Mandy:I think a lot of people only believe that insiders know what they're talking about, but that's a huge, massive misconception. Listen to the voices that are not directly in the industry or aren't lifers, listen to those people too.
Nicole:Welcome back to Multitudes. I'm Nicole, and you are listening to part two of my conversation with Mandy Lee, also known as Old Loser in Brooklyn. If you want to hear more about Mandy's story in background, be sure to check out part one of this conversation.
In this episode, we continue talking about a variety of topics such as feedback, being liked, lifestyle, content creation, leaving an online footprint, writing in the fashion industry, and we also get into talent management. This conversation is definitely more about Mandy's critical perspectives on the fashion industry, and advice for anyone interested in working in the industry. I mentioned before that Mandy speaks with such candidness and sincerity about who she is and her ideas, and part two is no different. You can find me on Instagram at multitudes.podcast or multitudespodcast.com.
Mandy:People hate my outfits sometimes, but that's okay. They don't have to like them. I'm not really bothered by that. Putting your style out there, not everyone's going to like it. You have to be okay with that, you really do! And it's really arbitrary to care if some random person in Wisconsin likes your outfit or not. I can't get bothered by those comments, because it's okay. I don't fucking like Matilda Djerf style. I doubt she cares that I don't like it. You know what I mean? Why would she? I don't know, it's silliness.
Nicole:It's not necessarily the end goal to be necessarily liked or to have everyone like your style. You're also interested in moving the conversation forward, adding your unique lens and your thoughts on history and sustainability and the cultural aspect of it all. It's almost like this obsession with being liked, it's not helpful.
Mandy:I approach my page obviously a little bit differently than people who do need to care about being liked for their personality, because I don't talk about my personal life hardly ever. People don't know me outside of Mandy, the fashion analyst. It's very rare that I open up about my personal life. I don't post pictures really with my fiancé or with my friends. I feel the absolute need and responsibility to protect them from the really nasty parts of the internet that I've experienced. And also, I don't want my brand to have to revolve around other people or around my personality or around my life. I really try to keep my TikTok an extension of my resume and also try to have fun on occasion, but that's what I use the app for. It's not to flatter my ego or to want people to want to be my best friend.
Here's the thing that I've noticed over the years, lifestyle creators have an extremely, extremely short window to blow up to maintain that relevancy, to maintain that status as the it-girl of the moment. You can't stay at the top forever. I've seen it happen with every single girl who has become everyone's favorite best friend, lifestyle personality. It doesn't last and people turn on them fast and furious. It's actually really fucking scary, because it will start where it’s like, this person is getting a lot of followers because they're relatable, and typically always beautiful and thin and white also. Let's not forget that those other, I guess, qualifiers are part of the conversation because this happens to pretty much all of the ones that I'm thinking of in my head.
And then they'll say something that maybe rubs people the wrong way after a while, or they start having so much success that they're getting things, they're getting flown out on trips, they're getting the best PR, they're getting a lot of brand deals, and then sprinkling that in with their regular content that made them viral in the first place, people start to turn on them because you're not relatable anymore. Your success makes you less relatable, which is weird because it's like you followed them because you resonated with this person, hopefully you would want them to have success.
It's happening right now to this really pretty blonde girl who goes to the University of Miami, and I'm just watching this happen and I'm like, “Girl, you better brace yourself.” And I think she seems so sweet and lovely, and I am genuinely scared for her in six months to a year. People are digging shit up about her family, her Facebook posts from 10 years ago, all this crazy shit. And it's like, see, this is what I never ever, ever, ever would want for me, ever. I know some people go into it wanting to be that type of creator. I never wanted that because I've seen what can happen. And also, I'm not interesting enough to do that anyway, but that to me, is one of the most scary positions to be in, is when everything you post is viral, everyone is eating it up, people are making content about how much they love you. That always ends in disaster, and every single time, I am scared for these girls.
Nicole:It's such an interesting play of, the more successful you get and the way your content changes and your followers, they become just disassociated with the content or there's almost a sense of, I would imagine, you become so big that you're just drowning and trying to manage that and trying to manage yourself and your identity versus creating an online platform based around particular content and particular perspectives and commentary.
Mandy:And that's the thing, is people like both and both are valid. They're both ways of expressing yourself and creating content and having fun online and sometimes making it a really lucrative career. But that was just never ever something that I wanted. I wanted to make something with longevity in mind. I'm always going to have my brain, and that will take me far. My life is not interesting to be a lifestyle creator. I'm in my 30s, so like, what the fuck? People don't want to hear about my trip to the grocery store. You know what I mean?
