Teen Vogue Fashion University featuring Vogue’s Executive Fashion Editor, Phyllis Posnick

My diploma for “graduating” from TVFU

           This past weekend I attended Teen Vogue Fashion University for the third time. Teen Vogue holds Fashion University annually in October since 2006. Amy Astley, the founding Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue started the program and has continued to oversee it as it has grown over the past seven years. Teen Vogue University (TVFU) is an opportunity for high school and college students alike to hear the stories and get advice from some of the fashion industry’s most inspirational and successful designers, bloggers, innovators and more.
            Each year, there is a different keynote speaker or panel and then the fashionistas in training emerge from the Hudson Theater in Manhattan to go to their respective destinations located on various floors of the Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square. Over the past three years, I have seen Michael Kors, Grace Coddington, Nicole Richie and many more. Each year I am inspired by the stories told and I leave feeling more enthusiastic about the fashion industry than I ever thought I could be.
Me outside the Teen Vogue offices at the Conde Nast Building
            This year I was lucky enough to see Phyllis Posnick, Executive Fashion Editor of Vogue and get the insider scoop on what it is like to work there and constantly try to reinvent the wheel with photo spreads. Posnick primarily works with beauty and health images and rather than do photo shoots with the products, she has a more artful approach. Posnick has had a decade long collaboration with photographer, Irving Penn. In beauty, she said, “there are only so many subjects that can be remade over and over again.” In regards to a Brazil spa trip with model Karli Kloss, she said, “Normally the picture would be a clay mask in a spa, but you’ve seen that a million times so this shoot is more of a fantasyland. I try to take exercise out of the gym and into the real world.” At this point, they showed another image of Kloss but in a pose of her standing on a tree stump, wearing only heels, with her arms up and it is supposed to suggest the action of lifting weights. Posnick’s photo ideas all have this fantasy element in them. Posnick was also involved with In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye documentary and hearing her speak firsthand about her experiences was both insightful and informative.
Eve MacSweeney with Phyllis Posnick
            After a brief background of what her career at Vogue has entailed, Eve MacSweeney, Features Director at Vogue who was conducting the conversation with Phyllis, opened it up to the audience of TVFU students to ask questions. The following are a few that stood out to me.
Q: Your images are so provocative and inspiring does it take a certain person to work with you?
A: It’s important that the model is smart and has a sense of humor. She should move well and be graceful. A small movement can make a huge difference between a good and bad picture. I like dancers or athletic girls who can do things. They can’t take themselves to seriously…they need to take themselves with a wink.
Q: Do you think social media harms the way we look at the beauty and fashion industries?
A: When the Kardashians are the standard of beauty or fashion, I think we’re in big trouble. I like images that show people a dream and I don’t think the Internet has done that.
Q: What advice would you give anyone who wants to be a fashion editor?
A: Don’t give up. It’s very tough. All of us like Grace (Coddington), Camilla (Nickerson) and Tonne (Goodman), we all tell a story. If you’re not successful the first time, just keep trying. A lot of it is luck.
Q: Is there a specific moment that you knew you wanted to be a fashion editor?
A: When I was in high school I was obsessed with magazines. I looked at pictures and knew I wanted to be there. It was the places and the fantasy.
Q: When you’re coming up with an idea for a photograph what is your process?
A: First I obsess about it. My process, I think it’s the same for all of us…you just have the subject, it’s not an idea, it’s a subject. I think about it, and then I talk to Steven Klein (photographer) about it. Usually I’m not the only one with an idea. It’s collaboration. It’s a process and we build on it. I’m a romantic and he tends to like things with blood…we come together and come up with it. You can only work it out ahead of time to a point. Sometimes it just turns into something else.
            My favorite part of Teen Vogue University is really getting to see people such as Phyllis Posnick who are so talented and successful, but yet also so humble and willing to share their experiences. I have picked up some great advice over the past three years and I keep it in mind always when it comes to making decisions for my future. I feel privileged to have had this opportunity the past three years and hope to take what I have learned and apply that to my own career in the fashion industry.

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