Style Girlfriend: Shaping the Style of the Modern Man in the Coolest Way Possible

I first heard about Megan Collins and Style Girlfriend from my brother-in-law, and from the minute I checked out stylegirlfriend.com, I was hooked!

What started out as a simple favor for a pal several years ago has now blossomed into a popular style and lifestyle resource for men. With her funny, easygoing approach, wide range of topics and killer eye for what looks good on a guy (and, thankfully, what doesn't), Megan has created a full-service resource of sorts for men looking for advice on anything from fashion to fitness to grooming.

Wondering how to pull off a turtleneck? She's got your back. Thinking of taking up Pilates? She has some tips. Can't figure out why the heck you really need to use conditioner? Just check with Style GF!

What's even cooler? While, yes, her tips and advice are primarily geared toward men, that doesn't mean Megan doesn't connect with a female audience as well. Check out the Borrowed From the Boys section of her site to see for yourself!

I recently caught up with Style GF to discuss how she became -- and how she feels about being -- an expert on men's style and lifestyle.

You mention on your site that you started Style Girlfriend as a favor to a friend. How did you position yourself as the authority in men’s lifestyle, and how did Style GF evolve into the site it is today?

Completely by accident! When Style Girlfriend got its start, I was in the middle of leaving a career in advertising, taking on any freelance writing gigs I could get. At the time, a friend was starting a custom suiting business and asked me to write a weekly column just to help him get more content on his site.

“Totally! But I don’t know anything about men’s fashion...is that okay?” I asked.

“Sure, just write about what women like to see guys wearing,” he replied.

Just like that, I realized that, yep, I had strong opinions about that and could definitely write about them. It was a huge light bulb moment for me, and really informed the Style Girlfriend perspective -- that of a girl who just wants to see guys dress well, not necessarily a “fashion expert.” I don’t think most guys care about “fashion” anyway. They simply want to leave the house each morning dressed to impress. Which is perfect, because that’s how I feel about clothes, too.

Of course, now I feel more comfortable identifying myself as a style resource (if not “expert”) but that’s how a chick with zero experience in the fashion industry was able to start a blog about men’s fashion. 

From those humble beginnings, SG really took off -- the column became syndicated nationally, and I eventually spun it off into its own website, stylegirlfriend.com, which is where it still lives today.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you keep your content and ideas fresh and interesting?

I live in New York City, where just walking down the street gives me enough ideas to fill a month’s worth of stories. On one block alone, you’ll see examples of guys with amazing personal style, and also plenty of “What was he thinking?!” looks that inspire me to write about what not to wear (nicely, of course).

It’s funny, but I also get a lot of inspiration from women’s fashion magazines. They usually nail the “high/low” mix of aspirational pieces along with affordable options in a way that men’s magazines don’t always tackle.

For me, that’s how I shop -- an investment bag, with a top from Target, and jeans from a department store at the mall - and it’s how plenty of guys shop too. It’s not realistic to think that everything you buy for your wardrobe can break the bank. So to keep a guy’s shopping budget in mind helps me come up with outfit ideas and inspiration that are accessible to the audience.

We think that one of the main attractions of Style GF is that while it’s geared mainly toward men, it’s also super appealing to women. How did you build your audience, and what’s your secret to remaining relatable to everyone? 

The secret (that’s not really a secret) is that I’m shopping the way my readers shop. I’m saving up for a splurge item, checking out the clearance racks, and building a wardrobe piece by piece, not in huge, movie-montage-set-to-a-pop-song shopping sprees. That puts me in a great position of being able to help guide readers as they build a wardrobe in the same, step by step, way.

Also, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I’m exploring my own personal style and encountering the same shopping obstacles my readers are. I’m just more willing to talk about it than a lot of fashion editors or bloggers out there who want to seem like they already know it all. Grousing about trying on jeans, or showing off a recent sale find -- that’s relatable to both guys and girls.

Speaking of which, what kind of response has Style GF gotten from women? We bet so many girlfriends out there are absolutely loving you!

Women love Style Girlfriend! I hear from so many female readers who are 1) passing along articles to the men in their lives, and 2) getting inspiration for their own wardrobes, which is so awesome. SG isn’t about trends or the latest sneaker drop or bragging about a perfect closet (and life), it’s about acknowledging that we can all try a little harder, and providing the shortcuts, tips, and tricks to getting there. That’s useful for men and women alike.

You released an e-book this summer, which is a new and different challenge! What was it like to transition Style GF from a blog to a book?

