INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Caroline Vazzana (@Cvazzana)


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker, Caroline Vazzana


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:08 

Welcome to clothing culture. I'm Emily lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:12 

I'm Bret Schnitker. 

Emily Lane 00:13 

We speak with experts where we explore the global dynamics that shape trends in the fashion industry, 

Bret Schnitker 00:19 

brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global production and design house with over 30 years of industry experience. 

Emily Lane 00:34 

Well, welcome back to another episode of clothing culture. We are back in Manhattan. Isn't it wonderful, Bret, 

Bret Schnitker 00:42 

it is great. It's beautiful day. 

Emily Lane 00:44 

I know. And I cannot believe who we have on our show. Today. We have the author of a wonderful book Making it in Manhattan. Also a woman who has been deemed the modern day Carrie Bradshaw front and center at all the fashion scene, events this day, Caroline Vaazzana, welcome. Thank you. Thank 

Caroline Vazzana 01:07 

you so much for having me. 

Emily Lane 01:09 

Oh, my gosh, of course, it's really a dream. I think you you have such a vibrant, joyful, playful, romantic aesthetic about your style, which boy couldn't come at a better time. And you have so many wonderful things on the horizon. And I think I just I want to make sure our audience has a little understanding of your background, your love of fashion and what's happening for you today. So your book, let's start there. Perfect. Making it in Manhattan. It really it's kind of like a how to book of how to break into the fashion scene. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and maybe a little bit about what it's provided for you? 

Caroline Vazzana 01:56 

Absolutely. So I started my career working in the editorial world. So right out of college, I worked at Teen Vogue, and then I worked at InStyle. And I just remember when I was working at InStyle, I felt like pinch me. I couldn't believe that I was doing all these things I had wanted to do pretty much my entire life. I've wanted to work in fashion since I was 10 years old. So 

Emily Lane 02:16 

I've seen that photo of you on your Instagram by the way of you wearing a little princess dress. So adorable. 

Caroline Vazzana 02:23 

Honestly, my mom always says she's a you were my one child who I could not tell you what to wear. Like you had to pick out your own outfit. You had to do your own thing she's like, so what you do now it just all makes sense to me. So 

Bret Schnitker 02:35 

I gotta love it because you probably weren't making a seven figure income, right? No point. Yeah, you have to love it. McDonald's or I'm going to be in the fashion. 

Caroline Vazzana 02:44 

You have to love it. Like when you're working at Teen Vogue and, and InStyle yeah, it's late night, no pay. It has to be your passion. It sounds cliche, but it really, really does. And as you move on and your career progresses, it becomes your life, like your work is your life. So while working at InStyle. And reflecting back on all these crazy things I was doing in these amazing opportunities. I was like, I wish that I had known so much more when I was first starting out things that I learned along the way mistakes that I had made. So one day, I was like, it would be cool to write a guide book for beginners to help them quote unquote, make it in Manhattan. You know, the idea of the name came about later, but it was that concept of if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere that song. Yeah, 

Emily Lane 03:31 

overnight. It's something free for ya. 

Caroline Vazzana 03:34 

Right. So as I was writing the book, it kept playing over and over in my mind. And so that's how the name came about. But yeah, I just wanted to write this guide book that was relatable that people felt like was written by someone who they could look at and be like, I could be her in a couple of years. I can be like her. It's not someone who's way older, who's been doing this for years and years and years. And 

Bret Schnitker 03:56 

I resemble that remark. Yeah, I 

Caroline Vazzana 04:00 

mean, I was like, at the time when I started writing it 24, 25 And if you're just graduating college and you're 21 you could look at someone like me and be like, hey, you know, she's like, my best friend's big sister is what I always say the book is written in a very conversational style. It's funny, it's laid back. It's not super polished. It's just supposed to be relatable. 

Emily Lane 04:23 

And then that's very akin to as an influencer, which you you are a fashion influencer on Instagram. You know, that is such an important part of you building a brand on Instagram and building your audiences that authenticity and speaking true to who you are. So I like the fact that your book is done in this unpolished, really true, authentic way. 

