Interview with Cologne Schmidt, from Stylista

Beautiful, sweet Cologne Schmidt was definitely the “nice girl” on the CW’s 2008 reality show, Stylista. Although her understanding nature did not help her win the show’s ultimate contest, this Berkeley alum has got much more under her belt than just niceness. Her talent and determination have gotten her all the way to New York City and an adorable fashion line of her own, called Oh de Cologne, that includes dresses and jewelry inspired by her time in Berkeley, Newport Beach, and Barcelona. In this special interview with BARE, Cologne opens up and tells us about her experiences at Cal, her time on the show, and her dreams for the future.

1. To start things off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you became interested in fashion as a career?

I went to Berkeley as a bio major intending to become a Dermatologist, but quickly switched to Interdisciplinary studies to pursue a more creative career. I was intrigued by business and marketing because it encourages innovative thinking and teamwork. It wasn’t until my junior year that I really started to become passionate about fashion. I fell in love with the vintage jungles of Height and Telegraph, and began to see clothing as a visual expression of personality. I elected to write my senior thesis on how fashion reflects personality in college women. Essentially, I would love to be able to combine my love for business and fashion and work for the marketing department of a large fashion corporation, or style photo shoots full-time.

2. What aspects of the fashion industry speak to you most? Are you interested in designing, styling, creativity, networking, etc?

I am interested in all aspects of fashion—styling, designing, the creativity involved. Clothes are wearable art. I absolutely love styling—playing with clothing and accessories and putting them together in an unexpected way that works. It is my creative outlet. I especially love vintage fashion—altering it in some way to make it cute again. I also love writing and would still consider fashion editorial, or fashion PR in the future.

There are many talented individuals who work in the fashion industry. It houses some of the most creative people in the world. However, I feel many people get into fashion for the wrong reasons—I’ve found that here in NYC. It has become ‘trendy’ and glamorized. Yes, there are a lot of perks involved, but a lot of tears and sweat go into the fashion world to keep it a stylish multi-billion dollar industry. It also is unique in that fashion cuts across national borders. Style is everywhere and the international aspect of fashion appeals to me.

3. You always seemed so composed, able, and ready for anything compared to the other contestants on Stylista. Which experiences (at Cal, specifically, or in your life more generally) do you feel most prepared you for that crazy world of Elle magazine and NYC?

Thank you! Certainly Cal has taught me not be afraid of a challenge. I would actually credit Cal for most of my composure on the show. I always had in my mind that if I could get through finals at Berkeley, I could dress a mannequin in twenty minutes, or construct a fashion spread in an hour. I think we are all used to working under pressure, and with a sleep deficit as Berkeley students—so working for Elle wasn’t that much more extreme, I was just able to exercise the right side of my brain more extensively. I also tend to work best under pressure and handle stress well. I think I thrive off of precarious situations.

I was also caught up in the fact that I was throwing myself out there and subjecting myself to the questionable world of reality TV. I was still a full-time student at Berkeley while I was trying out for and filming the show, so the thought of being flown to NYC was thrilling. It all happened very quickly. I tried not to be intimidated by
Elle—even though it is one of the most respected fashion magazines in the world, I truly believe I had a lot to contribute. I really respect Elle and the talent and creativity involved. And I couldn’t have been more excited to be in NYC. I love the fast-paced environment of the city, the people, the lifestyle—everything.

4. Could you tell us a little more about your uniquely interdisciplinary major? What lead you down that path, and what were your experiences studying with that kind of creative freedom?

I chose Interdisciplinary Studies as my major—combining Business, Communication, and Psychology—in order to have more freedom in my course selection. I was able to create my own focus, take courses that appealed to me, and incorporate consumer behavior and fashion into my major. I absolutely loved the creative freedom that my major allowed.

5. Also, your personal style on the show was always so adorable, including your constantly cute hair! What are some of your biggest fashion/beauty inspirations, and why?

I am mainly inspired by vintage fashion and beauty. The vintage stores on Haight in SF, Telegraph in Berkeley, and Melrose in LA are definitely to blame for my addiction. I am especially in love with styles of the sixties and seventies. Shopping at flea markets and altering vintage pieces are some of my favorite things. I find a lot of inspiration from traveling abroad and foreign fashion as well. My style is constantly evolving. I have recently been channeling this gothic punk look, which has been fun but seriously needs to change. I am excited for spring and bringing out my florals and neons. One thing that will never change is that I always wear too many bracelets and rings. I love jewels. And I have really long eyelashes and always wear mascara. Jewels and mascara are my favorite. Hot curlers are cool too.

6. The show seems like it must have been such a great venue for making important and diverse connections within the fashion world. Especially now that you're in New York and working on your own beautiful clothing and jewelry line, have those connections served you well?

