We first discovered Robin maybe a year or so ago when we noticed some traffic coming to our online shop from a website called SecondFloorFlat.com. Out of curiosity we check out the site and was pleasantly surprised to find KALEIDOS on a mecca list of names of amazing independent retailers and designers. Second Floor Flat is Robin's blog where she shares her passion for independent fashion. On it, she’s created a growing list of all her favorite independent designers and retailers called the Designer Directory. It's an amazing list and we are so honored to be part of it.
While we were in New York last month for market week, we met with Robin in her charming Brooklyn apartment home to chat about independent fashion, her impressive resume, her blog, and her career as an e-commerce writer and editor.
(Photo by Isabel Lord)
As we walked up to her building, we were instantly met with character and charm. There is an over-arching entryway tunnel that leads to an open courtyard with faded pink concrete floors. A photoshoot dream! We buzz in and about a minute later Robin let's us in and welcomes us with a hug. She is as kind and authentic as she appears on her blog and Instagram.
(Left photo by: Amanda Vega, Right photo by: Isabel Lord)
(Photo by Isabel Lord)
As we entered her apartment we were greeted by the excitable energy of her sweet dog, Lola and are introduced to her dark-bearded/South African husband, Derrick. Robin gives us a little tour around her quaint, well-styled apartment and then heats us tea and orders us bagels. Every corner of her home is Pinterest-worthy; vintage mid-century furniture, high ceilings, hanging plants, perfectly placed magazines and books, and walls filled with beautiful photography by her husband.
When the bagels arrive, we start the interview…
Hi Robin! Thanks for sitting down with us. We’re so excited to feature you as this month’s #KaleidosGal and are excited to get to know a little more about you!
You are a fashion writer and editor and have an impressive resume. Tell us a little bit about your story.
I grew up in Atlanta and went to school at SCAD and studied fashion. My whole family are writers and editors. Everyone to my parents, my sister, and my step mom all worked in newspapers. I was always really interested in writing and editing, but I loved fashion; so I studied fashion at SCAD, did internships in New York in the interim, always wanting to go into magazines.
After I graduated, I moved to New York within like a week and I worked at TeenVogue for a year and a half as an editorial assistant, which was awesome. Then me and a couple of friends of mine from SCAD were doing accessories on the side. This was like mid-2000s when people were wearing those feather headbands - it was a thing! We had been doing accessories, hair accessories, and jewelry and it actually started to pick up. So after a year and a half at Teen Vogue I left and did that with my friends for 2 years. We sold to Anthrolpologie and Henrie Bendel, which was very cool. After that I kept doing it, but my friends kind of wanted to go a different direction to try clothing and stuff and I wasn't really interested in that, so I went to Refinery29 and worked in editorial e-commerce. I was there for like 2 years.
I met Derrick, my husband, during that time, moved to London, and was there for 3 years. While I was there, I started my blog because I was looking for a creative outlet. Obviously, I moved to a new city, didn't really know a ton of people, and needed something to do and a way to express myself. In doing that, I started to get really interested in the independent fashion design community around London, but also globally. I started to learn about independent brands and learn about that whole world. Then I started to meet people through blogging and social media and that was kind of my entry to that world. We ended up moving back to the states and came back to New York. I've been back in Brooklyn and working at Barney's as an e-commerce writer and editor for about a year.
What exactly is an e-commerce writer and editor?
I feel like this job didn't really exist until a few years ago. The whole idea of an e-commerce editor is new. In the last 8 years or so, so many brands have been trying to figure out a way to merge content and commerce - so how to make the products your selling both editorialized, but also how to turn your editorial experience into something that converts people.
Basically what I do at Barney's is work on the e-commerce side. It's everything from developing a new voice for their website, which is refining the way we talk about the designers and products we sell, to researching them. I'll go to clinics and listen to the designers talk about their new collections, inspirations, and production. Half of the job is research and the other half is writing about the designers in a new voice and in a more robust way than we have been. It's also on a product level, refining our product copy and elevating it. I also contribute and write stories for The Window, which is their full editorial channel.
When you were doing jewelry, did you have any jewelry experience previous to that?
No, I was 23 or 24 at the time so I feel like that helped me because we didn't know what we were doing. We were like, "Let's just do it!" I think that inexperience helped me because I didn't think twice about it. We just did it.
