Spotlight on: Hillary Kerr, co-founder of Clique Media and Who What Wear. On the heels of our St. John in Convo event with Hillary Kerr and Jen Atlkin, we sat down with Hillary for a Q & A.
You are a former editor for ELLE, Teen Vogue and Nylon. How did your print journalism career in fashion prepare you for a career in the digital space?
My background in print was invaluable in prepping me for my digital career, for a number of reasons. I learned how to really conceive story ideas, which is obviously invaluable, as well as how to truly write, report, fact-check, and copy-edit my work. That professional training made all the difference when launching WhoWhatWear.com, because it helped make it clear that the site wasn’t an amateur hobby, but really the debut of a new business.
How did you develop your idea or concept for Who What Wear?
Katherine Power, my amazing business partner, and I were just making something that we wanted. Specifically, a website that had all the of-the-moment photos of the world’s most stylish influencers, reporting about the exact pieces they were wearing, and direct links that allowed everyone to shop said pieces. There was just a white space in the market for this sort of destination, especially one that was written in a friendly tone. Over the past nine years, the stories have evolved, as we respond to what our audience wants in terms of content and develop new formats as well, so it’s still changing and developing on a near daily basis!
Do you think print and digital will coexist or will print eventually be obsolete?
I still really appreciate print magazines and buy so many publications each month that I see the gentlemen who work at my local newsstand more than I see some of my best friends. That said, the print industry has evolved tremendously over the past decade in response to the rise of digital content, and I think it will continue to do so. At the end of the day, truly strong print publications that offer something unique to their readers will always stand the test of time, but perhaps not in the quantity that exists today.
What do you think is the future for online fashion magazines? How does Who What Wear stay ahead of the competition that exists?
To stay relevant, online magazines need to continually evolve, in part by having smart social, mobile, and tech strategies, as well as creating content with a specific point of view. And while we’re certainly aware of what other companies are doing in this space, we really just focus on what excites us and will take our company to the next level.
The St. John consumer is “exceptional by her own design. She authors her own storyline.” If you could sum up your storyline, what would it be?
“A lifelong word nerd and pop culturalist, living the editor-turned-entrepreneur dream.”
WhoWhatWear.com is the 3rd largest fashion brand on social media. What is the key to engaging your readers with WhoWhatWear.com’s shoppable fashion content?
The key is creating authentic, compelling content and being wherever our readers are. We’ve always been early adopters when it comes to social media, which allows us to truly understand what our audience wants on each platform.
What is the one piece of advice you would offer women entrepreneurs who want to start their own business?
Be resourceful. You’ll wear a million different hats when starting your own business, and you’ll have to solve problems constantly. If you’re a solution-oriented person who can come up with six different ways to get what you want, you’re going to be ahead of the game. Not everyone thinks that way, but it’s hugely important, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.
What has been one of your biggest career challenges? How did you overcome it?
Weathering the recession as a fledgling business was a huge challenge, especially because digital budgets were often the first to get cut, at that point in time. It forced us to be really scrappy and think of new ways to create revenue, which ultimately was incredibly valuable.
Which trends do you anticipate seeing this February at NYFW? Any advice on following trends?
I think as the world keeps speeding up and technology is embraced more and more, there will be a reactionary trend in the fashion world, with designers focusing on cozy, plush materials and comforting silhouettes. Sort of a slowed-down, calm, layered look that you’d associate with a chic, neutral, Scandinavian cottage, if you will? Life is stressful; your outfit shouldn’t be.” That’s the philosophy behind your book, What to Wear, Where, which gives specific advice on how to put together the perfect look for any social occasion.
What is your favorite occasion to dress for? What advice do you have for fashionistas heading from work to a night out?
For me, the more formal a situation is, the better, so I love getting dressed for cocktail parties or even creating polished work looks, rather than assembling an outfit for a day in the park, for example.
When putting together a look that can take you from the office to a night out, it’s really about just making a few tweaks to ensure you’re appropriate for evening. The easiest thing to do is swap out your day bag for a clutch or smaller bag style, because let’s face it: There’s nothing that shouts “PowerPoint” like a big, boxy tote. Additionally, I don’t really wear much jewelry during the day—rings and bracelets drive me nuts when I’m trying to type—so I’ll keep some additional pieces in the zippered compartment of my bag to add once I’m ready to leave the office. Also, just thinking ahead and making sure that you’re wearing colors and fabrics that work for day and night is an easy way to make an outfit work for both occasions.
St. John prides itself on couture American style; an elegant yet relaxed look that includes timeless classics. What are your go to wardrobe essentials to achieve this casual luxe look?
A great trench coat can save your life—or at least your look—by adding a dash of classic tailoring and polish to whatever you’re wearing. I’m also a big fan of simple, silky blouses in understated prints because they’re appropriate for work and the weekend, depending on what you style them with.