Dolce and Gabriella

Little thoughts from the Big Apple

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Finding a voice

On Friday, I was lucky enough to meet with Katie Rodgers, the fashion illustrator behind the wildly popular blog Paper Fashion. I first found Katie through the gorgeous watercolor drawings of gowns at the Met Ball she did for Refinery 29 this past spring. When I went to her website to look at more of her work, I realized that about half of the pins on my “Illustrations” board on Pinterest are by her.

I dream of painting like her someday. I love how she takes delicate subjects and renders them in such a beautifully loose, organic way. Her work strikes a balance between dainty and bold that really strikes at my heart.



Drawing by Katie Rodgers for Refinery 29. Photo from Pinterest, @michellephan.


We met at Cafe Sabarsky, a wood-paneled gem on the Upper East Side. The handsome room for ladies-who-lunch was a perfect spot to sip drinks–her a latte, me oolong tea–and talk about our mutual love of fashion illustration, blogging, and working as an artist in a rapidly changing creative market.


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Today, Katie is at the head of a quickly growing Paper Fashion empire. Beyond the pretty paintings and whimsical Instagrams is a tech-savvy businesswoman who’s utilized quickly growing online platforms to build a massive following. The key to being successful online, she explains, is maintaining a consistent, genuine voice across all platforms.

Like her work, Katie’s online voice is whimsical and luxurious. Through her posts, she aims to give readers a glamorous escape from everyday life. That got me thinking. What’s my voice? What do I aim to do with it?

A lot of bloggers like Katie are successful at creating an escape. Fashion Toast and Peace Love Shea come to mind as two other examples–awesome blogs whose authors don’t give a single care about looking as if they live in the same world as the rest of us.

I need that inspiration, and I have so much respect and appreciation for the girls who can create it. But I can’t. Young adult/college life is hopelessly messy, I’m an anxious person, and some weeks I’m lucky if I get myself in the shower three times. I just ate a large order of McDonalds fries all by myself and I’m currently trying not to look at a mountain of laundry lurking in the corner of the room. There’s no way I could convince people that I make green juice smoothies for breakfast or that I’ve washed my hair recently.

I’m hoping that the “realness” on this blog will be an asset (?). The clothes will always be affordable, the DIYs doable, the advice applicable, the stories relatable: in short, my voice is one who doesn’t quite have her shit together, and is kind of okay with it. I think there’s a place for a voice like that, because there must be other people who are just as lost as I am. Maybe they want to talk about it, or at least see that there’s someone else out there who has no freaking clue how to be an adult.

That mix of voices–mine, Katie’s, Rumi’s, Shea’s–is what makes the blogosphere so amazing. We’re all lucky to have so many creative, intelligent, unique voices to look up to, and lucky that every voice can be heard.


What’s your “role model” blog? If my blog could be any blog, it’d definitely choose Paper Fashion!



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Breakfast with a mentor

Recently, I read an autobiographical novel about a writer living in Paris and discovered that the author pretty much has my dream career. Along with books, she writes advertising copy, newspaper articles, and even a blog. She gets paid to write about her interests and adventures. Through writing, she’s shaped her ideal lifestyle into a job. She makes money doing what she loves and follows her passions for a living–what more could a girl want?

I was dying to pick her brain and see how she does what she does, so I contacted her through her website and asked if she’d be willing to meet me for coffee while I’m in New York. Imagine how thrilled I was when she responded to my inquiry with a sweet note suggesting that we meet at City Bakery for pastries and hot chocolate before work.

I knew then that we’d get along swimmingly. Hot chocolate is my favorite, and City Bakery delivered. Their chocolat chaud is thick and creamy and absolutely loaded with chocolate. It tastes more like molten cocoa soup–or hot brownie batter from the gods–than it does like a breakfast drink. I slurped it as gracefully as I could while nibbling at one of City Bakery’s other signature creations, a pretzel croissant, which was a perfect counterpart to the heavy sweetness of the cocoa. It was airy and light with just enough salt. I could have eaten three. Dare I say the “cretzel” might just be better than the cronut?


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Delightfully, my writer is just as friendly in person as she sounds on paper. We had a great time talking for an hour about writing and how to choose the right writing job for you.

Her job sounds pretty darn great. As a creative director at an ad agency, she not only gets to work on fun projects, she also has the freedom to pursue other things outside of work–like editorial writing or, say, moving to Europe and writing a book. She’s able to do what she loves and make money while doing it, which I really admire.

