Caroline Vazzana

Photo:  @Nikonpapi

Photo: @Nikonpapi

Age || 26

COMPANY NAME || Making it in manhattan

Job Title || Author, Founder & Style Influencer

company Start Date || 2016


Social Handles || @cvazzana, @makingmanhattanoffical

Company Website || Making It In Manhattan

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

When I was about ten years old I wanted to be an artist. I used to paint and draw all the time. I used to travel for art competitions and stuff. I was really into it. Then, when I was about 14 years old, ‘Project Runway’ came out and it was like, oh there are things you can do with your artistic skills other than sketching and painting. That's when I thought, oh maybe I can make a career out of being in fashion. I always loved fashion. I was always reading magazines and online watching runway shows on Youtube.

What's the best piece of advice you were given when starting Making It In Manhattan?

Something that Betsey Johnson said to me was like, you need to be ready to work hard and you need to really love it. I think that's the thing nowadays, we get so caught up in what we're doing and influencer sounds so glamorous and glitzy that people start because they think it's this glamorous field. But, in reality, it's a lot of hard work. You have to really, really love fashion, you have to love this industry, you have to be willing to dedicate so much time. We are working 24/7 around the clock. There are no days off. Even if you're on vacation, you're still posting, you're still writing, you're still shooting.

What made you interested originally in writing the book, ‘Making It In Manhattan?’

So InStyle was my second job out of college and then I had several internships before that. I could think back and remember all the crazy things that had happened to me, all of the lessons I had learned, all of the things I wish I had know when I was starting out. They now seem like second nature to me but, when I was starting out, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew absolutely no one in the fashion industry when I was starting out. So, I thought to myself, what if I had a book back then where I had all this information and it was super relatable and easy to read, written by someone who's more of a peer. Also, I started thinking about all the stories and encounters I had and how I didn't want to forget them. There's so much going on that it's easy to forget a detail of something.

I started putting words on paper, jotting things down, seeing if they seemed like stories, seeing if they seemed like things people would want to read. Before I knew it I had several chapters and I let some friends look at it and let me know what they thought. It just started as this passion project and then really grew.

How did you make the move from passion project to published?

I started doing research about how you get a book published because I knew absolutely nothing about the book publishing industry. Through my research I found that this girl I went to high school with worked as a publisher, but not in the department I needed. We went out to lunch and I came with a list of questions. What she told me was that the first step was getting a literary agent which was something I didn't even know was a thing. A literary agent is your liaison to the publishers.

I went back to my computer and just started Googling literary agents, I'm not even kidding, and I started finding names of literary agents online and emailed every single person. I'm not even exaggerating, I probably emailed over 60 people being like, 'Hi, my name's Caroline. I have this idea. Please listen to me and don't delete this.' As you know, there's obviously rejection and people are like, 'This isn't a fit, next.' Or people you never hear from. Finally I heard back from the person who ended up being my literary agent and she wrote back and was like, 'I love this idea. Let's jump on a phone call.' After I agreed to work with her, she's the one who really helped me push myself and pulled the ideas out of me. She really developed the book and the messaged. I had the ideas, I had the knowledge but it was like, how do you make these ideas into a book? Then, when the time came, she's the one who pitched it to publishing houses.

What's the hardest part about being your own boss?

Probably learning how to balance everything because there's so much that I need to do on any given day, whether it's meetings and answering emails, shooting, posting, and sharing on, not just my Instagram, but on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook. I think just finding time to get everything done and then realizing when you do need to bring in people to help you and learning how to delegate work properly. At the end of the day, I'm only one person and there's only so much I can do. So, learning how to juggle and balance and really prioritize what is most important and what I really need to be doing personally.

What has been the most rewarding thing since starting out?

People's reactions to the book have been super, super cool. Having people message me that they've read it and that it really impacted them or they landed an internship, whatever it might be. In general, in terms of building a platform and being able to connect with people and help people and hear their stories, that have been super rewarding. It's one thing to just have a platform and post pictures of myself every day. But also being able to use my platform to help people and to help them be the best versions of themselves and to love themselves and to never stop following their goals and their dreams.

What advice would you give to other women trying to enter a similar field to you?

