In her signature Jeffrey Campbell heels, 19-year-old Rachel Schwartzmann spent the past three months running around the fashion closet of Teen Vogue. Before that, she interned in the marketing department at Rebecca Minkoff. She juggles two high-traffic blogs, The Style Line, which captures New York street style, and Le Style Child, which chronicles Rachel’s own outfits. She’s already been to New York Fashion Week and she once sat front row at Tibi. And she is only just now starting her freshman year at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Wearing a light beige knit sweater from H&M layered over a sheer pale yellow collared shirt, leather shorts, black tights, beige ASOS socks, and beige with black lining Isabel Toledo for Payless heels, Rachel exudes style and confidence. She took a few minutes out of her insane schedule to talk to Reasons to Be Beautiful about internships, blogging, being photographed and, of course, fashion.
Reasons to Be Beautiful: How would you define your personal style and how did you create it?
Rachel Schwartzmann: I ask this question to all of my interviewees on my blog The Style Line but when it comes to people asking me this question it can be unnerving. I always give the same response too: I can’t define my personal style, because it grows and changes just as much as I do. But I can tell you that it’s definitely influenced by living in an urban environment, because I’m exposed to so much diversity and creativity here in New York.
[pullquote_right]“I’ve never really acted my age, and this industry has room for people like me, people who want to do things and don’t give in easily to discouragement and social norms.”[/pullquote_right]
RTBB: What drew you to fashion?
RS: I’ve always been a very creative person, and sometimes I wonder if the left side of my brain even works because I have absolutely no patience for math and science (and I really admire those who do!) I’ve always [loved writing] and it’s something that I’ve been told that I have a natural ability for. I would sit for hours writing short stories, poems and manuscripts and I really enjoyed it, so I figured I shouldn’t make it a career because it was more of a passion. So at a young age I did what seemingly ever little girl starts out doing– ballet. Upon moving to NYC I began more serious training in ballet, which lead me to being accepted to a performing arts high school as dance major. Up until the summer before my junior year it was all I could think of. But naturally because I was in a vibrant and creative environment I became very influenced and inspired by the other majors– primarily fine arts. I had always illustrated pictures to go with my stories when I was a kid, so I told my parents that in addition to taking dance classes I wanted to take art classes and that’s how I first became acquainted with the Fashion Institute of Technology. I took fine arts Pre-college courses for two summers at the school, during which time I explored fashion websites, became more and more of a magazine addict and became more picky about what I wore. In time, I wondered how I could turn this love of fashion into a long-lasting career, and then it hit me pretty quickly: Fashion journalism.
The rest, as they say, is history. I worked very hard making contacts in the industry during my senior year of high school and one of the early steps was creating my first blog The Style Line. It’s amazing to look back and realize that all of this success derived from hard work in a relatively short amount of time– it hasn’t even been a year! And with the idea of time in mind, I think that’s what always brings me back to loving fashion.
RTBB: …and what keeps you interested?
RS: It is forever changing and the environment is so fast-paced and that’s how I want to live my life! I find it very hard to be idle for long periods of time and participate in things that are counter-productive. This may seem like a blunt statement, but people have a hard time getting what they want because they don’t put enough time and effort into their passions. I’ve never really acted my age, and this industry has room for people like me, people who want to do things and don’t give in easily to discouragement and social norms. In this small amount of time I have met some of the most creative, crazy and influential people who share this singular love. They understand that although fashion is portrayed as sometimes a superficial industry, when it comes down to it, it is wearable and long-lasting art.
RTBB:You’ve said you “sold your soul to fashion” and you’ve blogged about the burden of being busy. Do you have any advice to other girls who feel overworked?
RS: For starters, if you intend on working in this industry you are most likely going to feel overworked at times especially if you’re a student. I could give you the generic advice: Make sure to take vitamins, or try to get a good night’s sleep, but the reality of it is, this world moves at the speed of light. So before going headfirst in to any opportunity just really be sure of your priorities, your beliefs and what and how long you’re willing to work for. I’ve had to learn to say no to opportunities because I knew I would be taking on too much and I have hit the point of working five days a week and making up homework and assignments on weekends. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and if you even need to put yourself in that position at all.
RTBB: I know you’re a college student so you have to live on a college-student budget. What are the fashion items you feel no shame in splurging on and what kind of things do you look for on the cheap?
RS: I am a die-hard accessories lover, so I feel absolutely no guilt in splurging on shoes – especially Jeffrey Campbell – and jewelry. It’s weird though because I do get a little hesitant when it comes to buying handbags. But then again my tastes are along the lines of Rebecca Minkoff, Cambridge Satchel and much more. But usually I go for vintage/used clothing and of course rely on fast-fashion stores like H&M. But for those of you who may be crinkling your nose at this answer just remember–it’s now where you buy it, it’s how you wear it!