When I asked her as politely as I could how to copy her exact career and life, she said, “follow your bliss.” I love that phrase, and I think it’s good counsel–we deserve to do work we love, right?  I don’t think you can achieve greatness in your work without being passionate about it, because that passion fuels the desire to learn and grow in a way that plain ambition can’t measure up to.

Trying to follow my bliss and direct myself into a creative career isn’t easy. There’s no “pre-art director” track at USC like there’s pre-med, no “design entrepreneurship” or “creative development” majors. As I pointed out to my writer over the last flakes of our croissants, each mentor I’ve spoken with has taken a unique path to their current creative position, seemingly impossible to replicate. How am I supposed to make a path of my own without a template to follow?

Instead of just telling me to chill out and enjoy my youth, which is what most people do when I ask them anxiety-fueled Type A questions like that one, she took my question seriously and gave me a thoughtful answer. Each person’s path is unique, yes, she explained, but not completely random. Most people’s success is a blend of hard work and a little bit of luck. If you work hard and you jump on those lucky opportunities when they arise, things will happen.

I left feeling re-inspired to pursue the scary, difficult things I love. If you’re high-achieving and anxious like I am, it’s great to talk to people who have been where you are and can reassure you that you’re pointing in the right direction. Although they might seem nerve-wracking or unnecessary at first, “informational interviews” with people you look up to are invaluable. They can give you great advice and further, great insight into what kind of career you want to pursue. And if you continue to nurture the connection after the interview, you can start to build a network of mentors who might be there for guidance when you need it later.

I’ll end with a challenge. Find three people who have jobs you might want someday. It doesn’t matter if they’re people you know, people your parents know, or people you don’t know at all. Reach out to them and ask if they might give you a half hour of their time. You might be shocked at how helpful they are.


Have you ever done an “informational interview” with a mentor or role model in your industry? Any tips on making the most of the meeting?

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The beginning and end of my career at Net-a-Porter

Today, I was sent on a run to deliver copies of domino to Net-a-Porter’s HQ downtown. I was thrilled. Maybe I’ll meet someone I can keep in touch with, I thought. I’d LOVE to work at Net-a-Porter someday!

“LOL RIGHT,” replied Fate. “It’s Monday, remember?”

After a muggy subway ride, I arrived, sweating, at the building on Fifth Avenue. I signed in with the security guard, then frantically finger-combed my hair as the elevator rose alllll the way to the tippy top.

When the doors opened, I found myself in a glass room. Small. No furniture. The only fixture was a set of gigantic, gleaming, heavy doors. Not intimidating at all, right?

I bravely pushed through and walked into the black-and-white waiting room. It was spare, serene, and completely empty, save a girl seated behind a big desk, staring at me from across the room. Clearly, she got the color scheme memo, because she was wearing all black and had the most perfectly sleek head of platinum hair I’ve ever seen. We’ll call her Lemon Chrome.

“Hi,” I said nervously. “I’m here to drop off magazines…from…domino magazine.” Wow. Nice.

“Ok,” Lemon Chrome whispered. Her whisper tone indicated I should also be whispering.

“Where should I leave them?” I whispered back apologetically.

“Here.” Lemon Chrome looked pointedly at the counter in front of her, yet made no move to reach for the magazines.

Uneasily holding her gaze, I put the package on the counter and slid it toward her. I let go.

“Thanks,” she whispered. Still no movement.

“Um, yeah,” I whispered back. “Have a nice day.” I tiptoed back across the office to the big black double doors.

On the doors, I noticed a discreet metal plaque that said “pull,” so I reached out and pulled on the left one. It was locked. I pulled on the right. Also locked. I could see Lemon Chrome staring at me in the lacquer reflection of the doors and started to panic. Oh my God I am locked in Net-a-Porter. 

“You have to push the button,” Lemon Chrome whispered frustratedly from across the room.

I looked around. There was a small black button to the right of the doors. Oh, so it’s an automatic door on the way out, I thought. Fancy. I pushed the button and stood back, waiting for the doors to open.

Nothing. I stood there for five seconds and pressed it again.

I heard an exasperated whisper-sigh from across the room. “Push the button THEN PULL,” Lemon Chrome hissed.

I pulled. Still locked.

“PUSH THE BUTTON THEN PULL REALLY FAST,” said Lemon Chrome. She was past whispering at that point.

