When I was at my parents’ house last year, I discovered something interesting: a VHS tape of me at age 5. In it, I’m sitting on the porch of my family’s home in Arizona when my dad asks what I want to do when I grow up. As the question lands, I exclaim, “I want to be a fashion designer.” Now, this might not be too surprising as you’re reading this from a now fashion editor at Who What Wear, but let me tell you—watching this shocked me to my core. Upon seeing the previously unseen (to me) footage, I realized working in fashion was something I had always wanted to do. Here in front of me was evidence that my interest in fashion was buried somewhere inside from a young age.
This was a revelation because it goes against everything I grew up thinking about my future career. For most of my life, I remember wanting to become a doctor and actually started out on a pre-med track in college. It wasn’t until I changed course to study art history and business that I even allowed myself to dream about a different path. It took some time—and a trip across the world—to guide me in the right direction, toward that pivotal lightbulb moment when I realized I wanted to be a part of the fashion industry.
Once I arrived at that conclusion, it got me thinking about how I was going to break my way into the fashion world. How can I land a job in fashion? Can I do it with zero experience? Is it even possible from L.A.? Will I succeed? But I was determined and mapped out a plan.
My path to becoming a fashion editor wasn’t the most traditional or the easiest, but I feel proud of every move I made to get where I am today. If you’re curious to hear everything it took to land my job, ahead, I’m taking you behind the scenes—because Instagram only reveals so much.
Going back to the beginning
Here I am in Arizona at age 5. They say you know what you want to do in life when you’re younger, and for me, this rang very true.
Here I am at age 5, apparently very enlightened about where I was headed in the future. Like I said, my younger self was very tuned into my imminent fashion career.
In a big way, I tie my interest in fashion to my mom. Her eye for clothes is impeccable, and we spent many weekends together sifting through piles of magazines—flipping through Vogue and W and tearing out the pages that inspired us. To this day, we can log hours talking or texting about all things fashion.
As I got older, I would get lost for long afternoons looking at runway show images on Style.com and watching videos of Tim Blanks reporting live from fashion week, studying all the designers and key players in the fashion world. Looking back now, I can see so clearly that working in fashion is something I always wanted to do. Somewhere along the way, though, I told myself a job in fashion was impossible, impractical, or both, and I didn’t allow myself to consider it as a real option.
Quickly realizing I was on the wrong path
I relocated to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California.
I moved to L.A. for school at USC and, as I mentioned, started out on a pre-med track. After realizing medicine wasn’t for me, I did a complete 180 to study art history and business instead—marrying my passion for art and aesthetics with something practical, to balance it out for the “real world.”
Since my sights had been so tightly locked on becoming a doctor, I hadn’t really allowed myself to think about any other paths. Unsure about what I wanted to do, I interned—everywhere. At a museum, in the buying department at BCBG, in film development for Warner Brothers, at Christie’s Auction House, at a photography agency… To me, it was a way to test the waters, meet people in various industries, and narrow in on what, exactly, I wanted to do.
Finding that lightbulb moment
I lived in Paris for a summer, and it was there that I rediscovered I wanted to work in fashion.
After graduating, I moved to Paris for a summer. I didn’t have a job lined up and still needed time to figure out my next move. While anxious to get started in the work world, I also wanted to allow myself the opportunity to travel. And it’s a good thing that I lived in Paris for those four months because it was there that I figured out I wanted to be part of the fashion world. For me, it was a combination of a few things.
For starters, I fell in love with Paris and the people in the city. Fashion is woven into its DNA, and Parisian style really had an impact on me. The simplicity, the ease, and the timelessness of it struck a chord. But I can trace the moment I really knew I wanted to work in fashion back to one specific day. My sister and I were sitting at L’Avenue for lunch, and around us were buyers, models, and fashion editors buzzing about the couture shows that were happening in Paris around us. My ears perked up, and it hit me that I wanted to be a part of it all.
Finding my first job in fashion
From one of Rodarte’s runway shows at NYFW.
When I got back from Paris, I put a plan in motion to somehow break into the fashion industry. At the time, I was living in L.A., which didn’t have a huge fashion scene. But I applied for internships and ended up landing one at Rodarte. I worked hard, the internship ultimately turned into a permanent position as the assistant to designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, and then I worked my way up to be Rodarte’s communications manager.
Since it was a small operation (just four of us in-house), I learned so much about what it takes to run a brand and wore every hat you could imagine. I oversaw the runway shows at NYFW, worked on photo shoots and video projects with Rodarte muses Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst, and even assisted on the film Black Swan. I ran all the social media accounts and managed guest edits with cool publications like A. Magazine, Lula, and Rodarte’s own Grey. I learned so much and was exposed to many corners of the fashion industry, but it was working on some of those editorial projects that made me realize I wanted to pursue a job as an editor.
Moving to NYC with just one suitcase
I always dreamed of one day moving to NYC and learned so much during my time there.
