Nicole Kliest, Style Director, Who What Wear
Looking for your next career crush? Well, here she is. Meet Nicole Kliest. Nicole is not only the ultra-profesh style director of Who What Wear (that massively successful online style platform you've surely heard of), she is also a warm, hilarious, and knowledgeable person more than willing to give you a few tips on working in the world of digital media. Today Lisa Says Gah takes you to Nicole's sunny West Village stoop for a career chat covering the importance of reaching out to professionals you admire, taking the time to excel once you have a foot in the door, and the power of a glass of wine... or two! Enjoy!
LSG: Tell us about Who What Wear. How did you land this job? What do you love about it?
Who What Wear is a digital platform for individuals who love fashion to go see and read about inspiring trends, people, and clothes. And to shop! I got the job because of a connection I made while I was interning. I was interviewing on a red carpet, and I made friends with the girl next to me. She happened to be an intern at Who What Wear and we exchanged information. When I saw a job listing at the company for a photo editor position, I reached out to her with my resume and cover letter and she passed it along to my now employers. A little over five years later, I’m still with Who What Wear and am now the style director! My favorite aspect of the job is that I’ve been able to wear so many hats, which is something that usually comes with working at a startup company.
LSG: Describe your typical work day.
A typical work day for me begins with sorting through emails and prioritizing tasks at hand. In addition to my responsibilities as a style director, I also post around 20 pieces of content on the site weekly so figuring out how to balance that with broader projects is important. There are a lot of nooks and crannies in my job so thankfully every day is different!
LSG: At age six what did you see yourself doing career-wise?
I used to make family newsletters on Word where I’d report on the latest happenings in our household. I was homeschooled so I had a lot to cover! My sister’s latest grounding, what was for dinner, those types of important things. I think I always wanted to be a journalist in some capacity.
LSG: Where did you go to college? What skills from college do you use the most at work? How important do you believe higher education to be?
I went to Pepperdine University for journalism and creative writing. I access the skills I learned during those four years all of the time. Having that structure helped me mold my interpersonal and professional skills and helped me to stay accountable for my education. However, I think that choice is a personal one. My father didn’t go to college and has been an incredibly successful firefighter for the last 35+ years. I think it depends on your personality and what you want to get out of it.
LSG: You have had a few titles at Who What Wear. How long do you think it is productive to stay under one title? Any tips for climbing the proverbial ladder?
I was a photo editor for a little over three years, but during that time I began to work in areas that extended beyond the traditional role of photo so I eventually became a senior editor. After a couple of years with that title, I was promoted to style director. I think it’s important to spend time honing in on your position and really mastering it. If you’re only concerned with climbing up the ladder you may miss important steps that are necessary to make the next job successful.
LSG: Best perk or opportunity you’ve come across in your career (so far!)? Have you met your "career crush," had an amazing mentor, bumped into a favorite celebrity, gotten killer swag...?
Travel! I can’t begin to describe how grateful and happy I am to have had the opportunity to visit places because of my job. I’ve been to Colombia, Tennessee, Canada, the British Virgin Islands, and even Louisiana!
LSG: Any advice for aspiring writers and creatives looking to get into the fashion business? What is the most important first step?
Email the people you admire and ask for insight. I think it’s easy to put successful career figures on a pedestal, but you’d be surprised to find out how many people are willing to help you if you just ask. On a more granular level, I’d suggest contributing articles as often as possible so you can build your resume. Even if you’re getting paid $50 to do so (or not paid at all), it’s still benefiting you.
LSG: Do you feel like women's roles in the workplace are still a topic to discuss or is that an issue of the past?
It’s certainly an issue of the present. I think my situation is unique because I work in a female-driven environment, but that doesn’t take away from the issues of inequality that women deal with like compensation, high-profile positions, maternity discrimination, and other similar topics.
LSG: How do you separate work and life? Do you consider yourself a workaholic? How do you unwind?
I’m most successful at separating work and life when I’m challenging myself to be a dynamic person. It’s very easy to get exhausted from work and put the rest of your life on the back burner while you catch up on Netflix, but I feel the most balanced when I’m doing things like taking a yoga class after a long day at the office, stopping at a gallery on the way home, or even getting up extra early to sit in the park and meditate with a cup of coffee. I do work a lot and at a fast pace, so having these tools for relaxing and unwinding is so key. Also, a glass of red wine goes a long way.
LSG: Describe your personal style. What is it most influenced by?
I dress sort of like a French-inspired tomboy. I love minimalist separates with interesting cuts and details, my Levi’s 501 jeans, and a red-orange lip. I draw influence for my personal style from ladies like Jean Seberg, Elin Kling, and Phoebe Philo, and also have a Pinterest board full of outfit ideas that I go to when I’m feeling stale.
LSG: Did your style change when you got this job? How so?
Oh gosh, yes. I cringe when I think about some of the outfits I wore when I was first hired. But I think that’s sort of the fun of growing up and into your own style. It’s a personal process and it should be fun. My look has definitely become more minimal and (hopefully) refined. That’s not to say that I don’t love and adore women who dress colorfully and flamboyantly—some of my favorite people to feature on the site dress far differently than I do.
LSG: What’s next? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I hope to be working in a role that keeps me happy, inspired, and challenged! That’s all you can ask for!
LSG: What should we check out while in New York?!!?
Washington Square Park on a Sunday afternoon! There’s live piano and a jazz band and it’s seriously the best way to end your weekend.