A Phd (economics) from Claremont College and years of style work give Lesley insight to future fashion trends. Read her interview.
B.Seed : Thanks for being on Bright Seed Blog Lesley, journalist, blogger, Merchandiser, professor, writer and curator. You have done a lot to “curate” your net spot called Fashiontribes.com. The site spent at least one period at the top of stitcher.com’s top mover section. As a writer you are featured at fashion.answer.com in what could be termed the “experts section” and being able to give answers where the business of fashion is concerned, is this the primary goal with your company? with you in general?
Lesley : Thank you so much for featuring me! I do appreciate it!
My primary goal with Fashiontribes has been changing over the past year or so. Last year, 2014, marked the 10th anniversary of my site and gave me pause for thought about the direction, editorially. While I had really enjoyed covering general fashion for the first decade, in thinking about what I wanted for the next ten years, I decided to return to the “roots” of the site: the tribes of fashion. So I updated my tribes based on my constant brailling of the culture (I read a wide variety of publications and books in a somewhat frighteningly obsessive manner) and settled on the four big mega-tribes I focus on currently – and for the future. I even think of myself less as a fashion writer or critic these days and more of a fashion “futurist” – tracking the tribes in order to get a bead on the direction fashion will be taking over the next 10 and even 20+ years. And my readership has evolved along with my content, and now weights pretty heavily toward fashion and lifestyle insiders.
B.Seed : Multichannel customer experience, brand strategies, Content Marketing. These ideas can be confusing for one who hears them or is asked to define them for the first time, even after reading about them, especially the term brand. Do you think brand is a concept everyone who is/wants an online business should/must exploit? do i really need to be bothered with knowing about this?
Lesley : Anyone in the fashion and lifestyle sphere is constantly bombarded with buzzwords, it’s true. Some are like flies – just swat them away and move along. Some, however, resonate with more than just the fash pack and those are worth having at least a passing acquaintance with. Like “brand”. The reason I think branding matters right now has less to do with its association with Big Corporations and more to do with what makes you – and your website – unique. Which comes back to one thing: Y-O-U. As a writer, there are no new ideas or articles under the sun; ultimately, the only thing you have that’s your own is your point of view. Is you. And besides…as that one popular meme floating about pointed out: everyone else is taken, so you may as well really be you. Go for it. Call it your personal “brand” if you want, but the truth is, it’s about something far more interesting: identity, uniqueness and authenticity.
B.Seed : In a Fashionista article in 2006 Constance White, style director of eBay said among other things “.. Perhaps in five or 10 years, blogs will have the power to make unknown fashion designers into stars..” As a fashion futurist do you see this happening or has it happened?
Lesley : I love Constance. She’s one smart lady and super fun to interview. Plus her taste in fashion designers is impeccable. I’m an unabashed Constance fan-girl! In thinking about her prediction of 9 years ago, she definitely got it right about the growing power of the indie publisher. But what I think none of us could have predicted was how the indie publishers, ie. the bloggers, would become such celebrities themselves. Platforms like YouTube and Instagram lend themselves really well to the visual nature of fashion and allow one’s personality to shine through. In a traditional glossy mag, sure the publication has a “personality” but it’s of the magazine, rather than the contributors, which feels impersonal and corporate’y. All the fashion resources in the world are now available at the click of a mouse so it’s no longer access to the information that people want from magazines, but someone to tell them what to do with it. How to think about it. To have it sliced, diced, curated and edited. And done so entertainingly. Entertainment rather than information is now Job #1 for most any fashion or lifestyle publisher, I think. Even if you’re catering to a different audience that wants information, like the industry insiders that read Fashiontribes. I still have to include a lot of compelling artwork, fun quotes and interesting angles to keep my content fresh and entertaining. Which I always pray keeps ‘em coming back for more!
B.Seed : You were an undergraduate student at Principia College in Missouri, a “College for Christian Scientists”. Any special reason you chose this school? I see the list of campus clubs includes camera, The Pilot (magazine), Principia Internet Radio, Film Club. Did you join any of these?. Were you interested in journalism by now?
Lesley : I attended college where I did because I didn’t have to take out student loans to do so. And oddly I majored in economics for whatever reason. Actually I do know: I’ve always been fascinated by patterns of behavior in our society. Why people do what they do – particularly when they do it in large groups.
B.Seed : You received a Ph.D from Claremont Graduate University, Economics. Did you Publish your Doctoral dissertation through a publisher? If so did the process help you with the writing of your books? Did choosing economics as a major make you, today, a better fashion industry analyzer/futurist?
Lesley : My graduate work was in microeconomics – which involves a ton of research, analyzing patterns and writing about it, still my favorite trio of activities on the planet! And after I got out of school, I just wanted to travel and see the world. I taught at colleges and universities in countries like Romania, Latvia and Kazakstan, which was amazing. Upon returning to the US, I moved to NYC and began paying the bills working as a fashion stylist and stylist’s assistant on photo shoots. But I still continued to write, just applying my skills at analysis to the area of fashion. I’ve always loved fashion, but at the time when I was in grad school, I was more interested in other topics of research.
B.Seed : The Civic Education Project(CEP). You went to Europe after Grad school for some years to teach economics i believe. Did you receive a teaching fellowship through this non-profit organization? Are you willing to still teach abroad say for an American University outpost? Did you make any fashion industry contacts/friends back then that you are still in touch with or that help in your online business now?
