WITH THE RISE OF REALITY TELEVISION, HIGH FASHION — A PREVIOUSLY ELITE AND ENIGMATIC REALM — BECAME ACCESSIBLE TO THE MASSES. THIS DEMOCRACY PAIRED WITH THE EQUALLY EGALITARIAN RISE OF BLOGS, EMPOWERING A LEGION OF FASHION LOVERS TO PUBLICLY AUDITION FOR THE TITLE OF "FASHION STYLIST," WITH A RANGE OF RESULTS.
A number of these contenders were inevitably taking cues and inspiration from Aya Kanai, a native New Yorker who parlayed her passion for all levels of fashion — from thrift stores to couture — into a role with Teen Vogue, when it was just a nascent publication run by a skeleton crew. From there, her influence spread to magazines such as Nylon and she now serves as Executive Fashion Director for both Seventeen and Cosmopolitan magazines, where she sets the sartorial tone for generations of influencers, present and future.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF GROWING UP IN NEW YORK?
Preschool at St. Bartholomew's Church — though I am not sure if they are actual memories or just memories from pictures!
WHAT WAS A DECISION THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF YOUR LIFE?
Moving to Los Angeles when I turned 30 changed my life, even though I moved back to New York pretty quickly.
A SONG FROM THE FIRST ALBUM YOU OWNED
A SONG YOU'RE EMBARASSED TO LOVE
Actually, not embarrassed... proud!
YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD PICTURE
A FAVORITE LOOK YOU'VE STYLED
One of my favorite looks is Gwen Stefani in the Zana Bayne leather stars dress. I was a little nervous to show her the look but as soon as she saw it she totally "got it" and brought it to life. She can pull off anything.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT BEING THE AGE YOU ARE NOW?
I am lucky to have an great partner (now my husband) and the support of awesome parents who also live in New York.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU WISH YOU COULD GIVE YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF?
I wish I could tell my 13-year-old self that going to the Olympics for swimming might NOT be the most important goal to reach.
WHAT IS THE BEST RISK YOU'VE EVER TAKEN?
The best risk I have ever taken is being a freelance stylist. It was a great two years where I learned so much about running my own business. I think its an important experience for any creative person to have.
YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER
A SONG FROM THE FIRST CONCERT YOU WENT TO
THE LAST SONG YOU LISTENED TO
WHAT IS THE BEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
I love being a stylist. I have been working as a stylist for about 12 years and I still find it to be so creative and fulfilling. I love working with a team to make pictures come to life.
WHAT OTHER JOB WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE DOING IF NOT THE ONE YOU DO?
No other option! This is really the only job I have ever felt suited me. Though I do sometimes tell my husband that I would like to be an urban monk.
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE KISS?
My wedding at City Hall in New York.
WHICH OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ARE YOU MOST SIMILAR TO AND HOW?
I am most similar to my mother. She gets things done and can sometimes be a bit of a worrier. She works in fashion, too, but doesn't participate in "the fashion scene."
YOUR FAVORITE '90S SUPERMODEL
Linda for all her different colored hair, Cindy for House of Style and her VHS workout tapes, and Christy because she always looked like royalty.
A PARTY SONG
A SONG THAT REMINDS YOU OF YOUR CHILDHOOD
I love a headpiece
WHAT IS THE MOST EXCITING THING ABOUT YOUR WORK INDUSTRY RIGHT NOW?
The most exciting thing about working in fashion is the tectonic shifts in our business. Fashion, even though it is motivated by trends that constantly flipflop, is actually pretty slow to change on a fundamental level. Now we are at the point where the ground beneath our feet is changing and we have not yet seen where things will end up.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST PROBLEMATIC ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY?
Waste. It's a business with too much disposability.
WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MOST INFLUENTIAL WORK MENTORS?
Joanna Coles, my current boss, is a mentor. It's rare to work for a person who you can truly look up to; I am beyond lucky to have that kind of boss.
A PERFECT STYLE MOMENT OF SOME ELSE'S
My grandparents on their wedding day
YOUR FAVORITE COVER SHOOT FROM THE COSMO ARCHIVES
I loved shooting Lily Aldridge on the top of a double decker tourist bus in NYC. It was July in and sooo hot in New York, but we had the best time driving around the city to shoot her at different city landmarks.
NEW YORK HAS CHANGED IMMENSELY, AND WE HEAR A LOT ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE HATE ABOUT IT NOW. WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
No matter how commercial and gentrified New York becomes, I still love that its a town you have total freedom to get around in. I can be in Columbus Circle to go to my job, stop by my parents house in Murray Hill to water their plants if they are out of town, pop downtown to go to a workout and do some shopping, and get home to Brooklyn for dinner with my husband all in a day.
LIVING IN NEW YORK, WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO GET AWAY?
I meditate so that's how I get away. You can do it anywhere!