Caroline Vazzana 04:43 

Thank you. Thank you. And let's say 

Bret Schnitker 04:44 

it's polished it you say it's not unpolished, but it's pretty, it's polished 

Caroline Vazzana 04:48 

in the sense that I am still informing you and I still you know, need to get my point across and I want to teach you something I want you to leave feeling like you've learned something but I still write about sneaking into fashion shows and you know all the funny mistakes, tips and tricks there. So yeah, in the book, I still want to keep it funny and relatable from my very first fashion week to sneaking into shows who eventually, you know, sitting front row with my own earned ticket, it really follows me along on my journey and just tries to shed light on the reality of the industry to, you know, the future generation who wants to work in in one day? 

Bret Schnitker 05:27 

Well, it takes a lot of diligent work to I mean, we've had so many people that will call in and say I want to launch a line, I want to become this great influencer, they simplify the process a lot, a lot, go, I just show up. And it's gonna be a lot of hard work, 

Caroline Vazzana 05:43 

I think with social media to something that I've just learned along the way is people think it's a lot easier to be Insta famous, you just post a picture. And that's it. And it's magic. And believe me, I wish it was like that. And I wish it would have saved me five years of hard work. But you know, Instagram, there's a method behind it. And there's telling a story and building a brand and building trust with your community. I mean, I say all of my followers in my community, they're my virtual best friends. They're there supporting me and encouraging me with my life and my journey. And I'm just there to share as much as I can with them and inspire and encourage them to go after their dreams and their passions and to also, you know, dress, colorfully and eclectically, and not try to fit into any sort of mold. So it's taken years to kind of build that trust with my audience. And I wish it was easy, like people thought it was but yeah, even from the very beginning, running around the city shooting looks and you know, not having any connections and just trying to make it all work on my own. It's been a really crazy journey. 

Emily Lane 06:46 

You mentioned that magic year takes five years. And that's something that Bret and I have talked about in so many episodes that you building a business, it's work, yeah, three to five years to really start seeing it come to life. And I like that you've you've kind of acknowledged that, you know, in building a new business, it's always important to find good mentors along the way. Do you? Do you have any mentors that you think really helped be pivotal in your career that have helped in and how did you go about finding a good mentor? 

Caroline Vazzana 07:19 

Oh, my gosh, mentors are hard to find. It really is hard. Because when you're first starting out, you know, nobody, and you're just this young kid trying to make it with a crazy dream. One of my mentors who is a New York icon, Nicole, Fischelis, she, I met her at Fashion Week wearing mascara. I almost said eyeshadow. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I've never seen anybody really wearing blue mascara, and I thought she was just the coolest person ever. And she is and has been someone that I've been able to just ask anything when I have a question or a concern or for someone like me who when I was starting out, I was so young, you just know nothing. So to have someone who you could turn to an ask questions, I think people don't realize how important that is and how much it can help someone young to feel like they have someone they can just confide in and ask a question to when you feel like you have no one it can feel very scary. I mean, this industry can be very overwhelming and you know, can feel like a very you can't sit with us type world. But I've been so fortunate to find people who like Nicole have been like, I'm bringing you into this fashion show. You're coming with me like you don't need to feel secluded, like we're welcoming you in with open arms, introducing you to people whenever they can, you know, your network is your worth in this industry, 

Bret Schnitker 08:40 

I think a lot of people don't realize is they were all like you when you started. They had to find their way. They had people that help them along the way. I know, I did, you know, mentors and, you know, tormentors (laughter). I started as mentorship and somebody that people I work with are creative. And I really, I was a designer, I started as a designer, but I really learned that having good business plans and understanding financials are important. And so I drive those with people that I you know, mentor and developing brands. And they do hate me initially for that. I think you you learn over time, the balance between left and right him, you know, kind of thinking, but you know, I had mentors in my life. And at one stage in life, you've you've learned so much. And you've you know, frankly, in my case, I've made all the mistakes, right? We as human beings, you know, you think you've got all the answers, you make all the mistakes. And eventually what happens is that becomes wisdom. Yeah. And you sit down and say, you know, that's a good idea. But I've done that that didn't work. How about this idea? And that's what mentorship is all about? 

