Brittany Adams is the Associate Fashion Editor of Style.com. The NYU alum started her career in fashion journalism with an internship at Women’s Wear Daily before joining the editorial staff at W Magazine. At Style.com, Adams covers current trends and keeps her finger on the pulse of all things model-related.
Are you from New York?
I’m from Connecticut; I grew up there and then went to NYU and have been here ever since. I had a lot of fashion internships during my time at NYU starting in the Teen Vogue fashion closet and then I worked for a few semesters at Women’s Wear Daily in the ‘Eye’ section with Emily Holt who was there at time. That really laid a good foundation of fashion for me and then I studied journalism in school. When I first graduated, even though I’d done all the right things, I didn’t get the dream job right away; it was that hard time in 2008-09. So I worked in restaurants for about a year and I felt like that was a really good learning-to-deal-with-people experience. Then I started working at W, I was an editorial assistant there and it was around the time Stefano Tonchi was coming in as Editor-in-Chief. I was the assistant to the deputy editor there and when Stefano came in the old staff was phased out, so then there was an opening at Style.com and that’s where I went.
Did you have a preference between print and digital at the time?
No, the focus was always writing and it didn’t really matter the venue. Of course I thought there were definite benefits to digital because the volume and it just seemed fitting with the times.
The pace is so much faster, right?
At this point I can’t even imagine going to work at a magazine and writing one front of book story a month.
When you joined Style, it wasn’t what it was today?
It’s been pretty significantly expanded even in just the 3 years that I’ve been there. Probably the biggest thing to call out is we started our print magazine Style.com/ Print. In a way it was kind of revolutionary because we were one of the first fashion websites to kind of revert back and do a print format. It seemed to be a little different and a head scratcher at the time, but it’s definitely something we’re really proud of by trying to make a scrapbook of each season. Oftentimes our homepage looks like a magazine and it made sense to turn it into a glossy format. Also just this year we started a new global initiative called Style Map with 64 contributors worldwide who are industry influencers– it’s not straight news reporting and it has a bit more personal of a tone. It’s sort of an extended Instagram, if you will. And just the sheer amount of coverage that we’re doing – every season we expand the designers in our drop down menu, resort and pre fall get bigger every year. It’s a constantly whirling machine.
How do designers get included on the Style.com dropdown menu?
Usually it’s a process and I’m pretty heavily involved with it. We’ll set up an appointment with them several weeks before the shows start and do a preview with our editors, look at the new collection, talk about how they’ve evolved their line, where they’re selling, what kind of retail force they are. To be honest, it helps when they have a powerful PR agency behind them. We’re very inclusive with our reviews compared to other publications like Vogue, which sets us apart. But our staff never expands.
The staff is quite small?
Yeah, we have a very small team. We’re a lean, mean fighting machine. It’s very inspiring to be around everyone in the office, particularly my bosses because while their job can be glamorous in some ways, they’re above all incredibly hard working. I’m inspired by the work ethic that, for example, my executive editor Nicole Phelps has. She’s my idol, writing all of the top reviews (she’s super fast) and managing the entire site. To see that is really inspiring and makes me want to stick with it. We’re a small staff but we figure it out.
There is only one office for the site? New York?
Yes, just one office with 3 or 4 staff writers – and a few freelancers who help us during the shows and in other cities.
Do you think you will stay in digital for a while?
Yeah, certainly that’s the way I’ve evolved in my career and as I said before I can’t imagine going back to the print world.
Do you think print publications will continue as they are or will they lessen the number of issues published throughout the year and more resources will be devoted to digital?
I don’t know, I think there’s always a market for print. I personally like to hold magazines and books and I just think there’s an intangible difference between seeing it on an iPad and seeing it in front of you on a page. I think people will always respect that. Maybe magazines will turn a little artier in the future and more of the shopping-driven stuff will go online, but I don’t think they’re about to die anytime soon.