When starting out, try to figure out what your niche is, what your message is, what your voice is. I always say, ask yourself, what are you bringing to the conversation that isn't already being said? Obviously there's tons of influencers, tons of bloggers, tons of writers out there right now. Try to figure [your message out] and don't launch anything until you have. Then, once you launch it, be ready to network, be ready to talk to literally anybody who will listen. Ask tons of people to coffee. Ask people you admire and pick their brains. The only way to learn more and to grow is by talking to other people and asking them well, how did you do it?

By doing that, you're also spreading the word about what you're doing now and helping your brand grow. The only way to land more work and to get your name out there is by telling people about it.

How have you worked to keep female empowerment at the core of your brand?

A really big part of my brand is all about being yourself, loving yourself, and to never stop following your dreams — fearlessly pursue them. I'm very big on my platform against anti-bullying and I'll call people out. I know I'm not the only one getting negative messages, and they don't really bother me, but I have to think, I probably have a younger follower who, if they were to get that message, it could impact them in such a horrible way. I think I have this obligation to share it to show people that they're not alone and that someone that they follow, who has a lot of followers, gets these hate messages too.

I try my best to portray that I'm a real person. I'm trying to push myself to share more rawness and realness. I'm always trying to share messages on my posts of career advice and following your dreams. I was super excited, I got to be part of a campaign with Aerie recently that was all about unretouched photos. I just try to do my best to always be a positive mentor.

The Aerie Campaign; Photo:  @Inspiredbyem

The Aerie Campaign; Photo: @Inspiredbyem

Which women inspire you?

In term of people in the industry who I admire and think are complete badasses and amazing, I would say Iris Apfel. She's about dressing for herself, wearing what she likes, not conforming to any standards or trying to fit in or wear what's pretty or cool. That's something that I absolutely love and adore. That's what I look to as a model. In terms of business women who are growing their brands, I love Leandra Medine. I think what she's done with Man Repeller is super inspiring and it's a model and a mold that I like to look to for my brand. Also, Emily Weiss from Glossier and Into The Gloss. She's a really cool businesswoman and how she built her brand is so admirable.

In terms of people that I know, someone who inspires me is my mom. She's such a hard worker and she is the one who, when I was growing up, always told me I could dress myself, which was huge. Even if we had a family party or something, she's the one who would tell me I could go upstairs and pick what I wanted to wear. If I looked absolutely insane she's tell me, but she always let me experiment and put things together on my own. She was always proud of me like, Caroline picked this outfit out herself. I think as a kid, that's so important. Those little things like being five years old and being told, you can put this together yourself, you don't have to wear something, I think is so, so huge. She's an amazing working mom. Four kids, never had any help. She's someone to really admire as a person because I don't know how she did it.

How do you define success?

In this industry I feel like, especially when you're starting out, not all success is monetary success. That's something that I can't stress enough. If you quit your full-time job, you go out on your own, you're not going to see the big bucks right away. It's going to take a couple of years and you need to be ready for that. You need to be ready to pinch pennies. But, I can remember when I was first starting out and I had like 20,000 to 30,000 followers and NYLON emailed me out of nowhere and were like hey, we're doing a story on fashion bloggers and their tips for success. We love your page and want to interview you. I was absolutely shocked because I thought no one knew who I was whatsoever. When the article came out, I was the lead picture of the article and I was so happy. To me, that is a huge win, a huge success for me and my brand. That wasn't me making a million dollars off of this thing — you're not paid to do press. But, that was such a huge success. I got my name out there, I was building my brand. It showed me people were taking notice and to not give up.

I think there's so many ways to measure success because, on the complete opposite side, when I land a great campaign that's with a brand I love, but that's also paid very well. I'm like wow, this is so amazing and I'm doing so well and happy. If myself a year ago could see this, she would be in absolute shock. One of the things I try to stress to people is learning to celebrate the little things. It could be landing a press feature in a magazine. It could be gaining a hundred new followers today. It could be landing your first paid job, no matter how much it's paid. Step back from your busy day and celebrate that little accomplishment because it's such a big deal. If you don't stop to celebrate those little things and just appreciate yourself and the hard work you're putting in, that's a quick way to burn out. Success is made up of so many little moments of success.

What are some of your goals moving forward?

I really want to continue writing books. I already slowly started writing a sequel to ‘Making It In Manhattan’. I love having something tangible that my followers can purchase and hold on to and read and love. I love books and I love fashion books. Building the Making It In Manhattan brand is something I want to continue growing. I want to do a bit more public speaking, just to help my brand grow more. I want to continue to work with brands I love and grow my platform and have the most fun I can while doing so.

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Sarah Fielding