Nicole:I love that!
Mandy:And I don't want to share that anyway. There's also privacy issues that I feel like some creators just don't think of. Like people say where they go to college, that's already too much information, I think. That shit is scary! People will give their entire full middle, last name, their birthday, and I'm like, “Girl, what are you doing? That is way too much information.” I'm on famous birthdays, but the wrong birthday, and I'd like it to stay that way. People don't need to know my real birthday. Why the fuck? No, no, no, no, no. You can listen to me talk about fashion, but you're not going to learn my fiancé’s name, you're not going to learn who my friends are, that is private. And it also has nothing to do with what I talk about on the internet. The internet is a fucking scary place.
There are a couple YouTubers that have been YouTubers forever. Jackie Aina is one of them, and she's talked very extensively about how she won't do a house tour, and I could not respect that more. That is the way to do it. It really is. Because that's too much information for people to have. They can find where you live! I don't know. I just think that putting my face out there is already too much, I really do. And then everyone who approaches me in public has been nothing but amazing and sweet, but sometimes it scares me that my likeness is enough to get me recognized in public, obviously, but I do struggle with that. My experience has been amazing, but it's scary to think about.
Nicole:And I'm sure it's disorienting. You've had good experiences, but I'd imagine one experience that doesn't go as well can be very jarring. And it could really make you rethink, I'd imagine, the content that you put out there and the choices that you're making in terms of letting people into your life as much as you can without making it feel like you've gone too far.
Mandy:I've tried my best, and I had this mindset the second everything started, literally, I had been thinking about this from the second I did my very first interview. So I'd like to think that I've done everything in my power, but it's never enough. When you're out there, you're out there, and there's nothing you can do about it, really. I don't know, it's freaky to think about. It's weird!
Nicole:I'd almost imagine that it's like you have to potentially just reassess with each gains you get in followers and industry recognition, and just taking a step back and just seeing your online footprint, and if that's tracking with where you want it to go, but also knowing there's only so much control that you have with that. I'm curious, you mentioned managers, and there's a management side of this, and you have an assistant now?
Mandy:No, no, no!
Nicole:Have you thought about a management aspect? Or how do you think about getting support online and support for your work?
Mandy:Well, right now, I do everything by myself, and I don't do outreach. Like I don't reach out to brands. Every brand deal that I've ever gotten has been organic, incoming to me. Because I don't know how to pitch myself. I have no idea how to do that. And honestly, I don't think I'd be good at it anyway, and I also really like the fact that like the brands that I work with want to work with me, so much so that they've sought me out. I have a rule that I don't work with fast fashion, and I've been able to keep to my word all this time.
The management side is interesting because I know my life would be easier if I didn't have to worry about invoicing and if somebody who actually knew what they were doing could do outreach, stuff like that. So this is like spilling tea a little bit, but I've done two trials with two different talent management companies. One is absolutely massive and one was more mid-size. Both were terrible, and I did not continue after my trial. I remember, literally, the first thing I said to both was, I don't work with fast fashion, and don't pitch me to a sex toy company, for example, because that has nothing to do with my brand. It's not that I don't use or like them personally, but what does that have to do with Old Loser in Brooklyn? Don't pitch me irrelevant things. That's all that was pitched for three months, was free people, urban Outfitters, five different sex toy brands, and I'm like, “You don't get me. You don't get what I'm doing, you don't see me as an individual, you see me in a sea of other influencers.”
I don't even call myself an influencer. I think the things that I say are influential, yes, but I don't operate as an influencer. I have two other jobs outside of content, and I don't base my income on my likeness enough to sell people shit that they don't need, honestly. It really blew my mind! It blew my mind that talent managers could be so dense to those things. And that's not to say every company is like that. I know the big guys do a fabulous job, like CAA, United Talent, if you're assigned with them, you're never going to have an issue again in your life probably. But some of these very influencery management companies are just like a factory for bad content too. I'm not going to lie. It's all very much the same. I was like, “I can't do this. This is horrible.”
I am in conversation with a very small, more niche, very fashion-focused agency. What drew me to them is they represent a lot of folks that I've followed forever, and I really, really respect, and they have individual point of views. And I never really noticed their brand deals either, which is what I like, where it's like they are more seamless with their content. I appreciate that, but also, they offer other things, like they have connections with publishers, with magazines, with podcasting, with appearances, speaking. So it's not just influencer stuff, it's more 360, which that's what I need. We've been talking for a little bit, and I would like to try it out with them for a trial. But right now, I have a bad taste in my mouth.
