. Between family, friends and now our newly opened office space—there’s always a reason to go back. My favorite day in the city starts with early pilates at Flex, breakfast at RL, a quick stop in the Museum of Contemporary Art, manicures at The Peninsula (the best spa ever), a routine visit to Barneys, an early evening stroll on Lake Shore Drive and dinner at Mastro’s. Sounds like a packed day but I always cram in a lot when I am in town. Can you tell I am Type-A?
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My father is my mentor, role model and a huge force behind my success. The two of us have taken a yearly trip to London ever since I can remember and when I first started my business he told me “The cream always rises to the top. Be the cream.” That sits on a sticky note on my computer at all times and is something I strive to live by.
What is your advice for men and women who want to turn their blog into a full-time business?
Do research on what exists in the marketplace before starting your own blog. It’s a very crowded space and I often find myself overwhelmed by the amount of content that exists on the Internet. But there is always room for innovators and pushing the bar. I think it’s important to determine how you are going to differentiate your brand from others and why an advertiser would want to spend money with you over your competitors.
If you were “accidentally” locked in Barneys New York, what would we find you wearing in the morning?
I’m a sucker for all things The Row! Who isn’t these days? But my true guilty pleasures are lingerie and sleepwear. I would be in this Akras pajama top and pajama short with this Fleur Du Mal lace camisole stuffed inside a Balenciaga Weekender and ready for my mad dash out of the store in Maison Martin Margiela sneaks.
Can we make this a reality please?