Caroline Vazzana 09:41 

Absolutely. And yeah, you're right in the sense like they've been there. They've done that they know you feel but I think sometimes the industry people forget that they were once in your shoes and don't always want to be mentors because not everyone wants to be a mentor and help out people but when you're fortunate to find someone who is so willing to share their knowledge and share their career with you. It's really such a beautiful thing. And that's why on my platform like I tried to share as much as I can in terms of why I wrote a book, like how I got started just so I can share my knowledge with somebody else so that they can learn something from it. 

Emily Lane 10:15 

Well, we love Nicole, and I think that is awesome that she is one of your mentors. We are having a conversation with her quite soon, that's also going to be a part of this season. So that is, I love that fabulous. I'm curious, you know, I understand that you've also spent a lot of time as a celebrity stylist. What is that? Like? 

Caroline Vazzana 10:38 

It's been that honestly, was one of the biggest like learning moments of my career as well, because I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, I started styling celebrities. When I was between 20 and 21 years old. It was right before I went back into my senior year of college was when I landed my first styling job, and I was styling two girls who were on MTV for the VMAs. Looking back, I always joke about this. I don't think they knew how old I was. Yeah, because I don't think they would have trusted your opinion. They knew that I was literally going to my senior year of college. But it was one of those opportunities that I had just spent my summer interning at Marie Claire magazine and the power of social media. I probably had a couple of 100 followers at the time. This is 2012 Maybe. 

Emily Lane 11:25 

So you've grown your following just a little bit. 

Caroline Vazzana 11:32 

And so but during my summer internship, I was very open that I was an intern but I was sharing my day to day what I was doing like cool experiences. I was having me in the fashion closet. It's funny, I look back I'm like I think I was always meant to be an influencer because I even look back on Facebook. Like when I used to go on trips, or do things I used to update. I don't know who was reading or seeing anything, but I look back at my memories on Facebook and I'm like, oh, today I'm going to do this today. I'm going to do that. I'm like looking back 12 years ago. I'm like, Why was I sharing like this on Facebook? I think I just always love sharing. I was like I was meant to be an influencer 

Emily Lane 12:06 

You're a storyteller beyond an influencer. You are telling stories. And you're inspiring, like you said, living colorfully 

Caroline Vazzana 12:14 

Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I just always loved sharing I think it was part of my DNA. So I'll never forget I finished my internship it was my last day and I was so sad to leave it behind. And the next day I woke up to a Facebook DM from somebody I hadn't spoken within a few years who I knew from high school and he was a comedian in the city was connected with these two girls from MTV knew they need to stop needed a stylist and immediately because of all my posts thought and I remember opening that message and literally sitting in you know, my bed at the time and looking at and I was like, I feel like this is like a pivotal moment in my life. Like I can either say no, I'm not experienced enough I've no idea how to do this or I'm just gonna fake it till I make it and say yes and figure it out. So I said yes. And I spent you know, the next two days just like emailing any contact I had made there Marie Claire on my personal email being like Hi, I'm actually doing some styling now and trying to pull in looks for these girls. Again, had no idea what I was doing now a week from then I had to go to the MTV office have a meeting with them so they could try on everything. I'm like, little me shaking I'm like, I'm like I feel like they're just gonna like whip off the mask and be like you're caught you're not supposed to be here. But since then, I mean, it went great was a great experience and I went back to college I'm like I'm living this double like Hannah Montana Life Where I'm in the city selling celebrities and then I'm like back at College in Pennsylvania being a normal person so then took some time off from wholesaling to finish college then when I graduated work to Teen Vogue but then while I was at Teen Vogue like connected with some other young celebrities started styling them for like the Tony Awards or Comic Con and red carpets connected with one of the girls from Stranger Things when she was just first starting out 

Emily Lane 13:59 

Oh wow yeah 

Caroline Vazzana 14:00 

styled her for like her very first like red carpet 

Emily Lane 14:03 

Oh my gosh, like that. I remember that do ya do 

Caroline Vazzana 14:09 

Oh, that was really that those were really no really big moments for me whether I knew it or not, 

Emily Lane 14:15 

you know, but they're also pivotal moments for the people you're stimulating you know so to be a part of something so important for other people that's got to feel really rewarding. 

