Blogger and fashion host Lilliana Vazquez dishes on her NYFW experience
Even though New York Fashion Week has passed, that does not mean it's forgotten, especially not for blogger and style guru Lilliana Vazquez. With her Luxe for Less feature on TODAY Show and her LV Guide blog, Vazquez has made a name for herself in the fashion industry. Not only that, but she also knows the ins-and-outs of famed New York Fashion Week, and Vazquez has some great tips on how to make the best of the hectic week (for those of you who are already planning for the spring!).
Vazquez started her LV Guide blog back in 2008 when the recession had started to set in for a lot of Americans. She had a mission: to provide people with low cost clothing options for high class looks. And she is still helping people accomplish that today with her segment on the TODAY Show.
We had the chance to sit down with Lilliana last week and chat with her about everything from NYFW to the biggest beauty faux pas. Check out the full interview below!
When did you first start making steps towards being a part of the fashion industry?
The first place I made a big step was just starting the blog, and that began only because I am a football window during football season. I was new to Philadelphia in 2008, and my husband would leave me every Sunday morning around 8:30AM to go watch the games. I didn't know a lot of people, but I had always been a big shopper. I've always been a big bargain shopper. One day, I had a particularly successful day at TJMaxx and I really wanted to share the success of my shopping trip and there was no one to share it with. I thought -- I follow all of these amazing bloggers, and they share what they're shopping for on their blog, why can't I do that? But I wanted to focus on a bit more of an accessible level. I Googled how to start a blog and I started it that day.
From there, I think it struck a chord with a lot of women. 2008 was a difficult year. It was the beginning of the recession, and it was one of the first times women my age had really ever had to think about that. All of a sudden, people were having to make decisions like spending $100 on Steve Madden shoes versus paying their rent. For whatever reason, that was the year I was inspired to start my blog, and it just worked out for what was happening with the economy. It grew very organically from there. The first time it was written about, Glamour.com had this series called blogging babes and they featured me, and it just took off.
From there, I was able to translate it into local TV appearances in Philadelphia, like commentary on how to get the look for less. Now, 8 years later, the segment I do for the TODAY Show on Kathie Lee and Hoda is Luxe for Less. As much as my style has evolved and my life has changed, at the core it's still all about that accessibility. I made hundreds of local appearances in tiny markets all over the country, I paid my own travel, I paid my own way to get there, I would find people on Facebook to model for me, and I did it enough and put in the time and work. After three years of doing that the TODAY Show finally gave me an opportunity to come on and do my very first fashion segment with them.
What is the NYFW experience like for you? What does the week entail?
What's really cool is that I have covered almost every element of Fashion Week. I've covered it at the very high end, like I did today on the TODAY Show, which is where you get to go be a guest at the Cartier Mansion Opening, and you get to sit front row at Tommy Hilfiger -- but I've also covered it from there standpoint where I literally dressed the models. I was putting shoes on models' feet.
It's incredible to watch the evolution of what's happened to NYFW just in the past 10 years. It used to all be centralized at Bryant Park, and everybody was there and it was the same setup and you just rotated through your crew. Now, you're jumping in cabs all over the city. I think the things that's consistent is that NYFW brings an incredible energy to the city. You walk outside and the models are walking among you. The people you see in Vogue are literally standing next to you on the subway. For me, the only thing that has changed is that it's gotten more spread out. But the energy is still the same and the electricity is still the same.
Do you have any tips for surviving NYFW?
Don't over commit. You get so excited when you start to get invitations, but I think the key is don't over commit. Not just to the shows but also to all of the activities that are happening. Because Fashion Week has changed so much and we're in the social and digital age, there are a lot of events that surround the shows.
I think what you need to do is prioritize what Fashion Week means to you as an influencer or attendee. Is it a place for you to network, or create business opportunities for your brand? Or is it because you just want to be really close to the clothes and the designers? Or maybe beauty is what you're really focused on. So instead of trying to be at all of the shows you should be backstage at a venue that's hosting 6 or 7 shows so you can spend all day and get a really beautiful idea on what's happening when it comes to trends in beauty. It's about prioritizing and making sure you do not overcommit because you will not get there -- especially with traffic!
