Interview with a Fashion Journalist

BARE Reporter Gina Harris had the special opportunity to interview Katie Hintz-Zambrano, a fashion journalist who currently writes for AOL's StyleList. She has previously written for Style.com, Elle.com, Nylon, and i-D as well as several other publications. Take a look at some of Katie's work here.

Tell me a bit about yourself--education, hometown, etc...
I grew up in a little town outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. I was always really into fashion (obviously not very common there). And since this was a time before Google, I had to be pretty creative on how I got my information. I would go "online" to this terribly slow website called FirstView, which was sort of a precursor to Style.com. I used to view all the collections there. I would also devour fashion magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Vogue. I had subscriptions and would check out backissues from the local library and literally study them and quiz myself on identifying the designers of the clothing shown in the editorials. It was pretty bizarre. And I also learned a lot from shows like Video Fashion, Full Frontal Fashion, Style with Elsa Klensch, etc. Naturally, nobody around me shared my interests so I was pretty determined to move to NYC and meet people who did.

You have written for a whole host of famed fashion magazines. How did you get started in journalism?
I got accepted to NYU and studied journalism and took loads of art and art history classes. The best part of going to NYU was definitely the location and the internships you could get through the affiliation. I interned (both in edit and in the fashion departments) at a lot of smaller, indie publications, which is often where you get the most experience. I interned at Niche Media (Gotham, LA Confidential, Hamptons), Surface, Blackbook and America, a small hip-hop culture magazine founded by Damon Dash. At Niche Media, my first internship, they already had me writing tiny FOB pieces and at America I was helping out with everything from styling shoots to brainstorming ideas and eventually writing profiles on skateboarders, fashion designers and music artists. Also, one of my professors during my senior year was an editor at ESPN The Magazine and, since I was also really obsessed with NBA basketball at the time, I started pitching him and was very fortunate to be published in ESPN The Magazine before I graduated college. I took all of these clips and it made it easier to get my first job at Marie Claire. Then, while I was at Marie Claire in an assistant-level role with very little writing opportunities, I made sure I put in the extra effort after hours and on weekends and pitched magazines that I was really into like Nylon and i-D. Then I just kept getting more clips and sending those new clips to editors at other magazines...then I got more assignments and more clips...and it really starts to snowball.

What inspired you to write about fashion?
I've always really respected and admired fashion designers, but I don't think I have that type of creativity to be one myself. But, at the same time, I knew that I wanted to be involved with that world and I thought the way I could do it was to support the designers by giving them exposure. One of my favorite things to do is come upon a young designer (or singer or artist), tell an editor about them and give them press that might in turn impact their business and allow them to keep on doing what they love.

What do you consider to be your biggest satisfactions and dissatisfactions with your occupation?
Satisfactions: I love reporting stories and talking to really passionate people about their businesses. I think that's really the best part of the job and it hardly feels like a job to have really amazing conversations with super interesting people. It's also great to turn readers on to a new designer or artist and help those designers and artists reach these audiences. Dissatisfactions: The egos in the publishing and magazine industry can just be really ridiculously huge and the office politics that you have to deal with can be draining.

How do you decide what topics to write about?
I would say I'm a very observant person and I write down everything that could potentially be the springboard for a story pitch--be it the label on a dress I like at an indie clothing store (could turn into a designer profile) or an idea that comes up in conversation with my girlfriends (could be a feature or trend piece).

What advice would you give to someone attempting to enter the same field?
Make sure you get as many internships as possible and don't underestimate smaller publications because you'll often get more real work and less admin work. Read a lot. If you want to write for Nylon someday, make sure you really read and study each issue. Understand what type of stories they publish and get the tone of the magazine stuck in your head so that when you pitch, you're speaking the same language. Also, be prepared to put in the extra work. Everybody wants to have written something, but to get to that point you have to be obsessed with developing ideas, pitching and perfecting your craft.

Style advice: Three must haves for every girl's closet are...
Personally I can't live without a navy cardigan, black leggings and plaid shirts.

Your favorite item in your closet is...
A Yigal Azrouel cut-out dress that I got at a sample sale in New York. It was the most expensive dress I bought before I purchased my wedding dress. But well worth it!

Something about you we should know but don't:
That I'm a huge hip-hop and R&B fan and write for VIBE and XXL.

When you're not writing, we're most likely to find you:
Hanging out with my husband or leafing through magazines at the Castro Walgreens or the Harvey Milk Library.

Stay tuned for interviews of your favorite San Francisco Bay Area fashion bloggers.

Gina Harris
BARE Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Really informative interview! Great job Gina! Her comments about interning are similar to those of past BAREing It All pannelists!

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