And then I was on a trial with one place, and the director left for another job, nobody told me. I was just in limbo feeling like, did they block me from emails? Because obviously, her email was disabled because she didn't work there anymore, and literally nobody told me that this happened. So it's like, “What the hell?” It's wild out there! And a manager is supposed to help you make more money, more opportunities, things like that. So far I've been happy managing myself, because I'm a bit of a control freak. I won't work with brands if it's a bad fit for any reason, literally for any reason. If they give me the ick for a reason, I won't do it.
And again, that comes from a massive place of privilege to be able to turn things down. And because of that, I certainly haven't made as much money on my first year of freelance as I thought. But I think that's quite disillusioned in people's minds. I think a lot of influencers talk about their salary and people think that oh, once I hit this certain number of followers, I'll do that too. But it's like, the more prestigious and high fashion a brand you work with, is the less that they're going to pay you because they're also compensating you with that visibility and prestige, but that don't pay the bills. What pays the bills is fast fashion and mainstream beauty, the guys with the budget, the stuff that I don't want to do, basically.
So that's been really interesting to learn that that portion too. But again, can't complain like, when will I ever have this opportunity to try this out? Do I think I'll work for myself forever? Hell no! And I don't want to. This is an amazing time, but it's not forever. I don't think that the longevity is necessarily there for content specifically, but I'll be able to transition to other things. I hope to grow my consulting little business, my writing, there's other things. I think you would be a fool really to think that content is a forever profitable business for every individual, because it's not. You have an expiration date, and that's just the reality of it. It really is. I don't know how else to describe that.
Nicole:Also, I would imagine there's a lot of other avenues that you can take this. And so it's super niching yourself into just content creation, I would imagine, is limiting in itself.
Mandy:Oh yeah! I think that's a mistake. And actually, I have a notes app. I don't know if you have any interest in hearing this, but I do have a 2023 predictions running list that I've been working on since the summer. It's just random things that will come up, some things are already a little bit outdated. Like I wrote twins, and then Gucci show happened, and I was like, “Holy shit! Okay.” But that's a little bit outdated.
But one of the things on this list that I think is very real, is big wave of return to work early influencers. I think that's going to be very significant next year, especially those who have gone freelance in the last two years. It's hard to keep up, but I also don't think that's a bad thing. Going back to work or being able to use TikTok to pivot your career is huge. If I were to guess, I would think that a lot of people are going to think of that as a very bad, you failed, kind of thing. But if you were able to pivot your career or your trajectory by using and taking advantage of social media while you had relevancy, that's an amazing thing too.
Nicole:I feel that being a full-time freelancer and content creator on TikTok and Instagram has been glamorized in many ways, and I'm also curious about that.
Mandy:As somebody who now works for myself, there's two schools of thought, right? It's like, if you are busting your fucking ass at your job, 40, 50, 60 hours a week, why the fuck would you care what an influencer is struggling with when they're working for themselves in the comfort of their own home with more freedom? That's where it becomes tricky, because yeah, people have glamorized the life of an influencer or whatever, but it is glamorous. There are really horrible elements of it, things that I couldn't even fathom and things that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Like feeling like you're being constantly surveyed, feeling like you have no anonymity in public, the paranoia, the self-esteem issues, knowing that you have an expiration date, these things don't necessarily correlate with working in corporate world. You don't really face those challenges in most corporate settings or even blue-collar settings, but come on now, it's a different set of struggles.
I think every time influencers and creators try to de-stigmatize and de-glamorize the job, talking about the negative parts of the job, it just never lands right. Because it's like you are complaining about apples when everyone else is complaining about oranges. I had to put myself through college. I've been up at 4:00 AM making fucking bagels for two years just so I could live and pay for school. Trust me, I get it!
This is just my own “quip” I guess. But when I was working in service, because I worked in service for, combined, probably five years, there are certain things that I really, really, really, really, really miss about it. I really do. I liked working in customer service. I have the personality to be berated by customers and be able to bounce back. Not everybody does, but that was something I've always been able to handle well. So that is a horrible part of that job, but I loved being able to turn my brain off and make flavored cream cheese and assemble sandwiches and make coffee. I really enjoyed that.
And I'm also somebody who's just very good with my hands and working with my hands and turning my brain off and almost meditative, like just doing the same task over and over again. Part of me really, really loved that and really misses that, and then part of me also misses working in corporate for the community. Because when it's good, it's good, and the people at your work make your life fun, obviously depending, because I've had jobs where it's like the complete opposite, but when it's good, it's really good and fun. And being able to rely on a biweekly paycheck is an amazing feeling. But again, there are good and bad with everything. I just think it is one of those unspoken rules online where if you're a freelancer, if you're a full-time creator, you shut your fucking mouth. Do not go there. It will not end well for you no matter how true it is, no matter how shitty things can be, you don't want to go there, because it's not going to end well for you.