It was daunting, but ultimately really satisfying! Some of the book’s contents were pulled from existing pieces on Style Girlfriend -- articles on fit, grooming, accessories; and essays on my own personal style evolution. Thankfully, I’m a pretty organized person -- I was never the student cramming for a test or finishing an essay the night before -- so I just broke up the rest of the work into really small (like, teeny-tiny) tasks to keep things manageable. If I had thought too much about the fact that I was WRITING A BOOK, I probably never would have finished it!

We love your hilarious presence on Twitter! What kind of impact has social media had on Style GF? Does your audience influence your content?

Oh wow, thank you! Social media is definitely a continuing education for me. Obviously a lot of the stuff I’m putting out there is followers to check out the latest and greatest on Style Girlfriend -- “Today on SG, 5 fall coats you’ve gotta try on…” -- that kind of thing.

But I have found that followers love hearing more about my life, and the day to day of running Style Girlfriend, so things like what I’m wearing, or where I’m traveling -- or yes, what I’m thinking -- inevitably find their way into the mix.

Which other women in the industry inspire you? Who are your professional role models?

There’s of course some amazing female editors out there -- Nic Screws, previously with Esquire and now at Bloomberg, Sandra Nygaard at Men’s Health -- and I look to them for inspiration in how to gracefully make it as a woman in a “boys only” kind of club.

Further, as an entrepreneur running her own business (because that’s exactly what Style Girlfriend is at this point!),  I also really find myself drawn to learning from those who have grown successful businesses for themselves -- Sophia Amoruso of Nasty Gal, Brit Morin of Brit + Co. But I also just read Ben Horowitz (from vc firm Andreesen Horowitz)’s book “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” and was totally inspired. I’m an equal opportunity admirer.

So, what’s next for Style Girlfriend? (Beyond the e-book, of course!)

Plenty! I’m hiring on staff and looking to really grow the verticals on Style Girlfriend this year. “Personal Style” is actually this huge umbrella topic, and so much more goes into it than just what you wear. It’s how you decorate your home, the effort you put into your fitness, it’s knowing how to pair wine with food. It’s everything! Stepping up your style game is really a 360-degree process, and I want SG to be the one-stop shop for guys looking to do just that.

BY REBECCA BRYAN

Visit Style Girlfriend for yourself: http://www.stylegirlfriend.com

Follow Style Girlfriend on Twitter: @StyleGF

Speaking Up: Kat Gordon on the Rise of Female Creative Leadership

“Innovate!” It’s a call to action we Creatives hear on a daily basis. But what can we get from a room full of people in the same situation, validating instead of challenging each other? We can’t expect anything really new. 

Building a team of diverse voices is one way to jumpstart ideas while meeting the actual needs of varied consumer segments. So why do so many supposedly creative companies and agencies still not get it? New and different can’t be expected to perpetually emerge from same old.

While working for 20 years as a Copywriter/Creative Director, Kat Gordon continued to experience this issue firsthand and decided to do something about it. She discovered through her research that (in 2012) women represented just 3% of Creative Directors. This startling fact inspired the conference name – a name that Kat hopes will need to change.

The 3% Conference addresses the imbalance resulting from a lack of diversity in advertising. Over the past two years it has become more than a conference. It’s a movement driven by a highly engaged community of men and women.  

The 3%

You started the 3% Conference in 2012... What meaningful changes have you seen the advertising industry go through in the last 2 years?

We just released some research based upon the original 3% number and female CDs now account for 11% – a 319% increase. So I see female creatives staying in the field and getting more recognition. I was also thrilled when the Art Directors Club launched its 50/50 Initiative, inviting other award shows to pledge to have half their judges be women. Lastly, I was proud to participate in a new program that Cannes put on called “See It. Be It” and serve as a speaker on three panels. This initiative makes sure female creative leaders are more celebrated at this important international creative festival. 

Being a Catalyst

Women are often told to “speak up” when they realize they’re in a biased environment. But when a woman is working in this kind of situation, being heard is very difficult. Changing an environment from the inside can seem almost impossible. What actions do you recommend that women can take other than the difficult path of finding a new job, or even working in another area and trying to fight bias from the outside?

What frustrates me about so many of the recent headlines about gender bias is that the onus always seems to be left on the woman: how to combat it, call it out, or use tactics around it. I think it’s time to change the conversation. As more and more businesses realize the bottom-line benefits of women in leadership, then those in charge – who recruit, hire, promote and manage women – should be given training to help them check these biases, many of which are subconscious. Both men and women are susceptible to gender bias and could benefit from training to dismantle stereotypes.

Just this weekend, the NY Times published a piece that showed that employees assume women who are mothers will be less productive, yet assume the opposite for Dads. There’s no proof that productivity suffers from parenthood, but we still make these assumptions and they unfairly affect women and help men. The more that we can make bias everyone’s problem, and create systems to reveal bias through research + HR results, the more women won’t need to speak up or will feel empowered to do so if there is an issue.