So I did. I pushed the button, then I pulled really fast, then I scurried out of Net-a-Porter as fast as I could with what little dignity I had left. I did manage, however, to snap a picture of the big black doors before I got in the elevator. The big, black, shiny doors, which apparently serve no purpose other than to mark the symbolic divide between Lemon Chrome’s people and me. After all, when an entire room is glass, a set of big black doors can really only be symbolic.

big black doors


I imagine asking people to open the doors on the way out of their interview is Net-a-Porter’s first defense against incompetent employees. Thank goodness domino has a normal door.



But really, Net-a-Porter, I love you and all your high-class inaccessibility. No hard feelings–I’ll try the doors again someday.

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Making your first business cards

Domino has a big event this week where I’ll hopefully get to mingle with lots of important people. In the words of my boss, everyone who would ever hire me at Conde Nast will be there. No pressure, right?

Putting a little extra effort into prepping for events with big networking potential is 100% worth it. No matter where you work–but especially in fashion–who you know is everything. You never know in an industry so close-knit when you will run into someone again, and who will one day be able to offer you a great opportunity. It’s extremely important to make a good first impression.

I thought it was high time, therefore, to put some time into my personal branding this weekend and design a business card that I’ll be able to use while in college. After designing and printing them, I’ve learned a few lessons.


design your first business cards


1. I actually wanted a “calling card,” not a business card.

A business card usually has your company logo on it and tells people where you work. Instead, get a calling card—a card with your personal contact info on it, not your job stuff—that represents you as an individual, not an employee. It’s more practical for a young professional like me, because I can keep the same card as I move from job to job, and hopefully people will appreciate the effort I’ve put into building my personal brand. Which brings me to:

2. Your card should feel like you.

A calling card can be much more creative than a business card. It sets the mood for your professional personality; it’s what people will remember you by after your first meeting. The design you choose should reflect who you are and who you aspire to be. It should feel good to you. In other words, it has to mesh with your vibe, bro.

3. Keep it simple.

Gimmicky cards (see here and here) can be cool, but you probably don’t need that many bells and whistles right now. In fact, something super fancy could backfire on you. Really, your card is just like your outfit; you want to look like you care, but never like a try-hard. A well-designed card in a simple color scheme is like jeans, a blazer and heels: always appropriate.


Image from Pinterest (but here’s Kate Moore’s cool site!)

4. Give ‘em all the good stuff.

Your card should always give your name, email, phone number, and school (if you’re a student). If you have an awesome website, blog, or other online presence, include that too! Another great way to show that you’re with the times is including your social media handle (which, if possible, should be the same across all platforms) or the URL of your LinkedIn page. Just make sure that the info you give leads only to places that you’re proud of and that are professional.

5. If you don’t know how to design it, find someone who does.

I’m in d-school and feel comfortable making my own cards on Adobe Illustrator. If you’re not, don’t be afraid to ask for help. See if a person in the art department or career center can give you some feedback on your work. And if you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing, outsource it. Trade favors with an artsy friend or contract someone online to do the work for you (there are lots of affordable options on Etsy). This investment in yourself is 100% worth it. Just don’t use one of those crappy templates on the business card sites…they all look cheesy!

6. How it feels is just as important as how it looks.

A great design can’t make a great impression on a cheap-feeling card. It’s not like it has to be letterpressed linen, but paper quality absolutely makes a difference. When in doubt, choose something that feels thicker, substantial, and distinctly paper-y (not plastic-y).

If possible, go to the printer and feel the cards before you order them. If a batch of cards is super cheap to print, there’s probably a reason and you’re not going to like it (looking at you, Staples.)

calling card 3

Good feels. Image from my Pinterest via invitedink on Etsy.

7. Extend the design to the rest of your stuff.

Carry the design of your new cards over to the rest of your stuff: your resume, your website, and your portfolio, if you have one. Nothing says “I am WITH it” like a cohesive bundle of professional goodies.

sara duncan

Weak. in. the. knees. Image from Sara Duncan’s Behance.


After a few hours of fiddling, I ended up with this. I think I like it—it fits me. Is it my “forever” card? Probably not, but I’m glad I have it to hand out at events this summer.

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I’d love to hear business/calling card tips and tricks from people who have been at this longer than I have, particularly people in creative industries. What’s the most impressive card you’ve ever seen?