College Fashionista’s Amy Levin: Startups, Style Gurus, and Helping Students
Many people have dorm room dreams, but few have the talent and fortitude to turn those passions into real-world successes. That’s what makes College Fashionista Founder and Executive Director Amy Levin’s story so special. In 2009, while still a student at Indiana University, she turned her interest in street style into a blog that showed off her favorite on-campus looks. From there, she built College Fashionista into a content hub for style-obsessed university students, offering 2,000 of them a chance to perfect their writing every semester. In return, Levin and her staff closely mentored their “Style Gurus” providing them with advice and industry contacts that have helped launch thousands of careers so far. That reach eventually attracted the attention of Clique Media, who struck a deal to acquire College Fashionista in 2016, keeping Levin on as official Founder and Executive Director. With those big moves in mind, O.N.S. recently sat down with Levin to talk style, content, and business.
College Fashionista started out in your college dorm room at Indiana University, what specifically inspired this idea for you?
I studied abroad in London during my junior year of college and that is where I became interested in street style photography. I liked how real people were dictating trends and brands were paying attention to it for their future collections. In London, the focus was primarily on teens and the scrappy way they were pulling looks together.
I returned to IU and was inspired by street style there and the role it played at school. Blogs were just becoming popular and I started documenting what my peers were wearing around campus on a blog to exercise my photography and journalism skills. One thing lead to the next and I took my campus hobby from a blogspot to a dot com and College Fashionista was born.
The College Fashionista content format changed last year to highlight your Style Gurus—what pushed you to make that change?
The College Fashionista brand has evolved over the years and has shifted as the needs and wants of college students have changed. We currently are a hybrid of a Gen Z digital media platform and an education hub for students interested in the fashion and beauty industries. I like that we are always changing and are not afraid to throw out old ways to make room for a more relevant model. Our core values have stayed the same and that is what is most important to us.
From the University of Pennsylvania to Northeastern, you’ve been to many colleges with CF. What’s been the most satisfying part of visiting these universities, and most of all bringing them all together?
It’s a great feeling to see the connections we have been able to make with like-minded students across the world. The bond that our community members have is very genuine and deep! I am always so touched by the emails and hand written notes I receive from students about the impact College Fashionista’s had on their lives. It’s my favorite part of it all.
Not only is the Style Guru community big in America, but it also has a big following outside of the country as well! What is it like maintaining a membership of 5,000 plus spread amongst 630 universities?
Our community management team are superstars and put a lot of effort into making the program powerful for each student involved. Our community continues to grow through word-of-mouth and I still think that’s the most powerful way to receive information.
On an average day, what is it like to be the Founder and Executive Director of College Fashionista? How do you manage such a busy schedule?
Each day is different and brings its own set of challenges, but as a team we’re always able to solve problems together. We all share the same common goal and work hard to grow the brand so it can impact as many college students as possible. My most important day-to-day job is supporting my team so they can do the best work for our community.
Doing this since 2009, you must have heard some inspirational stories from Style Gurus who’ve gone through the program and then done successful things on their own. Which stories have inspired you the most?
I feel so fortunate that I have been able to watch so many students launch successful careers after their time with College Fashionista. The best is when I am in a meeting and someone in the room goes, “I was a Style Guru at XYZ school in 2011 and that is how I got my job here.” That happens at least once a week at all sorts of firms and it’s very inspiring to see. I feel like a proud big sis to thousands of college students worldwide.
To keep up with Amy Levin, follow her on IG here.