Fashion journalist speaks at QU

Mary-Catherine Dolan

On the exterior, Syracuse University graduate Zandile Blay seems all business with her long resume and professional demeanor. But perhaps in a way to prove she’s just an average fashion- loving girl, one of the first questions she playfully asked her audience was, “Does anyone want to know who I’m wearing?”

On Oct. 13, Blay presented “So you want to be in the business of fashion? How to get in and succeed in the business of fashion.” Dressed in a Nicole Miller dress, YSL pumps, and H&M tights, Blay’s speech consisted of the story of her switch from the broadcast journalist world to the fashion world, the obstacles she overcame, and tips for aspiring students who wish to break into the fashion industry as a career.

While majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor in political science, Blay began interning in Washington D.C. with Fox News. It was there she realized that politics and what the media actually reported on were two completely different entities.

It was on these personal beliefs that Blay left the world of politics and moved into the fashion industry. “Fashion had nothing to do with my career goals,” Blay said.

Fashion tells the truth, she said, “[It] doesn’t pretend to be objective.” Working her way up the fashion journalist ladder, Blay began interning at as many places she could. Today she freelances for InStyle magazine, has a column in the Huffington Post, and is the fashion market editor at Paper Magazine.

She assured her audience that none of these positions came without a struggle or intense drive. The most difficult thing Blay had to overcome in her career? “How little money you make for how hard you work.”

But not to be discouraged, Blay continually praised the industry and offered some tips of breaking into the tough field.

First, she said, “Ask yourself; why fashion?” She explained that a strong desire and passion is needed to succeed in the industry. Tip number two, “Intern! It’s the most important thing to do. The idea you have about a field has nothing to do with the reality of it.” She said working in the fashion industry is all about who you know, and internships help build those relationships.

Her next tip, “Pick your position and play. Fashion is a huge animal.” She went through describing the multiple positions one could have in fashion.

The newest is the occupation of a fashion wrangler. The sole job of this employee is to try and get celebrities to wear certain designers.

Next up, “Find a mentor,” Blay said. “You want someone who’s seasoned.” For students, though they may not realize it, their professors are the best mentors to look to right now.

“Be humble,” Blay said as her next tip. “Humility is underrated, but it’s well valued.” Although this might sound surprising, she said that most successful people are also very humble.

Finally, “Be realistic. [A fashion journalist’s job] is not an episode of ‘Sex and the City.’ The bottom line is money, but it’s an industry.” She encouraged her audience to remain focused on their passion, and know that the money will come; something her father told her years ago when she first started.

After covetable free fashion journalism advice, Blay began to give fashion insights in a question and answer segment. Appearing delighted and right in her element, Blay said that her favorite designer is the great, timeless Coco Chanel. “She’s such a dynamic woman. Her personal stories just make her label seem that much more interesting.”

Of course a speech on fashion presented to college students could not be called complete without some tips on how to dress. “Find your silhouette,” Blay said, “and buy it in every color.” As for her favorite low-budget store, “H&M is so incredibly on trend right now. They are closely paying attention to all the runway shows.”

A speech geared on fashion and accessories turned out to surmise the determination and will power of Zandile Blay’s character. Coupled with trendy style secrets and real world advice, Blay truly appealed to all members of her audience. A tactic she is most likely already aware of. “You can turn anything into what you want it to be,” she said.