There's a thrill I get from discovering anything "new" or "fresh" relating to fashion. I'm not saying the things I find are so under the radar no one knows about them yet, but if they're new to me, I feel inspired, and the first thing I want to do is tell all of you about it. While some of you may already know of Michelle Salem, brand manager of Opening Ceremony, it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I learned of her stylish existence and immediately felt cheated that no one had told me about her before.
One very meticulous scroll through her Instagram account left me with no other choice than to do a story dedicated to her bright sense of style—so here we are. As you can imagine, working for a company like Opening Ceremony opens your eyes to a side of the fashion industry that's particularly unique, exposing you to the discovery and support of some of the newest brands, trends, and more. Michelle displays her breadth of knowledge quite well via personal style and the collaborations and launches she chooses to support on her own social accounts. Following Michelle will not only be gifting yourself with cool outfit ideas, but it will also keep you in the know on some of the coolest up-and-coming designers to watch, styles to try, and of course the items you should be shopping at Opening Ceremony.
I had the pleasure of getting to ask Michelle a few questions about her career, personal style, new brands, and more. From her genius go-to outfit formula to tips on how to develop your own personal style, it's no secret that chatting with Michelle had me over-the-moon excited, a feeling most of you will likely share.
"I'm super fond of this Moschino set because it just happens to have a large letter 'M' on both the front and back of it. It makes me feel like I just escaped from boarding school, especially when paired with Nike Cortez or Converse One Stars."
You're the brand manager at Opening Ceremony. Explain your job to someone who might not know anything about fashion.
I wear a lot of hats at Opening Ceremony (which may be why my title sounds a little broad), but for the most part, I like to think of my role as three-pronged. Firstly I manage all of our events, then I lead on press/VIP communications, and I also chime on the creative for editorial shoots and content. One of the things I appreciate about being brand manager is that my tasks vary from day to day. My job is never boring!
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging part is not being able to do everything we'd love to do. We get approached with so many opportunities, but it's the team's job to filter through what's actually possible based on our calendar. There are only 12 months in a year! The most rewarding is personally bringing a new brand or artist into our family and watching them grow. I've been able to watch some DJs, photographers, and brands grow from something that started with something as simple as a DM. For example in January, a cartoon artist I really liked reached out to me on Instagram; she hadn't ever worked with a fashion brand before. This month, we launched collaborative Valentine's Day cards and embroidery options together. I always feel like a proud mom with projects like these.
How did you initially get your start in the industry?
I always knew I wanted to work in fashion, but I kind of let it fall into place. I went to business school for marketing, and during that time I interned for a PR firm, worked retail, and did the door at parties. The combination of it all meant I gained real experience at a really young age; it was sometimes a pain to work through the night after a long school week, but the connections I made paid off. When I graduated, I approached our VP of marketing at the time and explained what exactly I wanted to do and what I had to offer, and he agreed to let me help him. It was a risky move, but he took me under his wing, and I grew from there.
"This suit has a dad fit, which I super appreciate. I've slowly been easing into looser trousers. They have a professional feel to them and are much more comfortable than my usual mom jeans, which is an added plus."
Are there any new brands you're excited about this year?
That's so tough because there are so many, so I'm going to speak selfishly here and stick to my current wish list. I'm excited for what Daisy has in store for this year; they're amazing people, and I love every single piece they make. I'm also loving Poms for sunglasses. I just got a pair from its new season and could not have started wearing them any faster (couldn't even wait til the snow melted). I think they have big things coming! I've also had my eye on Solarium Swim and definitely plan to get a suit before it's warmer out; the tricky part will be choosing just one.
"A large majority of my heels are Manolos—no one understands a woman's foot quite like he does. These are extra special because they're a collaboration with another favorite, Adam Selman, and for a badgalriri moment, I paired them with Rihanna x Stance socks."
Has working at Opening Ceremony changed or affected your style at all? If so, how?
For sure—being surrounded by beautiful clothes all day definitely has an effect on you! Besides being pushed to look my best every day, I've also really developed an appreciation for new brands. OC is all about discovery, so while I still love Dior, it's always exciting to pick up some pieces from a fresh brand in its first or second season.
"I was beaming for a week after I found this blazer. It's vintage Thierry Mugler, and the fit is incomparable. I've also been collecting a lot of fun socks lately, hence the Grateful Dead print peaking out."
Speaking of style, can you describe your personal style to us?
A cross between Charlotte York and Fran Drescher in The Nanny. Fran was a little more risk-taking, and I love that. She had Dior slips, sequin maxi dresses, vinyl Courrèges two-piece sets, heart-shaped wristlets, you name it. I feel like we could've shared wardrobes in another life.
"I pride myself in being good at eBay. If someone were to ever question that, I'd show them this skirt. The LV monogram on the denim is so intricately done; you have to believe me when I tell you it's more beautiful in person."
"Few things make my heart melt more than pink and plaid. This set is from our Esprit x Opening Ceremony collaboration, and a part of me wants to think it was personally designed for me. Me or Cher Horowitz. Converse are also a go-to of mine, so when I find a rare pair I always get them. These ones are a pale pink suede."
What's one piece of advice you can give to our readers on really owning and developing their personal style?
Avoid fast fashion and challenge yourself! Try finding small brands that make pieces you love, and if that's out of your price range, go thrifting! I grew up in Miami, and on the weekends in high school, my mom would drive me to all of my favorite thrift stores—Goodwill, Savers, I did it all. I think the hunt and challenge made me pay more attention to details like fabrics, labels, fits. Not hating on high-street brands at all, but the joy of discovering the perfect piece for yourself after hours of searching will make you realize what you really love. This will also help you not fall for trends so easily. Did you really like that piece, or did you just buy it because it was $17.99 at H&M? You're welcome!
Do you have a go-to outfit formula?
On a day to day, I don't like to spend too much time getting ready, so a two-piece set is my go-to for looking like I put thought into my outfit (when really, it took me about two minutes to decide). I also have pieces that help me feel put together no matter what. For me, it's about a pair vintage Guess jeans that fit like a glove, the right shoe, and a great bag.
"Casual! I was so excited to be in Paris as a birthday treat to myself. The jacket is Shrimps with a faux-fur collar, and the silver heels are Carel. This was definitely a day when my inner Charlotte York was coming out."
What's one thing you've bought recently that you're still freaking out over?
The perfect vintage Versace dress! It's mini, tweed, and about as close as I'll ever get to looking like Claudia Schiffer during the Gianni era.
"This two-piece set is by a new brand aptly named The Cords. Wearing red never fails to give me a boost of confidence, and since I was wearing this outfit to an event, I paired the set with classic Manolo sandals and a Fendi Zucca print bag to dress it up."
Which spring 2018 trends are you looking forward to wearing most?
I think the cowboy trend is something we're going to see a lot more of in spring 2018, and I'm all for it. I have a pair of red boots with Western harness detailing that are crying to be worn. Also, bring on the pastels. I love wearing bright happy colors to pick up my mood, especially when it's still 20 degrees out. Of course, the monogram trend isn't going anywhere either, and luckily I've been collecting monogrammed pieces for years now (my bank account is thanking me for once!).
Shop Michelle's favorite pieces from Opening Ceremony:
Available in sizes 0/XS to 3/L.
Available in one size.
Available in sizes 0 to 10.
Available in sizes XS to L.
Available in sizes 0/XS to 3/L.
Available in one size.
Available in sizes 0/XS to 3/L.
Available in sizes 34 to 42.