RTBB: You’ve already accomplished so much – what do you see yourself doing in the future?
RS: Well like I’ve said earlier in this interview I’d love to keep pursuing fashion journalism and really break into the magazine and newspaper industry. But in order to maintain my sanity I’m just going to focus on the projects and success that I have now and keep an open mind as to what the future holds. I do know that whatever happens, my future is bright.
RTBB: You have the unique experience of being both an interviewer and an interviewee, a journalist and a subject. Which do you prefer?
RS: In a way, being the interviewee is very hard. You want to make your answers sound concise, yet interesting but at the same time you don’t want to be too vague or come off in a negative light. I think being on either side of the spectrum is valuable, because at the end of the day it’s the art of communication. Yet because I do a lot of interviews and articles it’s a nice feeling to be on the other side of things.
RTBB: You are photographed often and you intentionally dress to be noticed – have you abandoned all sense of self-consciousness?
RS: I am photographed often, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say I intentionally dress to be noticed. I dress the way I do because I feel the most confident in the looks I put together. I mean, to some extent we all care about what other people think of us, and I have no problem admitting that– it’s human nature! In some of my more experimental outfits I’ll ask my friends and loved ones for their opinion and even when I receive ambivalent comments or negative feedback, I’ll still wear the outfit because there was a reason I put it together in the first place. And as far as self-consciousness goes, style-wise I feel less confident and stylish when I’m wearing flats or flat shoes. I find that I always need to wear heels or wedges. It’s like a signature trademark.
RTBB: Do you feel that your style, and the styles you blog about, translate outside of New York?
RS: Personal style is all about context. It’s how we as individuals express ourselves and how we choose to emulate how we feel in a particular moment through dress. But at the same time personal style bloggers are naturally trendy people and are aware of what’s currently popular. I know I base a lot of my outfits on color and texture; for example if I’m feeling playful I won’t wear as many layers and I’ll chose a pastel color palette as opposed to when I’m feeling tired and reserved I’ll wear darker colors and layer. But my inspiration comes a lot from outside of New York, so while I dress within the context of what I’m doing or how I’m feeling on a particular day, I’m being influenced by international trends and people.
[pullquote_left]Personal style is all about context. It’s how we as individuals express ourselves and how we choose to emulate how we feel in a particular moment through dress.[/pullquote_left]
RTBB: What do you wear when you’re all alone just hanging out?
RS: It depends solely on the weather and who I’m with. If I’m literally just by myself I’ll wear harem pants, and a loose lounge-appropriate shirt – and usually fuzzy socks if it’s cold – but if I’m hanging out in a more casual setting with friends I’ll throw on a pair of denim jeggings, or leather leggings with a lose knit sweater and heels. I just love the added height!
RTBB: Tell me about your internship. Is it really the glamorous job we see on The Hills?
RS: Well there are aspects of the job that elude glamour, but interning in a fashion closet is a lot of work. I’ve always wanted to intern in the features and online departments and be assigned more editorial-oriented tasks, but looking back on the experience I think it’s absolutely essential to understand the significance of the closet and how it functions. It’s almost like the heartbeat of any magazine, and as an intern I was responsible for trafficking samples in and out for shoots and when they were no longer needed. It is a high-pressure environment and far from the pre-conceived notions about what it’s like to work or intern in fashion. Fashion is hard work. It’s art. And you are involved in it every time you get dressed – unless you’re a nudist. That’s a different story.
RTBB: How has your internship experience motivated you for your future?
RS: This particular internship experience has really given me a thicker skin and I’ve really learned that communication is key. It’s motivating, because when I look back on it I realized I was juggling school, transferring schools, a social life, a relationship, blogging and my other outside commitments and trying to stay in touch with family. People always ask me how or why I do all of the things I do and I think they need to be asking themselves, “What’s stopping you from doing these things too?”
RTBB: …and lastly, what do you think makes a woman beautiful?
RS: Confidence, ambition, creativity, resourcefulness, passion and the ability to stand up for themselves and for their loved ones.
Even in four-inch heels, Rachel is a force to be reckoned with; even at such a young age she has become a strong voice in the fashion industry and she is often photographed. Her outfits are just as carefully coordinated and painstakingly put together as her career. Be sure to check out Rachel’s blogs for her thoughts on fashion and to see what she’s going to wear next!
Photo by Bryant Eslava