And it's weird to say that because I feel like I've said so many times in this episode that there's no rules on the internet, people can do whatever they want, but for some reason, that is kind of a rule. You don't have to follow it, but you will suffer very negative outcome if you don't. That's just the way it is.
I feel like something that's really shifted in the last couple of years definitely on TikTok is this attitude towards wanting to support someone with privilege. You think of the Kardashians, right? Their whole brand is flaunting their wealth and doing lavish, crazy things and then pretending to be a normal family. That trope is going away. Actually, on my list – let me read what exactly I wrote. This is also on my little predictions’ list. Kardashians, and then I have the emoji of the graph going in decline. That's one of the bullet points. I think what's going to happen is the big kids, the sisters are really going to have – I think this was a turning point for the Kardashians. I promise, I have a point, but they're just going to get more and more and more irrelevant. I think they'll just continue to try to shock in awe, but their peak relevancy is over. It's over!
And they're going to try to pimp out their kids next. The girls are next. It's already happening with North and I think Penelope. They're already on TikTok, making videos by themselves. That's the first step towards this shift.
But the reason why I bring up the Kardashians is I think they're always a really good example of more holistic viewpoints of people. The way the people feel about the Kardashians in general, I think sometimes can really translate to this overall attitude that people have about culture and just what we are consuming and what we like. And again, what I said about the girls who blow up so fast, and then overnight, they're getting everything everyone could ever want or imagine. You're going to be on a short fuse because people have so much resentment, and I think resistance to that, to extreme wealth and extreme displays of opulence, almost. I don't know, I don't see that really getting better or repairing.
Another example of something I've seen is people will start off videos exposing people who grew up wealthy where you're supporting this person, but they're rich or their parents are rich. And I don't even know how to explain it, but that alone is reason to not enjoy their content or support them. And that's so fascinating to me because I didn't grow up with money. I stopped getting supported when I was like 18, 19, and I truly don't really understand where that attitude is coming from, because I have other privileges, but being confident and comfortable with money has never been one of them. I think it's so strange that other folks just have decided if you grew up rich, you're not worthy of anything really. People use nepotism baby for people just with upper middle-class families.
It's really fascinating! I don't think I've like fully wrapped my head around it because I don't really understand where that comes from. I think there's just a lot of frustration and fear about the future, especially with Gen Z, that it's impacted, I think, society as a whole, and people don't care about your fucking mansion and your private plane anymore. And you're going to get called out on it. You will! And I think people who have used that trope, that's not going to last. It's just something really, I guess, interesting that I've observed since I've been on TikTok. I haven't really seen that on Instagram as much, but that's definitely a thing.
Nicole:The whole term, “nepotism baby” has exploded in terms of popularity, and it feels to me like this sense of like, oh, that frustration you have with, what am I supposed to do here? Am I supposed to be indifferent? I'd imagine that there's just a lot of confusion too about how to respond. How are we supposed to judge that?
Mandy:I mean, I think people really, really want to break the wheel, because it's a hot topic and there's a lot of conversation about it happening, and there's a lot of agreement that it's just supposed to happen. I think folks forget that these are systematic issues, they don't just get fixed because of public outrage. I don't know what it takes to fix them or to make it more equitable and accessible, I really don't. But I do know that I have accepted that I can only do my best and then bring the elevator down for others. But the individual alone, and this collective attitude alone is not just overnight going to solve. Come on now, let's be real, centuries, in basically forever, wealth, power and status dictating the way in which people move through the world.
I think folks are very, very frustrated. And trust me, I am too! I want to be making more money, I want more opportunity, I want to go on vacation for once. That would be so nice. But I don't know what it will take. I think too, that just because there's a lot of push for accessibility and equity, that anyone who has any earthly interest just immediately deserves things, that's not how it works. I feel like that's really weird to expect. I've met a lot of influencers who started doing fashion stuff that expect and get mad at when brands don't send them things because they feel like they deserve it. And I feel like that's fucking weird!
Every time a brand wants to work with me or wants to send me something, I still can't believe it because I don't feel deserving. And that's not to be self-deprecating, but it's like, I'm just some bitch who posts videos on TikTok. That doesn't mean I deserve anything. I don't know. I just feel like the way that I grew up and the hurdles I've had to overcome, everything still feels like a pinch me moment, and I certainly don't feel entitled to any space, anything. And that's not to say it's because I don't necessarily deserve it, it's just like, I know how the world works and I don't think it should necessarily stay that way, it's just you have to work within the system to get anywhere. It's just the reality of it. I don't think that it's a bad thing to want to work with it instead of try to break it immediately. I don't know. I don't really know. It's a really weird position.