The Confidence Gap

I’ve been reading a lot lately about a confidence gap between men and women. While men tend to overestimate their abilities and performance, women will typically underestimate both. At the same time, studies show that in general more men are promoted based on potential, but women usually have to prove themselves first. This doesn’t say much for companies’ confidence in women. What strategies can be employed by female advertising and design professionals to help break this cycle?

Business coach Tara Mohr just wrote an interesting piece on this for the Harvard Business Review. She conducted her own survey to see if the oft-given reason why women won’t apply for jobs is due to confidence and she uncovered something fascinating. Over a thousand men and women, predominantly American professionals, were asked “If you decided not to apply for a job because you didn’t meet all the qualifications, why didn’t you apply?” According to the self-report of the respondents, the barrier to applying was not lack of confidence. In fact, for both men and women, “I didn’t think I could do the job well” was the least common of all the responses. Only about 10% of women and 12% of men indicated that this was their top reason for not applying. What did hold them back? 46% of men and 40% of women cited they didn’t apply because they didn’t think they’d be hired since they didn’t meet all the qualifications and didn’t want to waste their time and energy. These people thought the required qualifications were exactly that – required – and not optional. This research reminds me of another survey where women were just as likely to negotiate salary as their male counterparts when the job posting listed “salary negotiable.”

So for female advertising and design professionals, I suggest you consider required qualifications as somewhat elastic and throw your hat in the ring for virtually anything of interest. And for those who want to attract and hire female ad talent, write job postings that use less rigid language than you may have used previously.

Gender Blindness vs. Gender Intelligence

As pathfinders like yourself bring long-term problems into focus and make gender bias more visible, there may be signs of companies shifting from gender blindness to gender intelligence. Is there a risk of stereotyping women? How is progress identified?

Gender does not equal women. Gender equals men and women. So gender intelligence needn’t mean that women are seen separately from men, but as a valuable part of the puzzle. The companies with the greatest GIQ (Gender IQ) will win because they will understand how to attract and retain male and female talent, giving them a competitive edge in the talent war.

Leaning In

I’ve heard a number of women say we’ve leaned in far enough. That we need to lean on men to sign on and help make change now. What do you think?

I agree. Too many companies have women’s leadership groups that are all women. When women get together to talk about women, it’s an echo chamber. We need more “manbassadors” – men who understand the business value of tapping all the talent and who champion women publicly.

On Advertising

You regularly review ads – the worst receiving a “wet blanket” rating and the best a “warm blanket.” When it comes to the relatively new female empowerment trend in advertising, are there companies that "get it" emerging? Can you discuss some companies that you feel are doing it right?

I was quoted in several articles recently about this new wave of female empowerment advertising. My take is that it feels a bit akin to the “greenwashing” that companies were doing ten years ago in the face of America’s love affair with all things organic. Today, companies are “pinkwashing” to try to appeal to female consumers. But the real indicator of a brand that supports women won’t be found in an ad campaign. It will be found in how many women sit on their board, if they’ve closed the pay gap, if they offer maternity and paternity leave, and other indicators that are harder to uncover. I like what Vitamin W is doing to help female consumers gauge how companies stand on metrics like this and use it to inform their shopping habits.

As for brands I see walking the talk, the first one that comes to mind is Levi's, and the work they do around women's health in their manufacturing locations. I think it's really genuine, and it's seen real results. Plus, I've publicly credited their attention to female consumers in ways that show respect.

Companies like The Gap and Whole Foods that publish salaries and institute equal pay for men and women are earning goodwill with female consumers. So are companies like Costco and Starbucks that pay a living wage and have health insurance, which helps women and families.

AT&T has impressed me with its dedication to women and STEM. I attended an event where they showcased one of their female engineers who has 156 patents to her name. They're doing a great job supporting the women in their ranks and inspiring young girls with what's possible. 

Where is your greatest hope in work-environment change for women coming from?

From data. I am perhaps the only advertising creative director who started as a market researcher. I love numbers, understand them, and trust them to guide creative choices. I have yet to read a single piece of data that indicates that women achieving parity in the workforce has a downside. It’s all upside. Profits soar, workplaces get more fun, clients are happier, and employee tenure increases. That is about the most hopeful news I can think of.

 

BY KATE LINDEEN

Related: Watch The 3% Conference's "What makes a great Creative Director?"


In addition to being the Founder of The 3% Conference, Kat Gordon is the Founder/Creative Director at Maternal Instinct

The 3% Conference will take place in San Francisco November 3 and 4 this year. 