Caroline Vazzana 14:24 

It is it's funny you say it that way because it was a big moment for you know the girl from Stranger Things it was right as she was about to like she had filmed the season but it was just about to come out she wasn't really quote unquote famous yet right like the season had now She's a superstar phenomenon. Everyone knows her and loves her but she literally was just this young girl her mom came to the styling appointment with her cuz she was you know, the kids in Stranger Things are fairly young. Her little sister came with her. She came to my house like my fiancee and my cat like it was so intimate where she wanted to like come to my house meet me and it was pretty pivotal moment for her. And it was a pivotal moment for me. Really interesting. And you know, we're still connected on Instagram, and I still, you know, see everything she's doing. And it's so crazy to be like, yeah, that that girl was just, you know, yeah, it was a normal kid for like a little bit until Stranger Things came out and her whole life changed. 

Emily Lane 15:16 

So from stylist to now fashion designer you are on, you are releasing your very first cap sule of your line that and by the way, this is just capsule one, you have multiple seasons in planning in production. How did you know it was time for you to take that next up, 

Caroline Vazzana 15:36 

I've been wanting to do design since the beginning. Anyone who read my book knows that I originally wanted to be a designer. Actually, I just didn't think that I had the technical skills for it, I had the ideas. I've always been a crazy, creative, colorful person. But my career took me in a different direction, because I didn't think design was something I could necessarily do. But then over the past five years, I built an audience, I built a point of view, and I built a very solid, you know, personal sense of style that I feel like is very identifiable. And I felt like it was just the perfect time. Now to do it. I've spent so much time, as I said, building this style, building this community. And I feel like when you have such a strong personal sense of style, you can create a brand you can bring your vision to life into the world. So I just can't wait to start dressing people in my collection in my clothing. And you know, all the lessons I've taught them in terms of wearing what you want and wearing what makes you happy. Now I can actually say, Here's a piece to wear that will make you happy that will make you feel your most extra special, fabulous self. 

Bret Schnitker 16:48 

We had a conversation with Josh at Parsons School of Design. And, you know, he relates a lot of the evolution of large retailers or they have become this massive canvas painting everyone the same way and how that it's not working today, you know, and we've talked in other episodes about the rise of boutique brand industry, it's a reflection on culture, I think that culture has broken up into these unique identities, I think influencers are driving that, you know, you have this powerful sense of color in a city that's not normally known for a ton of color, right outside of the Flower District maybe. But it's not really known for a bunch of color. And I think what's happening that's exciting about I think our industry is that instead of these massive commodity engines that try to close hundreds of 1000s of people with the same item is that there's all these unique visionaries that are coming up like yourself that have this great sense of style. And there's a lot of them, we're finding as we're having these dialogues, the diversity of ideas and design is what excites us about being involved in launching collections, you know, like yours, because I think that the the industry itself was better for it, we're going to see a lot more diversity, we're going to see a lot more creativity come back in, you know, your collection is a exclusive, it's an exclusive collection, you know, it's not going to be millions of people or hundreds of 1000s, there's going to be a small select few that are going to have the opportunity to have these. Yeah, yeah, you guys are wearing that. Yeah. 

Emily Lane 18:28 

I know, for those of our listeners that are listening in the audio world, you can go to our YouTube and actually see the looks that are part of the the first collection. 

Bret Schnitker 18:38 

I feel like the frame to a picture because I'm wearing black fashion now. It's just laziness. And I'm sitting over here and but but yeah, it's really exciting. So much fun. 