Nicole:I also think the fashion industry itself is also in a weird position. It's been very much embedded in displaying class divides and being a way to display your wealth. So it's kind of like, okay, what does that mean for us going forward when Gen Z doesn't care as much as about displaying wealth, they care more about being more creative and recycling and working with what you have? So I think the fashion industry is a very interesting and confusing place to try to figure that out.
Mandy:Oh yeah! For sure! And trust me, I've pissed off plenty of brands and people in the industry. I've talked a lot of shit about Anna Wintour. It's amazing to me that Vogue still writes about me because I've said some not nice, but very true things about her, about how the American Vogue has gone downhill. That's the thing, is if you want to say what you really want to say and be honest, you better expect that you are going to pigeonhole yourself at least a little bit. I certainly have. I certainly have.
I'd like to use this time now to recommend a newsletter that I absolutely love. It's called The Unpublishable by Jess DeFino. She is a former beauty editor, and she basically quit because she can't write what the she wants to write because of advertisers and keeping everybody happy and writing fluff stories and making sure you're writing to SEO optimization. It's just all so much bullshit. It's really so, so much fluff and bullshit, nothing of substance. Her newsletter is incredible. It's called the Unpublishable because most of it is stuff that a Vogue or Harper's Bazaar could never post or could never write about. And it's fascinating to hear an editor being real.
And I know editors, a lot of the time, will be able to write what they want to write, but there's also a lot that you can't write. You can't say a bad word about like Chanel or an LVMH brand, for example, or Estee Lauder. It depends on who your advertisers are. Companies will specifically pay a lot of money in ads to support these publications so they don't get shit on because it's an incentive. So there's so much of that going on behind the scenes that people do not know about.
And on the same similar end of the spectrum, is brands will shower editors in gifts and invite them to parties and woo them and all these things just for the opportunity to be written about. So it's like, is it a real recommendation or is it like, “Oh God, okay, these guy’s a favor this month, I'll add them to the story.” That's so much of what's going on. This is so sad to say, because I grew up wanting to be an editor, and actually my first job ever out of college didn't last long because they did not pay me anything, was a lifestyle editor at a very small local magazine. I hate that this is happening, but it makes sense why it's happening. But I think that the future of editorial is really dwindling and it's being infiltrated by individual voices. It really is.
And then with the accessibility of TikTok and Instagram and free content and opinions and not being held by advertisers and having conversations that have never happened before, I think editorial, especially for fashion and beauty is very much at risk. I don't know how they're going to bounce back, but it's scary looking at the future of that. It's sad, but it makes sense just with how things are going.
Nicole:Right! I'm curious, because you also create content for these magazines as well, how you reconcile that and how you think about your own interest in writing and publishing with the way that editorial content has that pressure that we as readers might not see.
Mandy:Oh man, that's a good question! I'm enjoying it while I can, but realistically, I know it's not going to be forever. I genuinely don't think that it will. And in the new year, I'm relaunching my newsletter, and I'm hoping to be able to reconcile some of those feelings too. But again, I'm a freelancer, I don't have to take every story that gets pitched to me. This is also so, so depressing, but this is the reality of it. I was finishing up my 2022 cash flow, and I was really curious. I'm a data nerd, it's my bread and butter, and I really wanted to see where my income for the year really came from. So I categorized everything by consulting, content, writing, and then I also do, I guess it's like UGC, but I'll make editorial style videos for these companies and magazines’ TikTok. So it's like content, but I just categorized it a little bit differently.
I made less than 1% of my yearly income in writing, and the average amount of time I spent on an article was 12 to 16 hours. That's including interviews, transcribing, drafting, editing, just everything. So 12 to 16 hours for a UGC video that took anywhere from two to four hours from scripting, filming, editing, whatever. And I can't remember exactly, but 79% – I think it was 79%, because I forgot about my consulting – came from content this year. And my time spent on that was again, two to six hours per video.
Nicole:Wow! And is that depressing?
Mandy:I was making like $300 for a story, a 1200-word story, and double that for a UGC editorial video.
Nicole:Right!! It's like it’s not a direct correlation into like what? Like financially, you get out of it, but it's part of building your portfolio. Is that how you're seeing it?