What is your personal favorite thing about Fashion Week?
For me it's seeing a lot of familiar faces all in New York at one time. It's kind of like a family reunion in a way. For me, it's also the discovery part. I am still such a curious fangirl of Fashion Week, even though I have access points now that I didn't have ten years ago, I just have a curiosity about Fashion Week. I want to know why the designers are doing this. I'm a journalist at heart so I want to know what's driving the decisions. Right now, I'm fascinated with the "See Now Buy Now" movement. Why are certain designers doing that, when others aren't? I just want to know the workings of the industry. I think it's really important to understand the business of the industry you're in. For Fashion Week, you have all of these thought leaders all in one place and it's the perfect time to make connections with them and get those questions answered. You find new brands you want to wear every year. Obviously, you have your staple shows that you're going to watch online, but there's so many cool emerging brands that are direct to consumer. They are bypassing the wholesale model, which is what for a long time sank all of these small designers.
How has social media helped you in your career and building your own brand?
It gives people a voice direct to their fans that they didn't have before. For me, I have a voice on the TODAY Show, and people understand what that voice is, but that voice is packaged in a certain way. It fits the mold of the TODAY Show, it fits in a three-and-a-half, four-minute long story and then it's over. So, what you see of me on TV is a little snapshot of who I am day-to-day. What's so nice about social media is that you can connect with people in a more organic, real way. Like, this weekend I did a Snapchat in a baseball cap and tank top lying on a hammock, enjoying the beach in Montauk. It's nice to have people be able to see you in that element as well. I think it creates a fuller, more colorful picture of who you are. That's what makes social media so fun. If you embrace it, it can make you even more successful at building a brand, and more successful among the fans you have. You just can't be afraid to embrace it.
Do you feel like you've had a particular platform you've gravitated to?
For me, it's Instagram and Snapchat. It's important that I have two very different strategies for the content for both of those. My Instagram is hyper-curated. We're very particular about the way photos are laid out. We think about that well in advance. I think people go to Instagram to escape reality and see this fantasy world that's pretty and like a personal Pinterest. But I also love Snapchat because it's the exact opposite of that. I think you need to represent both sides of yourself in a balanced way and those two apps for me help do that really well.
Who do you feel has inspired you the most -- from your beginnings all the way to where you are now?
Stacey London. I remember watching 'What Not To Wear' season one and two thinking it was the most genius show on television. I love that she was no BS about the fashion, because that was her business. I think I'm a little like that as well. But she was also so kind to these people. These people are trusting you with something that's incredibly personal, and I think sometimes people forget that about fashion. It's really not just clothes, there's a whole story into why people make their decisions, there's a psychology there. Stacey was always kind to them, she was funny too, but she was kind. I watched her do that after also seeing other editors and people on TV that aren't so kind. I thought she did it really well. But, she's also owned how much she has changed in this business over the last twenty or twenty-five years -- from being an editor to being on TV to now doing what she does. I love that she's given herself the space to evolve and I think that's kind of what I want to have. I don't want to be pigeonholed into only doing certain types of fashion or only doing certain things on TV, which people like to do, they like to put you in boxes. I like that she's always kind of breaking out of that box. She just wrote an amazing article talking about how she's a completely different person, style-wise. She talks about how she doesn't necessarily wear pencil skirts anymore -- she wears sneakers and men's wear and that's okay too! She mentioned how she wish she had told herself that at age 30 and given herself to be permission to be who she is. I love her career, and how I love how she has dominated in so many different places in the industry.What's the best career or fashion advice you've received over the years?
