This feature is part of our series on members of our community who inspire us. From entrepreneurs, stylists, and consultants starting their own businesses to executives changing the game at the highest levels, we’re lucky to be able to learn from these incredible role models.
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Alison Syrett didn’t plan on being a fashion writer. Drawn toward art as a child, she initially wanted to be a children’s book illustrator, and pursued that when she entered college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. After working various jobs in fashion, including working at boutiques and for designers, she decided to pursue a career in the field. Now, she writes and edits fashion features for one of the top magazines in the country. We got a chance to chat with her about her journey, having an untraditional college experience, and her meaningful jewelry.
On her life before being a fashion writer
I moved to New York for college in 2005 when I was 18. My original plan was to be a children's book illustrator. At FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology], they make you declare your major before you start, because technically it's a trade school (which I think is absolutely ridiculous because who knows what they want to be when they're 18 years old!)
I settled on art because art has always been the thing that came naturally to me. I was always very creative, and I always loved reading and writing.
I wound up working all of these jobs in fashion while I was in college. I worked at a trade show where I met designers, I worked in boutiques — I also wound up having a very, very, untraditional college experience. I mean one, I met the man who'd be my husband when I was 18 and we moved in together when we were 19. I was embedded in that relationship. I also really wanted to work. Once I started making money, I didn’t want to do unpaid internships.
Now, I feel like everything's changed so much. You have to do an unpaid internship if you want to get a job. Back then, I would work during the day at boutiques or for designers, and I used to draw their line sheets. I worked part time, got odd jobs here and there and then would go to class at night. On the days I wasn't working, I would do my classwork. I went to school four or five days a week from 6-9 pm then come home.
Looking back, it was actually a good life. I got to sleep in as late as I wanted and then worked on the weekends. Then, I graduated. I changed a lot over my college years. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do art — I felt burnt out. And I had a bunch of random jobs. I was working part time as a nanny for two twin boys on the Upper West Side and working part time at a store.
On getting into InStyle
I was so naive. I decided I wanted a fashion job because all I do is shop all day, so I emailed every single magazine asking for an internship. I figured I’d stay until they hired me. The only one who answered was Lucky [Magazine] and I wound up getting an internship in the digital department. In my head, it was so glamorous, but actually, I was in a little closet doing web monkey things.
I also came in 2010 when Lucky was going through huge transitions. I started a week after the original founding editor-in-chief left. So they had a new editor-in-chief coming in, and typically whenever there's a new EIC, there’s a change of regime. There was a mass exodus of the old regime — a lot of people were leaving. No one had really figured out this whole Internet thing and how they would integrate it.
I'd like to say I got the job because of my sparkling writing skills. But it was really because my last semester in college I had taken a coding class and I knew how to code. And no one else knew how to code. I was hired as their sustained and my main job as an assistant was I was an assistant to three different people.
It was right when blogging was becoming a thing, so editors would just give me their pieces and I would code them in. It was mind numbing. I was sitting in a corner and no one knew who I was. I would just beg for whatever writing jobs I could get — I was desperate and I looked up to the writers so much. They went out and did what seemed to me like the most glamorous and amazing things in the world.
I kept plugging away whatever wherever I could. If they wanted fifty captions for black boots, I'd write a different caption for each of those black boots!
Eventually, they hired a new director for the site who took a chance on me. I owe a lot to her. She promoted me to be a digital writer and took the time to give meaningful feedback on my work. It was like boot camp - I had to learn on my feet! But it went a long way to building my confidence and skill.
I actually quit in 2015. I was one of the few people who wasn't laid off. It was really scary. But quitting wound up being the best possible thing I could have done for my career, because I had been there long enough. I really established a lot of relationships with people.
I met so many great people during my time at Lucky and other places so I wound up just freelancing everywhere. I really I thought I was going to freelance forever because it was a great existence and got to do something new every day. I also got to meet new people and make my own schedule.
But I also always wanted to work in print and then this opportunity came up at InStyle. I told myself that I could always go back to freelance if this doesn’t work out.
On memorable celebrity interviews
I've interviewed Heidi Klum and she just knew how to get it done efficiently. She gave me the types of quotes I needed and had this no nonsense kind of attitude. I also facilitated an interview where celebrities interviewed each other, with Cindy Crawford interviewing Taylor Hill. I told Cindy she could have my job! She was amazing. She took my questions and made them better — arranged them in an order that made sense. She was a pro.
On her most meaningful pieces of jewelry
It's funny because I feel like the most meaningful pieces of jewelry aren't necessarily the pieces of jewelry I wear all the time. Obviously, my wedding jewelry is all very meaningful.
I didn't wear a veil during my wedding; instead I wore this little brooch. My hair was very short at the time so I wore it back with a brooch in it. And there is also this necklace I remember scouring the internet to find something to complement the broach and the dress.
My husband and I both gave each other surprise pieces to wear for the wedding. He gave me earrings and I gave him cashmere socks. These are all very special and meaningful to me, but I really don't wear them that often.
I'm wearing a necklace right now that I bought to commemorate the half marathon I ran in March. I was really proud of myself for accomplishing it, so I went to get dinner in Williamsburg that night and I stopped at Catbird and I bought the necklace. I was SO excited and I wanted to get something to remember the day. I really like the link details on the necklace because it mirrors how I felt when I ran 13.1 miles: strong. Whenever I’m having a bad day, the necklace reminds me of what I can accomplish.
The first pieces of jewelry I got were my mother’s pearl earrings. I actually wore them on a first date with my now husband and one fell out! I, of course, freaked out and made him search all over the car, and we eventually found it. There’s another necklace I have that my mother gave it to me, it's a constellation of stars, an astrological representation of my birthday.
I have this necklace too, which is my grandmother’s from occupied Japan in the 30s. Anything from occupied Japan is extremely rare.
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