Lesley : CEP definitely provided interesting opportunities. It was funded by the financier George Soros, who was devoted to helping rebuild former communist countries via education. The organization itself was run by a bunch of just-out-of-school types and none of us knew really anything about what we were doing. So, as you can imagine, I have fond memories,
and some…not so much. 🙂
That being said, I would love to teach abroad again. It’s really one of the most fun and rewarding things you can ever do.
B.Seed : New York Fashion Week, held in February and September of each year. You first attend around 2002 as a stylist i believe, and then in 2006 with your blog Fashiontribe as one of the first fashion bloggers accredited by the IMG to cover New York Fashion Week. Bloomsbury Publishing mentions this about you in their author section. Did they help you publish? If so were you happy with the results?
Lesley : I was definitely an online pioneer at Fashion Week. When I was first getting my media credential, they wouldn’t accept my dot-com presence as evidence I was a “valid” member of the press, so I had to photocopy tearsheets of work I had published in Marie Claire Asia, GQ Taiwan, Jessica, 25 Ans, Elle Girl Korea, etc. And many people I interviewed backstage and at the shows were less than thrilled that the coverage was slated for “the Internet”. Oh, how times have changed.
B.Seed : Los Angeles-based editorial agency Cool Hunt, Executive Editor at Sitich Magazine in New York, Contributor, Answers(.)com, you are also a Fashiontribe merchandiser at Chloe + Isabel Inc. Why did you chose C&I to do that?
Lesley : I signed up with chloe + isabel because I like their jewelry. My time working for Coolhunt was quite fun and the CEO and I are still in touch – as Facebook friends (of course). Stitch provided solid experience at handling Managing Editor duties at an overly ambitious and way underfunded print publication.
B.Seed : You identify four main fashion groups or tribes. Grunge is not one of them. Was it ever?
Lesley : My four fashion tribes are:
Folkspun – concerned with preserving the “old” time-honored ways of doing things – crafts, fashion, jewelry – but in a way that’s relevant for today. I think of this group as the “memory keepers” of fashion.
Supremium – rich, spendy and logo-obsessed. They are devoted to shopping their way through the End Times, jetsetting everywhere, maintaining their power and preserving their privacy.
Futurenetic – anything to do with cyborgs, robots and embracing technology to fearlessly forge a path forward…using fashion, of course!
Apocalytical – obsessed with the Apocalypse, but in a thoughtful way. Hence the -alytical ending, from analytical. This is probably where I would put Grunge. I tend to focus on the zeitgeist of the tribe and the way it plays out in what they wear, so I wouldn’t write an Apocalytical piece about Grunge, per se, but what Grunge represents to the tribe.
B.Seed : I purchased two books of yours: “How to work with Bloggers and be Social Media Savvy”, and “The Future of You”? You hinted that maybe you are “writing too much”. As a blogger(or writer) looking to the future what are the hints/signs that maybe are doing too much writing?
Lesley : First off – THANK YOU for buying my books!
Bless you! 🙂
I probably do write “too much” but you know how it is…you don’t choose to write, it kind of chooses you. And then tortures you the rest of your life. Kidding…sort of. Since The Future of You, I wrote a fashion and style guide for Transgender women and crossdressers called Crossdress to Impress. I was inspired after watching Transparent, about a trans woman, on Amazon Prime and reading about Bruce Jenner’s transformation into a woman. The crossdressers I’ve met are lovely people but generally really clueless about how to put their femme look together. So I put all the tricks of the stylist’s trade in one place for them in the hopes they’ll find it helpful. I think of it as “beautifying the planet, one CD at a time!” I’m currently working on my new book, Fashiontribes/Futuretribes, which is explicitly about the future of fashion as seen through the lens of my four fashion mega-tribes. I anticipate it being out and available on Amazon in early spring 2015.
B.Seed : “I found myself increasingly intrigued by the way people’s ensembles identified their particular social group. These uniforms told me tales..” So I’m looking at your LinkedIn profile picture-you use it in other places. Does your “look”/persona fit into one of the four tribes?
Lesley : My tribe (of one) is kind of a cross, I think, between Futurenetic and Apocalytical. Cyberpunk, really. I call myself a Cyberpunkette and wear a lot of skinny leather moto jeans, futuristic fabrics and have my hair in a spiky faux-hawk situation that I dye a shade I call “violently violet”. My new year’s resolution a few years ago was to face the future looking like an anime character, and so far, so good. I have to say, having crazy purple hair has been one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. After Fashiontribes/Futuretribes, I plan to write a book about my thoughts and insights on turning 50 – everything from self image to dating (again!) to fashion choices – called Cyberpunkette. The hair and leathers will be featured prominently.
B.Seed : “LINGERIE: A Modern Guide” and “CROSSDRESS TO IMPRESS: Fashion, Beauty & Style Advice for Crossdressers & Transgender Women”, two of your books. CurveNY, The Lingerie Collective, Diva Las Vegas, Southern Comfort Conference, Fantasia Fair, Have you attended any of these events, or functions like them, as research(or just for fun)?
Lesley : I have not attended any of the lingerie conferences but it really sounds like I should. I LOVE lingerie. It’s half the fun of being a female with a hardcore fashion habit.
B.Seed : So what are your plans for the early part of this year, anything special?
Lesley : As I am deep in the throws of writing Fashiontribes/Futuretribes, my life is an especially glamorous mix of work, work and more work. After FT/FT is done, I’ll probably take time off before starting Cyberpunkette in order to regroup and refresh a bit. And, of course, I still publish on Fashiontribes almost daily, so I never really take too much time away from writing something. She’s a tough taskmistress, writing, but I wouldn’t do anything else.
B.Seed : Thanks for being here. Anything you would like to say to our readers?
Lesley : Thanks so much for reading – you rock! xo