I would say the best career advice is don't take no for an answer. If I did, I would not be sitting here now, and I definitely wouldn't been on the TODAY Show this morning. I think that a lot of people say that, but you really have to see 'no' as an opportunity to get to a 'yes.' You also have to be really patient with all of those nos. You'll get nos for a long, long time. But it's important that while you're getting rejected, to advance to get to get to a yes. You have to think different every time you're going back to people so that you do end up with a yes. If you keep doing the same thing over and over again you will get nos. You have to be constantly evolving. For me, it was the pitch and the presentation and how I was packaging it. I was always changing that up, so even though I would get a no for one thing, I could also present the pitch from a different side the next time and hopefully get a yes.
Is there a certain trend right now that you think is a huge faux pas in fashion or beauty?
I'm going to call them 'Instagram brows' -- but hair does not grow like that. If you are painting on your eyebrows, to me that is the biggest beauty faux pas. It just irks me. Skin doesn't look like that and hair doesn't grow like that. It's one thing completely to fill in your brows if you have naturally thin brows, but you want to do it in a believable way. We've kind of started to move in a scary direction with makeup. It's interesting because clothes and fashion are moving in the opposite direction. Fashion a few years ago was all about the 'normcore' movement, and now things are softer and more relaxed. It seems like beauty is going the opposite. For people who follow fashion and beauty very closely, they have those clothes, and dressing that way, but then they have these crazy Instagram brows and the two don't work together. So, yeah, the Instagram brow drives me bananas.
Do you have an all-time favorite beauty tip you've ever used?
I'm obsessed with rose water. This was a backstage item as well, and I had never heard of it. I love it. I feel like I can't set my makeup if I don't wear it, and I think it revives you -- not just from a visual standpoint, but you breathe it in and it just energizes you from the inside out. I also don't love a lot of fragrance and I'll use rose water and spray it on my skin and hair, and it's just the lightest, softest scent. It doesn't bother me.
What is it like to run a blog? What's your favorite thing about it?
First and foremost, it's a team effort. I can't take all of the credit for everything that goes into it. I have an incredible team that really gives so much to create that product every single day. It's not only a great lesson in being able to edit and curate, it's also a great lesson in being able to manage people. I'm 36, but I'm now managing millennials and I love the challenge of that. People are motivated now in a very different way than when I was in the workforce. Being in the digital space is also very different, it's a lot more relaxed and casual but the pacing is so quick. At the end of the day, what we did for the blog is already 'old.' So it's about keeping people energized and motivated to continue to create new, exciting product every single day. It's a steep learning curve but I think that's the cool thing about being in digital. For people in our mid-30s and 40s, that's something we're having to learn. You always have to be curious and creating and learning because you can get left behind really quickly. I'm very lucky to work with a lot of young, smart women that keep me on top of this. It's really fun, at the end of the day, it's not like we're curing cancer or anything, but I think what we're doing is giving woman a really accessible way to touch fashion. My goal has always been to create this very inclusive environment. I worked at W Magazine as my very first job out of college in fashion and it taught me exactly what I didn't want to do if I ever had the position and the place to work in this industry 10 or 15 years down the line. I never felt like I belonged and I never felt like it was a place that was welcoming of me, and fashion should be. We all have to wear clothes, so fashion should be welcoming of everybody. That's what we try to do. It's important to me that when my team interacts with brands and fans that everybody leaves that interaction thinking that it was nice to work with us. Those are the things that are really important for me. I never want anyone to feel the way I felt at W.
What do you see as the next steps for your career and where do you see yourself going in the next five years?
On the TV side, I hope to continue to be on the TODAY Show. They've given me such a wide lane in the last year to really explore topics that go far beyond fashion. I've been able to cover technology, and travel and I hope I can continue to do that and build on that. I would love to have a show that is about fashion. I would particularly like to have a show that's about fashion and travel -- whether that's for television or online doesn't matter. I think people consume content in so many different ways and there are so many opportunities to create stuff like that, so I hope I can do that. And I also love the behind-the-scenes stuff, I think that's something people don't realize all of the time when they see you in front of the camera. I take so much pride in producing all of the work that I do and so continuing to build on that and work as a producer, and also produce other young talent that is excited about being in the fashion and entertainment world. I would love to do that. I like to create, so continuing to be a creator is something that's at the top of my priority list, whether it's for digital or broadcast.
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