Everything was either handmade by us or made locally in New York. It was such a crash course in entrepreneurship. One of the biggest problems that smaller designers have is production (running into issues with trying to meet minimums, trying to produce domestically). We didn't know about any of that. We didn't even know how to find producers. We didn't know anything. We would literally go door-to-door at different buildings at the garment district and be like "Hey, will you help us make this?"
That's amazing! It's sometimes hard to remember that that's how it happens. You just figure it out.
Yeah, that's what we did. We just asked around. We'd know of a button supplier in this one building and then we'd see who else would be on their directory and then ask them if they'd help us. Those mini factories in the city or anywhere domestically are usually all small family business too, so they're pretty down for helping.
What do you think is the importance of independent design in today’s world?
I think one part of why it’s important in today’s world is environmental reasons. I recently read that the fashion industry is the 2nd most polluting industry in the world next to oil. Next to oil! How is that possible because it’s oil?! So for that reason alone, I feel like it’s a good case to make to shop local and support independent rather than large corporations who are shipping stuff all around the world using all this energy… or buying something that’s cheap and throwing it away and the pollution that comes from that.
I also think with the whole political thing lately, the biggest thing that I can do is act on a local level – so thinking about who I buy from, who I support, where my money goes to, and how I’m helping that person who is doing this thing or not doing this thing that I don’t believe in. So I think it’s important to think about where your money goes instead of getting overwhelmed by the greater things going on in the world. Think on a local level and act on a local level. I can’t stop climate change, but I can shop from this designer who lives down the street who I am now helping to fund her business. I also believe in empowering women, so I think it’s about that too for me. I think supporting small businesses solves a lot of the problems we’re having in the world right now on a smaller scale.
"Think on a local level and act on a local level."
What would your advice be to someone who wants to create an intentional wardrobe and support independent designers, but doesn't know who to get started or justify the higher costs? How did you get to the point where you are now, where you're a little more intentional about building you wardrobe?
A certain customer understands the price point. For so many of these smaller designers, aside from the quality and the materials being used, it's expensive to get stuff produced unless your doing it at a large scale.
In my early 20s, I was so into the fast-fashion thing and bought so much all the time, and after a while it wasn't fun. Some of my personal experience was fueled with being in London. When my husband and I were moving back to New York, we shipped all of our stuff back in a shipping crates. For insurance purposes, we had to list out everything we were shipping; so I was going through all my clothes and shoes asking, "Do I really want to pay to ship this H&M dress?" I was already in the mode of supporting independent designers with my blog and freelancing (that had all been building since I worked at Refinery29), but once I got to the point where I was literally looking at piece by piece and thinking, "I'm going to have to pay to ship this across the ocean. Do I really care about this $15 dress?" That helped me refine my wardrobe a lot and really look at everything individually.
And then I got into this habit and I still try to do this every few weeks, but just going through everything I own. I go through my drawers and my closet and take everything out and look at it. More often than not, I end up throwing out something, even if it's just like a pair of lounge-y type pants or something. There's usually always something I feel like I have too much of - so that helped me refine my wardrobe.
When I got to the point where I started buying nicer pieces from smaller designers and really doing that consistently, I was surprised at how much better I felt. When I would look at a pair of shoes for 5 months before buying them and really thinking about it because it's going to be a few hundred dollars, as opposed to like 70 bucks... and when those shoes would actually come, the feeling I felt wearing them knowing that I was supporting this person and could point to the person who created this (maybe they stand for something I believe in or I like their style)... just knowing that I was helping to support them and the feeling I got from that... and also knowing that I thought about this piece and obsessed over it for so long and then actually having it was so awesome.
So... that's not really advice and you asked for advice. Haha.
No, this is great! It gives us great insight on what your process was like. If you had advice though, what would it be?
I would recommend from a starting point, every few weeks going through everything you own. And if there is something that you want that's more expensive than what you're used to paying then just think about it.
"Think about, think about, sit on it, wait on it. If you still want it, then let yourself have it."
You obviously can't do it as often as you could if it was something less expensive, but I think it's more worth it.
That's what makes you a such great representation of a #KaleidosGal. You're so conscious-minded and very intentional.
Aw, thank you.
You said avoided blogging for many years, but eventually started while you were in London as a creative outlet. Do you feel like it's been a positive thing since you've started?