Nicole:Oh, absolutely! And what's sick, I had intentions of spending most of my time writing this year. I thought that that's how I would make the majority of my money, because that's what I really wanted to do. And when I quit my job, I had fully intended on being a way more established writer, and very, very soon into this, did I realize, nope, that's not going to be what happens. I think the most I've ever made on an article was $600. But again, you're talking about 12 to 16 hours of your time into just one article. And I don't think I'm a slow writer either, that's what it takes to write the stories that I wanted to write. These weren't market stories where you're rounding up product and doing it like that, it was more like deep dive editorial, analysis stories, kind of like what I do on TikTok.
I felt really naive actually, where it was like, I should have known this. But for some reason, I had blind confidence that it would be fine. And then man, it's hard to say yes to every story when you could do an ad with eBay for like 10k. And that money doesn't make sense with the effort you're putting in. And again, this is another thing where I think influencers and content creators should just shut the fuck up about talking about how hard their job is when that's the reality of it. I could bust my ass on a story for a week and get paid, not even bimonthly groceries.
Really, it makes me so sad too because fashion is an industry that I've wanted to be in for so long, but there are so many elements of it that are just completely like inaccessible. And I think the industry loses out on a lot of talented people because they simply cannot survive. You could be the smartest person ever, but if you do not have a safety net or if you don't have another stream of income – It's really, really, really hard to support yourself in New York City in this industry. There's absolutely no way I could do it without supplementing my income. And I think that's why I worked in beauty for so long, is it's very different than fashion. I've worked with a couple beauty brands before, and they pay very well, and can work with a coach or whatever, and you got to squeeze them for a small amount of money, because it's like, well, we're established, we don't really need to pay you. Everyone wants to work with us, kind of like that. It's been a trip.
See, this is why I know there's no way I'll do this forever, because a lot of it is hard to accept and deal with. This is the reality! And then if you're an empathetic person like me, you're thinking about everyone else who's affected by it, and it takes a toll.
Nicole:I would also say it feels very adjacent to just working in arts in general and making your way into the art world in general, especially in New York City where the cost of living is so expensive and it just so happens that where these hubs are, are in very potentially inaccessible places as well.
Mandy:Oh my God! Yeah. I lived in Boston, and there was no way I'd be able to work in fashion. Granted, this was before the pandemic and before work from home, but still. And Boston's a major city and there was just, nope, it's not going to happen.
Nicole:Yeah, it's almost like, if you want to make this happen and you don't have resources, it becomes a huge barrier and then maybe you go to somewhere adjacent like beauty, but you're losing potential talent and really motivated people to other industries.
Mandy:Yeah, no, for sure! I think about that all the time because I think about – This is of course, selfish and single-minded, but humans are that. But I think of how much I have contributed to the industry and conversations and have genuinely changed things, and I think about how none of that would be possible without the accessibility of TikTok, of grinding and being able to have my full-time job to fall back on during the day, and how many people are way smarter than me and have way more interesting things to say, who can't. That's definitely not lost on me, and that actually keeps me up at night, because I think about it all the time.
Nicole:Nice! That’s a tough one! I feel like there's a lot about these industries that it makes you think about who's shaping the conversation and the conversations that aren't being had, and people that you aren't seeing that could be contributing to making an industry more interesting and diverse and accessible.
Mandy:There are a few gems out there though. Another recommendation I have is a book that I recently was recommended, and I ate it up in a day. It's called Consumed by Aja Barber. who is a woman of color, a black woman who works in the industry. I actually don’t know if she works in the industry because like I was saying, when you talk shit about the industry, you will pigeonhole yourself. And it's not even talking shit, it's just most of the time being honest and doing the things that the people on the inside are not allowed to do, but you are, as more of an outsider. That's how I think of myself and my position, is I'm an outsider and an insider, and I can swing back and forth.
I watched a video that Aja made talking about that phenomenon, and how like Vogue Business, for example, will use her words and her work to stand behind, so they're able to infuse it in their content, but have somebody almost to fall on, where it's like, this person said this, so now we can talk about it. And 've been used for quotes, like quote-farmed like that, more times than I can count. I actually didn't even know that that's what was happening. And you realize oh, they just need me to say anything really on this topic so they're able to expand on it without pissing people off because it's like, well, we didn't start this, somebody else did, so now we can talk about it. But that also happens a lot too. That's why I think the Unpublishable and the book, Consumed are required reading if you want to approach the conversation more critically. It's necessary.
And also, I think a lot of people only believe that insiders know what they're talking about, but that's a huge massive misconception. Listen to the voices that are not directly in the industry or aren't lifers, you know what I mean? Listen to those people too. You can't work in this space without developing a healthy amount of cynicism and also feeling weird about having to keep your mouth shut about certain things. It's weird. It's really weird. And I think a lot of people who work in fashion must genuinely really, really love it, because every time I talk about it over this amount of time, it always turns super depressing because it is super depressing, or a lot of elements are depressing. So I don't know, every conversation always ends up here or ends up in this realm because it's just, man, there's a lot of shitty things that go on.