Caroline Vazzana 18:48 

Yeah, so excited. And I have to agree with you. I think if the past year has taught us anything, it's that people now more than ever are dying to play with fashion, to wear color and to break out of their comfort zone. And that's what I do all the time. That's what I love. That's what I've built my brand on. So I feel like as you said, now more than ever, people want that fun fashion. And you know, they don't want to just look like everybody else. They want to look unique, something different. So now's the time, you know, there's only going to be a select View. I really love that keeping it curated, is the way to go. 

Bret Schnitker 19:21 

And you know, people coming out of COVID It's funny, we've at least one person on the street today has had a sneak preview of your collection. Um, and I was taking a break for lunch and this gal just came right out of the way inches. Like I have to tell you, I absolutely love that. And when you think about it, you know, you been very strategic about your choice of color in this collection because you know, you walk through the streets. A lot of guys are like me, you and people they haven't evolved much. It's a big city of grays though. And then to see this bright color, and I don't know it's romantic 

Emily Lane 19:53 

romanticism is on the rise. 

Bret Schnitker 19:57 

Yeah, you know, it evokes some hope. Yeah. excitement and happiness. And we certainly need a lot more of that today. 

Caroline Vazzana 20:04 

Absolutely, absolutely fashion supposed to be fun. It's supposed to take you somewhere, you know, outside of your every day. And that's what you just said New York City, a lot of people don't dress in color. And that's something that I've known for. All I do is, you know, wear bright colors. So I just can't wait to add some more color to the streets. I am so excited. 

Emily Lane 20:25 

I think that is a perfect sentiment to wrap on today. Thank you so much, Caroline, for joining us today. Do you have any final words of wisdom to other young persons or persons of any age who are who are thinking gosh, I love fashion, I would love to find a way to sneak into fashion shows and start a career. 

Caroline Vazzana 20:47 

Call me. I mean, I've so much advice I could give you just don't give up. It anything is really possible. And it sounds so corny and cliche but growing up and wanting to work in fashion, I always told myself anything's possible if you work hard, and if you love it, and if you don't let anything stand in your way you can do literally anything. There's so much opportunity in New York and in other fashion cities as well that anything's possible. Like don't feel stuck in a box. No matter where you are, what age you are, if you feel stuck in your career, like you can change your destiny like everything is up to you, you can make anything happen, just have to work really hard and you have to love it. It has to be your passion and has to be part of your life. So just go for it, you know. 

Bret Schnitker 21:38 

We're finding it's a connected world. Everyone's talking nowadays. It doesn't matter where you're at. There's opportunity everywhere. When will the book Making it and Poughkeepsie come out, 

Caroline Vazzana 21:47 

I know making it wherever you are. I mean that's something beautiful that the past year's taught us is you can build a brand wherever. 

Bret Schnitker 21:54 

Absolutely. Yeah, 

Emily Lane 21:56 

So where can people find your colorful exuberant styles and aesthetic? 

Caroline Vazzana 22:05 

Yes, so if you want to follow my personal accounts on Instagram, Tik Tok Pinterest everywhere I'm at C Vazanna it's my first initial and my last name. And then you have to go follow at Caroline Vazzana, because that is my brand's Instagram account that you know has just launched I'm so excited to share it with everyone. So you have to go follow that and keep an eye out for all the collections to come 

Emily Lane 22:30 

And you can also take a lo ok at INSPRNY I N SPR N-Y to take a look at your looks correct? 

Caroline Vazzana 22:38 

Yeah, so INSPR is exclusively selling my collection. So if you want a sneak sneak peek, you have to go follow inspire for everything that's to come. 

Bret Schnitker 22:48 

And congratulations on your election. 

Caroline Vazzana 22:50 

The first one so many more to come. Thank you so much cannot wait to share everything with you guys. 

Emily Lane 22:54 

Thank you. Well for our Clothing Coulture community. Make sure to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes. 

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INSPR x Clothing Coulture Meet Caroline Vazzana (@Cvazzana)