It was a hard decision, but I left my job at Rodarte to pursue a path in the editorial world. Since the options in L.A. were more limited at the time, I knew it was important to move to New York. I decided to take a chance, and without a job waiting for me, I sold my furniture and most of my belongings and booked a one-way ticket to NYC. I arrived with just one suitcase and slept on my sister’s couch for a month while I tried to put the pieces together.
Landing a position at Allure
From my two years living in NYC.
I tried tapping into every contact I had in the industry and lined up interviews and informational interviews everywhere I could think of. Whether it was luck, hard work, or a combination of the two, I’m not sure, but just five days after arriving in NYC, I landed a job as the assistant to Allure’s then editor in chief, Linda Wells.
I knew I was going to have to take a side step from my previous job to get my foot in the door, but it paid off. During my time at Allure, I worked under Wells and then Michelle Lee, and it gave me an incredible foundation in the editorial world.
Making the most of my opportunity
While at Allure, I took the opportunity to go beyond my role as much as I could.
I moved from just assisting to writing my own stories for online and print. I remember interviewing Aimee Song and Danielle Bernstein for my first feature story as the influencers were really taking off (there’s an abridged digital version here). I used my time at Allure to seek mentorship from other editors and learn their craft (shout out to Danielle Pergament, whose love for words inspires me every day), network with my peers in the industry, and also start a blog to practice my writing and photo skills.
Attending my first NYFW
I fell in love with Brock Collection’s romantic shows from the very beginning.
One of the biggest perks of my job at Allure? Networking within the beauty and fashion industries and working closely with Allure’s fashion director, Rachael Wang. I even had the chance to attend my very first New York Fashion Week—sitting in the audience to take in shows from designers like Brock Collection, Fenty, and Rag & Bone.
Moving back to L.A. for my dream job
A snap of me at the Who What Wear offices in L.A.
After working at Allure for a few years, I realized that where I really wanted to be was in the digital world. Print is something I’ve loved forever, and I still pick up magazines to look at the inspiring photo shoots and dig into a great article. But how I consume media day-to-day is purely digital—and I wanted to be a part of that.
Truly, I had my sights set on Who What Wear. I applied for a position, but it had already been filled. However, applying for the role ended up connecting me with Who What Wear’s editor in chief, Kat Collings. Though the initial role didn’t work out, we stayed in touch and met during a trip to L.A., and I remained persistent about joining the team—which paid off. After six months and over 50 emails (I went back and counted them), I accepted a job offer for an associate editor at Who What Wear.
Working at Who What Wear
Me with Who What Wear Managing Editor Michelle Scanga and Editor in Chief Kat Collings.
Moving into my job as associate editor at Who What Wear was really something special. Not only have I been given the creative freedom to write about things that interest me, but I am surrounded by people who inspire me every single day. If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my career, it’s that the people you work with matter. At Who What Wear, I’m not just living out my career dreams of becoming a fashion editor. I’ve also gained an incredibly supportive work family.
Revealing a day in the life as an editor
One of the questions I’m asked most often is what my workdays are like as an editor for Who What Wear. It’s a tough question to answer because every day is different, but that’s one of the things I love most about my job. I’m in the office to write and edit pieces I’m working on, pitch upcoming stories, tend to my email inbox, and attend team meetings to bounce ideas around with my fellow editors. But I also spend a good chunk of my time outside the office. I’m often meeting with designers or PR agents, previewing new collections, attending events and dinners to stay current on everything happening in the fashion world, and, increasingly, shooting outfit photos to bring Who What Wear readers a personal take on my fashion insights.
Seeing the moment when it all came together
From the time I was younger, I’d always imagined what it would be like to attend Paris Fashion Week. And if you’d taken a look at my bucket list, you’d have seen that going to a Chanel runway show was at the very top. This past spring, I not only headed to PFW but also received an invite to the coveted Chanel show. Walking into the Grand Palais with my invite tucked under my arm was a surreal pinch-me experience.
It was here at the Chanel show that I thought back to that lunch at L’Avenue in Paris so many years earlier. Editors and models had brushed past my table, talking about Dior and Chanel and what had just happened on the runway. But now, after dedicating years of hard work, I had found a way to be a part of it all myself.
Next up: more on what it’s like to live out your fashion dreams.
Kristen Nichols is the Associate Director, Special Projects at Who What Wear with over a decade of experience in fashion, editorial, and publishing. She oversees luxury content and wedding features, and covers fashion within the luxury market, runway reporting, shopping features, trends, and interviews with leading industry experts. She also contributes to podcast recordings, social media, and branded content initiatives. Kristen has worked with brands including Prada, Chanel, MyTheresa, and Luisa Via Roma, and rising designers such as Refine and Tove, and her style has been featured in publications including Vogue.com, Vogue France, WWD, and the CFDA. Before Who What Wear, Kristen began her career at Rodarte, where she worked on assistant styling, photo shoots, and runway shows, and at Allure, where she moved into print and digital editorial. She graduated from the University of Southern California, where she studied art history and business, and currently lives in New York.