Nicole:I see the industry from the outside as like it's easy to find a lot of problems that are far reaching from sustainability to accessibility to representation. And it's not a surprise that it also ends up here. And in a sense, their attention been called to all of these issues, but they haven't been fully addressed or fully fixed, or as you were saying, a company or an industry leader might not say anything until someone else does because then they feel like, well, now they have to respond even though they knew it all along, and they're just playing this call and response without any indication that they're interested in moving the needle on any of these systemic issues within the industry.
Mandy:Oh yeah, for sure! And I hate to use this comparison, but I actually see quite a lot of similarities to politics as I do in fashion, because a lot of powerful people are in positions that they didn't necessarily deserve and that they've held for far too long, and they don't want change to happen because that would threaten their position and their supporter and allies position too. I feel like it's pretty hard to gate-keep the industry now with social media, but these heritage houses and legacy brands and stuff, they absolutely gate-keep their own little world. I'm sure you've heard about the Balenciaga controversy and stuff, and it's like, I don't think that anything internally is going to happen until Q4 earnings are announced next year. And even then, it's like, is Demna just going to get away with being the person ultimately responsible for this creative decision? Are you going to protect him because of what he's contributed over the years to make Balenciaga what it is?
I also wrote that Demna is out on my 2023 predictions, but I actually think it could go either way just knowing what I know about the business and how things work internally. People have been let go for far less. Like Alessandro Michele got let go off Gucci. He didn't quit, he got pushed out, and I think he's contributed some of the most whimsical, lovely, cute, fun things that Gucci's had in many, many, many years, but he won making the money that they wanted him to be making for the brand. And you have to assume that Balenciaga has lost so much money in Q4, especially against their original projections from the beginning of the year. They weren't able to foresee this, so of course, it wasn't factoring in, so you have to assume that's going to hit their bottom line and somebody will pay, but at the same time, will they? I don't know.
Nicole:We'll have to check back in next year and see what the outcome of that will be.
Mandy:I have no idea, because it could go either way.
Nicole:And it's also a sense of, was the apology all that's going to be? Is that taking “responsibility”? Or what does it mean to take responsibility for putting this out there? And also, putting it, n my perspective, on one designer, to me it's like, if you are a legacy brand like this, it felt very scapegoaty to me, thinking about how one person is targeted. Yes, they have the vision and the design, but I'm like, this was a company's decision. I would imagine a company needs to take a bit more of a stance of their own responsibility.
Mandy:No, see, that's the thing, is I agree. I do. But what drives me fucking insane – and I also haven't done a good enough job addressing this on my own page and with the way that I think about the whole scandal – is you look at some female-owned companies like lady CEOs who have gotten called out for far less, far, far less and have gotten canceled overnight basically because they're not perfect little girl bosses. I feel like so often, women are held to so much of a higher standard that one little mistake, and you're done. If Demna was a woman, he'd be out already. There's no question in my mind. But the fact that he's a powerful, pretty well-loved man, there's more leeway there. So I don't know. It makes me question like what's going to happen and why nothing has happened already. And if it's not Demna, then somebody there should be talking about it, that isn't a blanketed apology.
Nicole:Right, exactly! Yeah. It's almost like that call and response that we were talking about before, if the media, and if the public make a big deal about it, then they feel compelled to respond. But if it goes away and it dies down eventually, then maybe they won't even feel responsible to even do anything, then see how the earnings do and then make some more executive decisions.
Mandy:Yeah, no, absolutely! That's exactly what I think is going to happen, wait for the earnings. Because again, they're a caring old owned brand. They have money beyond comprehension to be able to cushion the blow. But I don't think we'll know anything until the beginning of the year or Q1 at least. And then you also have examples of Karl Lagerfeld, who was shitty, John Galliano, also shitty, Dolce and Gabbana, super shitty! Oh my God! Alexander Wang, fucking predator. Some of them are dead, but most of them are okay, like D&G and Alexander Wang, they're working, they're fine. They have no shame. They don't care. They are thriving, almost, years after. Not even that long. It's been like two years for Alexander Wang. Even fucking Kim is working with Dolce & Gabbana.
And I've said what I said about her and their family, and I mean it, but currently, they still hold a lot of social currency. And that's a huge deal, and it's ridiculous. But then at the same time, it's like, I don't know if I believe in canceling a brand as a whole over one person because it's kind of insulting to everyone else who works on the brand and who also contributes to the vision. So I think that's very confusing.
