Ann Shoket On Fashion's Next Generation And Cultivating Success
Ann Shoket is someone who likes to ask the big questions, so much so, that she's made it her job. Her professional track record speaks for itself - having been at the helm of two celebrated teen magazines, making appearances on esteemed shows including Good Morning America, and participating in pop culture phenomenons like America's Next Top Model where she spent four seasons as a guest judge.
Yet with all of her unique and exciting opportunities and projects, there's been a constant in Ann's work that can't be ignored and it's one of the things we've come to admire the most. That constant is her genuine dedication to championing young women. This mission has resonated with us deeply here at Brand Assembly, as we consider ourselves advocates for fostering the next generation of fashion, in growing our own community of contemporary and emerging designers. So you can imagine how big of an opportunity it was for us to have the chance to meet with Ann and further chat about these shared values.
On a brisk April morning, Ann met us here at The Brand Assembly Square donning a pale pink trench coat that funnily enough perfectly matched our co-founder Hillary's wide-leg trousers. Call it sartorial fate, but we knew from the get-go that we were in for a treat and truly inspiring conversation - and you can see it all for yourself below. We chatted with Ann about the importance of empowering the next generation of young designers, keeping things fun, and finding the good in everything. Check out more of our chat below and discover an exclusive second part of this feature on The Style Line.
Please introduce yourself!
I’m Ann Shoket, I am a millennial expert and author of the soon to be released, The Big Life: Find Your Confidence, Live Your Dreams and Get Everything You Ever Wanted—On Your Own Terms, published by Rodale in March 2017. I was the Editor-In-Chief of Seventeen Magazine for almost eight years and before that, I was one of the launch editors of Cosmogirl. I’ve had the very long view of the ways in which young women have changed. The book/the work that I’m doing now is focused on women in their twenties and thirties - millennial women. It’s really a continuation of that conversation that I had at Cosmogirl and Seventeen talking about, “How do you put your life together, when ambition and career are at the center of your life?” That’s really one of the big changes among young women now, as they are more ambitious, smarter, better educated and have more opportunities.
There is no question that they will work and now we’ve moved into this idea of how do you make work meaningful? There’s really no longer a separation between work and life, as your work is really an expression of yourself. That’s the conversation that I’m leading. I do a weekly newsletter called Badass Babes News and it’s a list of conversation starters: things that are happening in the world that I think need to be said! It’s a conversation that no one else is having about being young and ambitious. The letters are substantive, real, deep, important conversations - but not deadly boring or academic! It’s about navigating your emotional territory - how does it feel to deal with the pressure of wanting to make your mark on the world?
As you can see here at The Brand Assembly Square, community is really important to us. Based on your own experiences, how have you learned to cultivate an authentic community for your brand and what advice would you have for those who may be struggling to find their people?
I have a really great relationship with my friends, fans, and followers on social media and I feel privileged to be allowed into their life, and have really emotional important conversations with them that I honor that tremendously. I’ve also built a real-life community of amazing women who literally come to my house for great conversation and that’s how I’ve nurtured my community. I want to be a part of these conversations happening in the world. It starts with bringing people together but it also starts by being engaged. I’m not just putting out pictures or having random thoughts on Twitter, I’m trying to have a conversation.
While your work focuses on generally empowering young women, do you have anything in particular you’ve learned from working with or featuring young fashion designers? What’s been the most rewarding aspect of being so heavily immersed in the next generation of the fashion industry?
Fashion is a really important part of young women’s lives because it’s about self-expression, confidence and creativity, and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a young designer realize their dream. It’s a crazy hard business and to have a point of view on the world and to make it heard and celebrated is a really inspiring thing to do! We were as generous as we could be with young designers at Seventeen, it was really important to us. But also because it says something to an even younger generation that sees someone who is making it happen for themselves and says, “Wait a minute, I can do that too.”
I was also a judge on America’s Next Top Model and there was one crazy season - I think we were in Rome - and Jeremy Scott did the fashion show. This was five or six years ago before he was the biggest of the big with Moschino, but he had a really clear vision for himself and unique point of view on the world. It wasn’t commercial or so celebrity driven, and I think that actually was a really eye-opening experience for me to see how you can make your unique point of view happen. It doesn’t have to be what everyone wants.
Young fashion professionals and emerging designers are up against a lot of critique, from editors, peers, and even customers. What is constructive feedback to you? Do you have any advice for Brand Assembly’s community of designers on championing their own strengths while still improving upon skill sets or things that might not come as easily to them?
I think the hardest thing to hear is negative feedback... I’ve always been super aware of when you have to give someone tough news or a tough critique. They put a lot of time and effort into that work, and their hopes and their dreams are all tied up into it, so you really have to tread carefully. Everyone is really interested in succeeding, so first, in giving critical feedback, you really need to make sure that it’s not personal and that it’s helping move the idea forward and bringing it closer to what you think it could be.
To hear tough feedback hurts, right? You want to go home and put your head under a pillow and hide and eat an entire pint of ice cream! It feels terrible, but you need to find the thing that is useful to you there and discard the rest. The truth is, not everybody gives you thoughtful, constructive feedback so you need to figure out what aligns with you and resonates and pay attention to that… and learn to let it go. You can’t add it to that incredibly long tape that you have in your head that says, “You suck, you suck, you suck…” Just let it go, move on, and refine your vision.
I certainly did not always get high fives or straight A’s or gold stars, and there were a couple of times where I was up for big roles that I didn’t get that I wanted very badly. So I went home and drank the bottle of wine and put my head under the pillow, and then got back to what I wanted to do. I had a realization that not every opportunity is the right one for you but that doesn’t mean your ideas won’t see the light of day. They get sharper, YOU get sharper, and you get better. There are a lot of moving pieces and every single experience makes you a little smarter. It’s important to remember that life is a marathon is not a sprint.
Brand Assembly is really all about making the work fun! Do you have any tips on doing this in your own endeavors? Things you’re learning yourself that you can now share? From an off-duty perspective what’s also been fun for you lately?
Fun is so important to me! You work so hard, so many hours, and your brain has to go to so many complicated places that it doesn’t feel worth doing if it’s not fun. I certainly enjoy my Iced Green Tea Latte that is a nice fun feeling - but there are two outside of work things that make everything fun: I’m super into pilates these days and at the end of the day I really enjoy a glass of wine - 90% of the time it’s with my husband which I really enjoy and the other 10% is spent with young women that I meet or with a girlfriend and that helps create community and helps make work feel fun!
What do you assemble daily?
I keep thinking about love and positivity. Those are the two things I want to have around me. I want to surround myself with people who are putting it out into the world! That’s what I assemble daily.