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An Interview with Alyssa Vingan Klein

I avidly read Alyssa Vingan Klein's articles for Fashionista when she was editor-in-chief, and I was always amazed by her skill at striking a tone that's both conversational and authoritative, and her ability as an editor to find new perspectives on topics and shed light on under-discussed matters.

I was so thrilled when I found out that she was the editorial director at Nylon, which is one of my favorite magazines of all time. Once I actually started developing an interest in fashion, I followed Fashionista for its wonderful insider viewpoint, but I've been reading Nylon for the better part of my life. When I was tweener, Nylon was always the first magazine I plucked off the newsstand when my parents said I could pick out something. It taught me about the latest fashion trends and how to do makeup looks, but it also encouraged me to develop my own personal style regardless of what people thought, and gave me truly empowering and inspiring role models to look up to. I knew Alyssa's sensibilities were a perfect fit for Nylon, and I couldn't wait to see what she would do there.

Even though I had admired Alyssa's work for a long time, beyond what she revealed in articles, I didn't really have a good sense of who she was as a person. I was surprised and touched by her openness, both about her job and her personal life, in this interview, and I have even more respect for her now. I think the fact that she was even willing to talk with me speaks volumes. Of course, I won't pretend that I know her based off of a simple ten question interview, but after emailing me her initial responses to my questions, she sent an addendum to her answer to my last question, requesting that I add "In another life I could also see myself living off the grid and breeding dogs!" which I think says a lot about her character and the type of person she is.

What work are you most proud of?

During the time I was at Fashionista, we were able to publish stories on taboo industry issues that, for many years, our competitors couldn’t or wouldn’t touch. We were leaders in the conversations surrounding a number of hot button topics, which is something I’m really proud of.

What do you think is the most important skill for a young fashion journalist to develop?

An ability to think outside of the box is crucial, as is a knack for seeing the bigger picture and reading between the lines. Never take a press release at face value!

Who are your inspirations?

I am inspired by so many of my colleagues and peers every day! Fashion people who I have looked up to for years are The Washington Post’s Robin Givhan, Business of Fashion’s Lauren Sherman, and The New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman. Their analysis of the industry and its place in the culture at large is so smart and it encourages me to keep learning — they make me want to do my job better.

What's been the most transformative experience of your life?

I was diagnosed with breast cancer six months before my college graduation, which definitely started the next chapter of my life off in a strange direction. I’ve now been cancer-free for ten years, but I still feel reverberations from that time every now and then.

Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process?

Slow and steady wins the race. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you keep your head down and work hard, the right people will notice. You may not have the most followers, get the most praise, or go viral every day, but you’re not shouting into the void. It’s so easy to burn yourself out in the digital age, and you have to make a real effort to not be distracted by all of the noise.

What's the best part of your job?

I get to meet and talk to so many interesting, talented people every day, and share their stories with our readers.

What's the most challenging part?

I have a very hard time logging off. The internet news cycle never sleeps! There’s also a lot of competition to hit a story angle first, which leads to a constant fear of getting scooped.

In your opinion, what makes a good pitch?

Keep it short and sweet — 3-4 sentences — and clearly state what you’re setting out to prove. Your pitch should leave an editor wanting more! It should also be obvious that you read the publication you’re pitching regularly, and that you have a grasp on both its voice and the topics it covers. Finally, please Google your story angles to make sure they don’t already exist elsewhere on the internet.

If you weren't in fashion journalism, what would you be doing?

I really love talking to and learning about people, so I would probably consider teaching, social work, or psychology. In another life I could also see myself living off the grid and breeding dogs!


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