Yes, I met amazing people on the show. I loved my castmates and they all pretty much live in NYC with me. I am close with many of them, and they are all still involved in the fashion industry. We will always have a bond with each other from going through that experience together.

I was inspired to start my own clothing and jewelry company Oh de Cologne immediately after the show. It is a vintage-inspired collection of dresses and necklaces sold online at
www.ohdecologne.com. (Check it out!) The necklaces have usable crystal cologne bottles hanging on long sterling silver strings, and the dresses are inspired by pieces I found in Berkeley’s vintage stores. It allowed me to be creative and combine my love of fashion and business. It was a lot of work to start a business from the ground up, but I loved every minute of it. I manage it part-time from my NYC apartment, and am working on getting my pieces in boutiques around New York.

7. We are all also dying to know how much you got to interact with the superstar editors at Elle? How IS Anne Slowey? And did you get to meet Kate Lanphear? Nina Garcia?

I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with Joe Zee and Anne Slowey. They are extremely talented and intelligent individuals who deserve to be where they are. Joe’s softer personality balanced Anne’s intimidating persona, and I respect both of them equally. Anne has a great sense of humor that came across off camera, and she is incredibly well spoken.

Kate Laphear is my idol. I am obsessed with her work. I got to meet her briefly and she is exceptionally sweet and beautiful in person. She has an innate sense of style and that girl can pull off what I would only dream to. Her styling capabilities are amazing. I basically want to be her.

8. Your clothing line is named for the various places you’ve lived, in what ways have you found Berkeley’s fashion unique from the fashion-sense of Newport Beach and now Manhattan?

Berkeley, Newport, and Manhattan probably couldn’t be more different in terms of fashion. Newport has a laid back vibe, but my friends are very stylish and trendy. Berkeley is casual, vintage, and anything really goes. It taught me to be individualistic. Manhattan is very ahead of the curve, and incredibly stylish. I wear heels all the time now, incorporated massive amounts of black into my wardrobe, and dress up almost every day. I keep my Newport/ Berkeley style alive (everyone knows I’m from California immediately) but I have noticed severe changes in my style. I mean I wear combat boots and studded belts to work. But spring is coming and I can’t wait for my floral vintage dresses to reappear. I will forever be a California girl living in Manhattan—until I move back to the golden state, that is.

9. Your website mentions your being inspired by the vintage stores and flea markets of the Bay Area. Aside from better-known places like Mars or Buffalo Exchange, where were your absolute favorite places to shop in Berkeley?

I love how accessible vintage fashion is in the Bay Area. Mars and Sharks are my absolute favorite. There are also several good vintage stores down on San Pablo. Out of the Closet on University has an amazing belt collection, and Berkeley has an impressive Salvation Army worth visiting. However, nothing beats Height. Off the Rack and Wasteland are both absolute heavens for me. Also, if you are ever in LA on the second Sunday of the month, the Pasadena flea market at the Rose bowl is beyond amazing. Basically, I love the search, and I love finding treasures. Ebay’s vintage section is also a great secret.

10. What would you recommend for Berkeley's other aspiring trendsetters who want to make a good impression on the fashion world?

Making good relationships with people is always important in every industry. As you could see from the show, I don’t believe in getting ahead by bringing others down. Yes, it is a competitive world, but I think if you work hard and make good relationships, you will ultimately get ahead. In the fashion world, internships are essential—especially while you are in school. While at Berkeley, I interned at a prestigious fashion PR firm in San Francisco, MTV, and a fashion Magazine in Orange County. All of these experiences were essential in furthering my career in fashion. But it isn’t easy to break into. I am still struggling and I live in NYC! (I blame the economy!) But be persistent if it is what you want. You always have Berkeley under your belt, and that is invaluable.

Photo courtesy of Studio Purpura Blog

Taylor Samara
BARE Senior Staffer

2 comments:

  1. It annoys me so much to hear about those people who try to get into fashion because of how glamorized it is, like you say. I absolutely love this interview, it's like one of the best BARE has done so far I think!

    Thank you so much Cologne for sharing all your insight back at Cal! It seems like you totally have it together in terms of what you want to do and getting involved with fashion and business, and it's so cool that you have this fusion of styles that Berkeley is a part of. So cool you got to meet Kate Lanphear, and so cool that you got to try out for Elle! I'm sure it'll really happen for you because I think you seem so sweet and smart and you really know how to make great connections and friendships! Wishing you the best,
    Fashion Crazed at Cal

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Pasadena Flea Market at the Rose Bowl is beyond amazing, and I love that Cologne knows about it. Her head seems to be in the proper place. She seems to be in the industry for all the right reasons and I wish her tremendous success. She's definitely representing!

    ReplyDelete