Yeah, totally. I was really hesitant about starting a blog first just because after working in the fashion media industry I was a little turned off by the idea of bloggers. And this is no offense to anybody, it just felt a little manufactured and constant product placements. So yeah, I was really turned off at first, but then I really loved the community I found within it.
Being online, I started getting involved with Instagram more and talking more about things that were going on in my life. I was amazed at how many people I would discover who would be really supportive and want to reach out to me and I would do the same to other people. So it was amazing building this whole world and community of people that you find through the internet. That was really great and something I never expected to find from blogging.
Thank you for creating the amazing directory of independent designers and boutiques on your blog and for including KALEIDOS on that list!
Oh my god, of course! I actually started for selfish reasons because I needed to keep track of all these cool brands that I like. And then I realized there wasn't really anything like it out there.
You've done a lot of traveling. How do you feel like that's shaped the perspective of yourself and your style?
I think it's shaped my style in that it's simplified it. When we were in London we would do a lot of long-weekend-city-break kind of things and travel around Europe, and when you get somewhere it never ends up being about what you’re wearing. I used to always bring a million options and would never be back at the hotel to change. It became simplified by focusing more on the experiences and learning how to make things more adaptable – so like bringing different accessories or lipstick to make the same pieces feel different.
I would recommend living abroad to anyone if you possibly can because it’s amazing! It just makes you look at yourself and where you’re from in a completely different way. It puts everything into crazy perspective, I think. It changed me in a big way just in making more self aware and a little bit less self absorbed. There’s a whole world and tons of other things going on that are way more important or bigger than what you’re doing. Traveling and living abroad has given me such a huge perspective shift.
What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part of about my job is something that I like about writing and editing in general. If I’m working on an article or a sentence it always feels like a problem solve to me. I will work on something, leave it, come back to it, leave it, and come back to it for days at a time. I always love the feeling of when you’re reworking, like if I change this word or move this sentence here, it’s like a puzzle. So I think my favorite part of my job is editing.
My favorite part about working in fashion is general is being around other inspiring people who dress in different ways and seeing everyone’s personal style. Just being around that everyday is really fun.
What does a typical day look like for you? Do you have any morning rituals?
I love routine… LOVE routine! (Cue Oprah’s enthusiasm for bread)
In the mornings the first thing I do is have water with lemon and have a version of the same green smoothie every single day. I always listen to NPR-WNYC, drink my coffee, and I do everything in the same order.
A typical day for me is take the subway and start my day at one of our Barney’s stores if there’s a designer clinic or talk. If not, I just go to the office and do a lot of writing articles, editing copies, or designer research.
After work I meet up with friends for drinks or I usually just go home. And I always do a little bit of yoga everyday. Sometimes in the mornings if I can do it, otherwise I do it right when I get home from work. Then I usually play wth Lola, watch t.v., and have dinner.
What are you watching right now?
We watched Hidden Figures last night. It’s really good!
If you had to choose an animal that most reflects your spirit, what would it be?
Probably a rabbit because I feel like I have a lot of nervous energy. I used to have a pet rabbit in college and he would get really excited and just run around the room. Something about their energy just feels like me, this nervous high energy.
Who is your role model and why?
My parents; which would be my mom, my dad, and my step mom. All of them are hard working, super kind, super open and accepting of all different types of people. They’re just really generous and really great honest, hardworking, cool people.
What’s currently playing on your speakers?
Solange. I’ve listened to Solange like so much! I’m actually so bad at music in general. I just don’t find time for it when I should.
I listen to a ton of pod casts.
So what podcasts do you listen to?
I listen to Call Your Girlfriend, Still Processing, Fresh Air… oh my gosh, I listen to so many podcasts so we can just say those for now.
What’s something you can’t live without?
Lipbalm. Is that terrible? If I don’t have it on my lips I feel really distracted.
You do a lot of writing, what’s your favorite thing to read?
What’s your favorite place that you’ve travelled and where will you going next?
South Africa. I want to go to L.A. next.
Lastly, KALEIDOS is inspired by the kaleidoscope - the idea of curating beautiful pieces, bringing them into one space and shining light on them. We believe as creatives there are many facets that make up who we are and it is important to shine light and celebrate all those pieces.
If you were a kaleidoscope, what would you say are the pieces that make up who you are?
Books and movies.
Love for art and fashion.
Minimalist and mid-century style.
Thank you for sitting down and chatting with us over New York bagels and tea. <3