Does Style.com have shopable functions?
We just started a new initiative called Clique to Buy – and we curate a list of bloggers and they choose different items we feature on the site every day. I think that’s the direction everything is heading. Editorial is starting to get into ecommerce and ecommerce is starting to get into editorial. I think the Net-a-Porter magazine is amazing.
What do you cover specifically at Style.com?
As a small team everyone is involved in the whole process. Specifically, I write reviews, four seasons a year, for the major runway show seasons and also for pre- fall and resort, which are becoming bigger and bigger. But I do those on more of a private appointment basis and then write about the collection afterwards. I maybe do 4 or 5 reviews a day when it’s busy, in addition to writing posts for our Style File news blog, and creating seasonal, weekly, and daily trend stories. One of my bigger jobs during fashion month is to identify all of the models in all of the shows—kind of like baseball trading cards. It seems sort of menial, but it’s truly my favorite part of my job. I’ve always been obsessed with models. When I was a little kid I went onto a Style.com community forum and listed my favorite models. I was like 12 at the time. I just love doing it, and at this point, I’m truly encyclopedic about it.
Where do you learn the new names?
Most of the agencies send me their new show packages. I correspond with a lot of agents and they’ll tell me their girls to watch and will let me know if I missed someone or got a name incorrect. I also use The Fashion Spot because there are people on there who are way more obsessed than even myself.
You do this for all the fashion weeks?
I unfortunately don’t name male models during the menswear shows. Although we never named them before, I see it as a personal fault at this point because I’m so good with the girls. I can tell distinguish a girl in full Alexander McQueen hair and makeup by her cheekbone, but I can’t tell one male model apart from the next and I’m a straight girl! I also write features on models. For example, last season I predicted Catherine McNeil was having a comeback and now she’s everywhere again. And for a while I was doing this model-series profiling girls with interesting hobbies or side projects. I’m kind of like the model guru.
What did you think about certain girls being too famous (like this Vanity Fair article where Karlie Kloss is quoted as the reason some designers won’t cast her) for the shows?
I think case in point on that is Cara Delevigne. As an aside, I was so excited we put her on the cover of our third print issue right as she was blowing up; I love that we captured her at that moment before everyone else became obsessed with her. Going back to the question, I think it’s great if girls have a vibrant personality and they can brand themselves in the age of Instagram and Twitter. Everyone is their own personal brand these days, so why not play that up if you’re a beautiful model? For designers, models ultimately just need to fit the clothes and fit their vision of a girl walking down the street in their clothes. If you’re a major model like a Karlie or a Joan or a Cara, your celebrity can sometimes overshadow the clothes, and that can be a bad thing, perhaps. But in general, I’m all about bringing back a new era of Supermodels, so why not add a little star power to your cast?
Do you think its tough for the emerging designers to exist in an industry where they can’t attract a caliber of model on their brand name alone?
A lot of that isn’t about the name it’s about the money. It’s funny because there is a kind of a reverse relationship between status of designer and amount that they pay. Marc Jacobs is notorious for not really compensating the models – he might pay them in trade a little bit but it’s such an honor for them to walk and be in the show they will just do it for free, but for smaller presentations you’ll find girls are incredibly expensive even if they’re not A-list girls.
When do you think that reverses?
I don’t know; I do a lot of theorizing on this. As you know I was helping TOME do their casting which I’ve done for the past two seasons. We’re close friends, we met through work and we would always talk about models and they asked me to help them cast. I love when designers focus on the new girls. That’s personally what’s exciting to me. What’s new? Who’s the next person? I love watching new girls break out each season.
Who was this season’s NYFW breakout girl?