Can’t make it but still want to make a difference? Start by downloading 50 Things Your Agency Can Do Right Now to Drive the 3% Number Upward.

Follow the 3% Conference on Twitter and Facebook.


Designing Disruption: Creating the Rent the Runway Experience

Until recently, I lived by the rule that if I bought an expensive dress, I had to think of at least three occasions for wearing it. Practical, but so boring. Like a majority of women, my experience with high-end fashion began and ended with a daydream-inducing browse though a fashion magazine or Tumblr blog.

Then came Rent the Runway. Co-founders and Harvard Business grads Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss shifted the rules of luxury fashion from ownership to membership, instantly changing the definition of attainability, along with our expectations of online retail. 

What goes on behind the scenes to create this game-changing experience? I chatted with Rent the Runway’s Creative Director, Ashley Seidman, to find out.

 

The idea of membership over ownership is one of the biggest trends we’re seeing in commerce, and Rent the Runway has helped set it in motion by making the typically inaccessible world of high fashion accessible to all. Has this goal affected your decision-making when it comes to the design of the shopping experience?

As a brand, we try to balance the accessibility with aspiration. We’ve designed the shopping experience to be easy and engaging for our user, while still maintaining the aspirational quality of the designer products we carry. If she’s about to put on a Vera Wang gown, the shopping experience should add to that magic.

What goes into creating that magic? Are you a part of the product curation process? Is it a collaboration?

There’s a ton of collaboration at Rent the Runway. Our fashion and analytics teams constantly work together to curate the products we feature by seasonality, trends, and customer engagement to ensure that the shopping experience is relevant. When it comes to larger initiatives like a catalog, our fashion and creative teams join forces. We typically start by reviewing the season’s buy and identifying key trends and styles, at which point I’ll work with our stylists, art directors and copywriters to pull together the stories and placements.

  Photo Credit: @rent_the_runway

Photo Credit: @rent_the_runway

One of our guiding principles at eBay is “Be the customer.” How about Rent the Runway? Have you used the service yourself? Has that informed your decision-making as Creative Director for the brand?

I couldn’t agree more. I’m an avid renter and feel as if using the service myself has influenced many brand decisions, such as making enhancements to the site, packaging and overall brand.

Rent the Runway is now opening brick-and-mortar storefronts and showrooms. This is a unique challenge, considering most companies start offline and then build an online store. How has the online business informed your vision for the offline shopping experience?

Focusing on the online experience the past few years has given us a definite advantage when it comes to brick-and-mortar. We’ve learned so much about our customer – her style, how she likes to shop, and what occasions she is shopping for. We’re able to take the best parts of our online experience and bring them to life in our stores. Giving her the ability to try on dresses, feel the quality of the garments, and get to know our brand in a physical sense is paramount. 

Quite a few designers have created capsule collections for Rent the Runway. How do you partner with them to bring their vision of the collection to life on the site?

I love the opportunity to work with our designers to bring their vision to life on Rent the Runway. It’s often a very cool experience because our fashion team works directly with the designer to create the collection, leveraging their knowledge of our customers and what they are looking for. We shot 2 beautiful capsule collections last year for Bibhu Mohapatra and Moschino, and we supported both launches with digital lookbooks.

 Photo Credit: @rent_the_runway

Photo Credit: @rent_the_runway

Your deep understanding of the customer and her needs really seems to be inspiring not only relevant, but innovative experiences. How else do your customers help shape your decisions for the brand?

Two years ago, we launched Our Runway, a unique social shopping platform that was largely inspired by our customers, allowing them to shop by photos of real women in dresses available for rent. We weren’t sure how much information women would be willing to share about their body types or how a specific dress fit on our site, but we saw a lot of that conversation happening organically offline and on our social channels, so we knew there was a need for it. User-generated content has exploded in the e-commerce world, and now photo reviews are definitely one the most popular features on our site. Our Runway is an opportunity for women to celebrate their experiences and pay it forward.

What advice would you give to designers who aspire to leadership roles such as yours?

Look for opportunities that intrigue you, be honest with yourself and go for it. I spent a wonderful 4 years at Ralph Lauren prior to Rent the Runway and found that I was ready for a new challenge. Rent the Runway seemed like a gamble at the time, being a small, recently launched startup, but experiencing the evolution of the business has been invaluable. This role has challenged me and helped me grow in so many ways. I have had the pleasure of building out a creative team, directing shoots with the most incredible talent, shaping an entire brand, and of course learning from my mistakes. I’m proud to be part of a company that’s on a totally innovative path, and four and a half years later I still get excited when people ask me where I work. That excitement and passion will carry into your work, and as a creative, there’s nothing better!

 

BY KATE LINDEEN