College Fashionista tracks street style on campus

While Amy Levin was still a student at Indiana University majoring in apparel merchandising and business marketing, she traveled across the pond to learn about fashion and street style in London. She tracked trends by scouring the streets for stylish Brits. She observed how street style influenced designers' collections and she brought this concept back to her campus.

Now, she's tracking street style and other fashion happenings of college students on her website, College Fashionista. Money College chatted with Levin to find out how she turned her study abroad musings into a successful business.

Money College: When was the first time you really realized you were interested in fashion?

Amy Levin:
I really became interested in fashion when I got the opportunity to work under a buyer for a local boutique in the area. I grew up in Chicago. She sort of acted like a mentor in the whole buying process. When I went to college, I had the opportunity to study abroad in London and that's when my love for fashion totally bloomed and I knew I wanted to do something in the industry.


MC: Can you describe what exactly you were doing in London?

Levin: I was studying at AIU, a fashion school and I was also interning for a fashion PR firm. The classes I was taking were trend reporting and I worked under a professor who had previously worked for WGSN. He would take us out in London and we would take photographs of people. We learned the whole concept of street style reporting. And then we would come back and do write-ups and reports. We would forecast what we believed would be in fashion, a year from when I was taking the course.

MC: For people who are unfamiliar with street style, can you describe how that influences trends?

Levin: In regards to college fashion, I think that so many brands are curious as to what this demographic is wearing and what they believe is fashionable and trendy. I think those have a huge influence on those street style looks. I know from my trend class, we would worked with a designer, Michael Azu and he would use our reports on what people were wearing to influence his designs and his collections. That was just so interesting to me, that people just walking done the street had such an influence on these designers and these brands.

MC: Can you tell me about how you founded College Fashionista?

Levin: I came up with the idea around January of last year. I was writing a personal blog called IU Fashionista and that was basically just me going around Bloomington, Indiana, taking photos of students and talking about the look. Students from other Big Ten Universities were reading my blog and they loved it. They were encouraging me to extend it to other campuses so I got together a team and I really developed a business plan of how I could take my little blog onto Big Ten campuses. We formulated a whole concept and built the site.

The site launched on August 3, 2009 and we launched on five campuses with 12 writers. Since the launch date, we've brought on new schools and new writers and currently, as of May 31, we going to be on 58 campuses with over 200 writers. It kind of took on a life of its own. I initially wanted it to just be on Big Ten schools, but we got a lot of interest from other schools that were just so excited and wanted to be part of this community that I couldn't turn people down.

MC: How did you come up with the business plan to take it from a blog to a business?

Levin: I brought on two other people who have been in the business industry and had started their own companies. They helped me on that end in regards to investments. I lead the creative aspect and worked with all the writers, but they definitely helped on the back end and turning it into a business.

MC: For someone who has never seen your website how would you describe it to them?

Levin
: Our site is actually changing in a month and its going to look entirely different, but if someone comes onto our current site, its a place where you can just get inspired, where you can see what real people are wearing. I know that all my writers love Vogue and they stay up to date with models and celebrities are wearing, but its just so unrealistic for students to wear those sort of things. This is the place where people can see real fashion and they can imitate and make it work for their body and their personal budget.

MC: Does your site cater to a budget-friendly audience?

Levin: Yes, definitely. I'm always interested in what people's little tricks are--some people love thrift shopping, others find sales online. At the end of each post, the writers try to include a helpful hint on each post like here's what I do for a great find. And of course, a budget for everyone is different.

MC: What makes dressing for college maybe different than for a career?

Levin: Dressing for class is way more laid back then dressing for a typical corporate job. College fashion is all about extending your pieces. It's about having something that is casual enough to wear to class, but that you are able to transform that for going out to the bars.

MC: How would you describe your personal style?

Levin: My style is very androgynous -- I love the juxtaposition of ultra feminine pieces with masculine basics.

To hear from Levin and her style gurus, visit the new College Fashionista site launching on June 7.

Clothes to Free, appearing Thursdays, is a weekly fashion-on-a-budget column by Money College blogger Alysse Dalessandro. Send Alysse column tips at MoneyCollege@walletpop.com.

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