There have actually been a lot this season – two girls at the top of my mind are Malaika Firth – she’s this stunning black girl that starred in the Prada fall 2013 ad campaign and it was before she really ever did any runway work. She’s beautiful and the Prada campaign suggested she would be big and then she did every major show and was predicted to do really well in Europe. And then another girl she’s blonde, kind of on the shorter side her name is Anna Ewers. She did a few shows last season, and now she’s Alex Wang’s girl – she opened his NYFW show. She’s German and has the most striking face, very Bridget Bardot-esque. She’s been doing really well. There are a ton of new girls, there’s always this thing about exclusives and sometimes all of that it’s just a whole amount of flurry for nothing and they don’t do that well and it feels like they’re sort of just using the girls and throwing them out.
What was the tone you wanted to set with casting for TOME?
They are an example of a younger designer and not trying to get the top new girls. They did a presentation; it’s not runway so there was no walking. We wanted to work with one agency for a package deal. They were going for a strong, natural look this season. Last season, which I loved, they had a trio of black models standing in very angelic white dresses and it looked amazing. They have a very diverse idea of beauty. I think in general this season there has been a big push for more diversity in modeling. The New York Times article about diversity in fashion came out towards the end of the summer and you can almost see a direct response to all the heat the designers and casting directors received and for that reason this season, it’s been beautifully diverse.
Do you think New York has had a real problem with this?
No, not compared to other cities. I don’t see it as the type of problem where they’re (casting directors) seeing these beautiful, exotic girls and they’re turning them down, I think it’s just more difficult to come by. But, I’m very happy with the diversity I’m seeing on the runways this season.
Was there a New York show that blew your mind this season?
In general I review the more contemporary labels – those mind blowing fashion moments are a little more difficult to come by. But, I’m super excited about this label Delpozo – it’s a Spanish fashion house recently revived by designer, Josep Font. It was like a fairy tale with these giant hoop skirts, but it didn’t feel antiquated or stuffy in any way – it’s like beautiful couture shapes but streamlined. I also really liked Rosie Assoulin. And I’m a huge fan of Derek Lam.
Do you do reviews for the Europe shows?
No I don’t, it’s basically Nicole and our top writer/editor at large, Tim Blanks, who do all of our writing in Milan and we have one writer in Paris. I would like to do London shows, because I like a lot of the young London designers. NYFW takes a lot out of me. That’s why I idolize Nicole! She is so fast at writing reviews and does it at the highest level.
Which designers reflect your personal style?
I mentioned Derek Lam, I wear a lot of black and I wear a lot skirts. My mom imprinted into me skirts are for some reason more professional. I definitely love hip-hop and really like all the street influences we’re seeing lately and I think that’s where fashion is going. Everyone is all about the novelty sweatshirts and I love how lines like Conflict of Interest line and LPD poke fun at fashion.
Who are the most promising New York designers?
I love the Tome boys, I really like Rosie, I think people responded really well to her presentation, and I like Tanya Taylor a lot. I really like this girl we featured on Style.com’s video fashion week – this label Nomia, the designer is super cool – she has this streetwear influence, but she’s always had that and works on elevating it. I like reviewing the same designers season after season, and really seeing them grow, it feels like a conversation with them. I like mentoring the younger brands and advising them on how they can’t get on Style.com or setting up previews, writing recommendations, just helping them grow.
What’s the best way for a new designer to get your attention?
Be yourself and don’t follow the trends too much. When I see a neoprene sweatshirt with a digital floral print, my eyes roll. I understand that might be commercially viable, but I’m looking for originality if you’re trying to be a new designer.
What kind of advice do you give to that designer trying to find that balance between their individuality and being commercial?
Usually they figure it out, but by including their more editorial/show pieces in with the mix of things stores are going to pick up in black and white. I think Style.com’s video fashion week is a good way to get reviewed. I’m happy to introduce new designers to model agents or recommend a girl for their lookbook. And it just takes time. I don’t advise jumping into doing a presentation, everyone is so overloaded, and I think there are more strategic routes – you can debut during resort or prefall – or show a few weeks after editors return from Europe, do a video, strategically gift street style stars. There are a lot of different channels.