Rowdy sat down with Caroline Vazzana, freelance stylist, editor, and author of “Making It In Manhattan,” about breaking into the industry, her newfound fame on TikTok and using social media as a platform for good.
(Image: Caroline Vazzana)
(Art: Majo Morales / Rowdy Magazine Graphic Designer)
The small-town mentality is easy to get trapped in. We at Rowdy know it best.
When we’re not trudging on day-to-day in Gainesville, a lot of us have big dreams to move to Manhattan, become the next Carrie Bradshaw, and live our best lives in the fashion world.
For Caroline Vazzana, she’s gotten all three.
Caroline has had her cake and ate it too, and here’s how we can follow in her Manolo-outlined footsteps.
After graduating from a small college with a degree in fashion design and merchandising, Caroline packed up her bags and moved to New York City to break into the industry. She began her career as a fashion and marketing assistant at Teen Vogue, previously interning for Marie Claire and Anna Sui.
Her hunger for the industry dominated her everyday life, and she hustled to get where she is today — no strings attached. Unlike many newbies in the fashion industry, Caroline didn’t know anyone or have a well-connected family member that could pull something behind the scenes. Everything she got, she got on her own.
After styling and editing in the industry for a few years, Caroline realized her true passion was helping other big dreamers break into the fashion world.
“I just started thinking about all the experiences I had and that it would be super cool to write an all encompassing guidebook for beginners, who, you know, were women and guys like me. Who were just like, ‘Hi, I really want to work in fashion. I'm willing to work hard, but I've no idea where to get started.’”
While working full time, Caroline began compiling tips and tricks to navigate the industry. In between the long subway commute to work, she typed away the industry’s best-kept secret advice on her iPhone.
Her Notes app eventually turned into the first manuscript of her best-selling book “Making It In Manhattan: The Beginner's Guide to Surviving & Thriving in the World of Fashion”.
Published in 2018, “Making It In Manhattan,” was Caroline’s true beginnings in becoming her own boss. She left her job as the Fashion Editor-at-Large for Global Glam Magazine to launch MakingManhattan.com, an extension of her book.
Caroline’s new-age fashion bible, both print and online, combines her humble beginnings into breaking into the industry with everything you need to know to survive. Want to land your dream internship? What’s the best fashion-forward outfit for your interview? Need help snagging a seat to Fashion Week? Don’t worry, she’s got you covered.
“My initial goal was just always to help people, whether it's through career advice, style, or just like confidence and empowerment,” she said. “To see people reread and highlight and pull down pages and things like that, it just makes me so, so happy because it means that I accomplished what I set out to do.”
And no, it’s not like The Devil Wears Prada, in case you were wondering.
Like Andy though, the age-old advice of being kind to everyone you meet always comes in hand. We do have to admit though, in the world of fashion and publishing, we’re seeing a shift before our very eyes.
It’s no surprise the fashion industry has been radically changing over the last few years. Print magazines are folding, catwalks are going digital, inclusivity is valued and sustainability is on the horizon.
However, since COVID-19 and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement the industry has nosedived and fashion’s key figures have thrown traditionalism out the window.
For Caroline, that means using her platform to advocate for meaningful change, both within the industry and out of it.
Let’s be honest: The fashion industry has always had a racism problem. It’s been whispered about for years. With influencers given a larger seat at the table though, figures who have always been at the forefront of the show, like Caroline, are speaking out to demand just representation for everyone, especially for Black women.
“With a following, comes an obligation. No matter what, you need to show where you stand on something, and you need to educate and inform,” she said.
With the rise of digital activism comes the age old question: Am I Doing Enough?
There’s been a lot of talk about performative activism and how we can combat that, especially in fashion circles on social media. Zerina Akers, Queen Bey’s stylist, began Black Owned Everything to celebrate Black-owned businesses in the industry“for when the trend is over.”
“Sharing a quote on your feed, that’s great,” Caroline said, “But are you going to donate? Are you gonna actually educate yourself? Are you going to take the time to check-in with your Black friends and actively listen?”
Not only is the fashion industry seeing a turn towards inclusivity and celebrating diversity over tokenism, but we’re seeing the fashion calendar turn quickly on its head.
Fashion weeks across the globe have been either outright canceled or moved online for the remainder of the year. Although some designers are planning on showing in person for the Spring/Summer 2021 season, some brands have ditched the standard calendar altogether, choosing virtual showrooms instead.
COVID begs the question: How do we go from here?
“I never thought in a million years there wouldn’t be a New York Fashion Week,” she said. “There might not be a quote-unquote normal after this. It’s gonna be a new normal where we’re educating ourselves and staying mindful.”
As COVID-19 changed the world around her, Caroline hunkered down and did what we all did when the virus first hit: Download TikTok.
All of her friends begged her to jump on the bandwagon and expand her content to the video-app that’s taken social media by storm.
“I had absolutely no idea what to put on there,” she said. “I saw super young gorgeous girls, I was like ‘Oh my gosh when I was 15, I was so dorky and weird,” she said. “I can’t dance, so I didn’t really know if this was my space, but it started growing and taking off.”
Although she’s been on the app since last September, Caroline said her videos didn’t start making it big until she began giving career advice. Since spitting some wisdom in 60 seconds or less, she’s gained an audience of over 45,000 followers and close to 1 million likes.
After Caroline’s videos went viral on TikTok, “Making It In Manhattan'' sold out again, to her absolute joy and surprise. The journey of creating meaningful content on such a new app has been incredible for her, even though you may not see her Renegade anytime soon.
Her biggest piece of advice to be successful though? Don’t give up.
“Right now, it feels super daunting with everything going on in the world. And you probably feel super nervous. But it will get better.”
The second biggest piece of advice? Based on Caroline’s feed, wear colorful shoes that make you feel effortlessly fabulous.
Ana Escalante is Rowdy Magazine's Editor-in-chief. She likes podcasts, comfortable sneakers and yelling about being a Capricorn. You can reach her on Twitter @AEscalante22 or email her at email@example.com