Nicole:That’s a really good point.
Mandy:What bothers me about Dolce & Gabbana and about Alexander Wang is they individually made the errors and they individually are still working. Yes, they're founders, so I guess it makes sense they can do what they want, but they, being there, is the reason why people are still boycotting and stuff. If they weren't there, I don't think they would suffer the same criticism if they were to just step down.
Nicole:It's a really interesting question, this idea of, I almost feel like Lagerfeld and Wang and Dolce and Gabbana, they have these cult-like feelings around them and it's almost like their personal integrity is separated from their artistic vision and that feeling of people look the other way in ways that I find really curious, like why people still revere them.
Mandy:I don't think that there's necessarily one right answer. Because then it becomes the consumer's moral dilemma when it's like, you guys didn't assault anyone, you didn't say some racist shit that you have to atone for, what you are deliberating and painting over, is do you support this person? And I don't like that element of it where it becomes like an argument over consumer responsibility. Of course, it's important, but I don't think there's one right and wrong answer. I think Dolce and Gabbana is ugly as fuck, and I wouldn't wear them if they were dead in the ground or never did what they did. I don't like the brand. However, I still listen to Brand New, and Jesse Lacey has done very questionable things, but I'm not going to be out here being like, I love Brand New, they're the best band ever, like, yes, queen. But I am going to jam to it when I feel like it and I'm not going to feel guilty about it. I'm not, because I think everyone has a different threshold about how they feel about supporting artists or being able to separate the art from the artists. And I respect the freedom of being able to decide on your own.
I think it's really weird how some people are like, “Balenciaga forever! I went shopping there this morning, fuck you, you sensitive bitches.” I think that's a little weird. That feels like wrong, but I guess if you're a diehard fan and your identity is tied up with their designs, I guess I get it. It's just, that couldn't be me. But also, I feel the same way about Balenciaga as I do about Dolce & Gabbana. I hate the brand. I hate their little gimmick. It's not my fashion and I don't like the aesthetic. But Balenciaga used to make the most amazing couture clothing before Demna came along. You have to hope that when he's gone, whether you like him or not, the brand will continue to evolve and get better.
Nicole:Absolutely! I was listening the other day to a podcast where somebody was just like, “I would like to return to a time when I didn't have to make these choices and I could separate the artist from the person. I could just appreciate the art for what it is.” And it's an interesting discussion. I know we are getting close to time, and I was wondering if you have any thoughts on – for people who are interested in pivoting to this industry, I know we've talked so much about what is currently problematic about the industry, but if there are people who are still listening and are interested and working in fashion or being a full-time freelancer, creator, writer, any advice or thoughts that you might have for someone listening?
Mandy:Yeah, there's a million different things that you can do also. You don't just have to be a writer, you don't just have to do this or that. There's so many other jobs. If you're a software engineer, you can work in fashion, there is a job for you there. If you love marketing or work in marketing, you absolutely can do marketing in the industry. There's so many skills that are transferrable, take it from me. If you have a strong skillset, you can translate that to different industries, not just fashion. But I would say if you're interested in what I do or want to go down that road, you need to understand and really dig deep in your why. And also, what sets you apart, because there's so many voices, what do you have to say that's different and interesting and insightful that hasn't already been said?
It sucks to have to think about that because it'd be fun to just say whatever, but you unfortunately may not retain an audience that way, and you're certainly not going to retain one by adopting somebody else's point of view. Your point of view is actually what makes you interesting and desirable to watch. I follow people that I certainly don't agree with or have the same taste, but I respect their opinion, and I'm interested by their point of view. And having those qualities is really what's going to help you go far.
And also, I think I mentioned this, but you need to have passion because the space will wear you down. You'll wake up some days being like, what is happening? Things are not great; I feel weird about this business. You have to have the passion or it's going to fizzle out so fast. There's a lot of amazing things and so many creative people. For me, the good outweighs the bad, but I think fashion has a lot of mystique to it, but it's really just every other industry. It has its good, it has its bad, and it's really not that different than when I've worked in beer or beauty. It's just a different product.
Nicole:Totally. Absolutely! Thank you, Mandy! I love talking with you. Where can we find you?
Mandy:I am at @OldLoserinBrooklyn on TikTok and Instagram. My newsletter is called Cyclical, and it's relaunching at the beginning of the year, so you can subscribe to that. But yeah, OldLoserinBrooklyn on TikTok and Instagram.
Nicole:That's fantastic! We'll put that in the show notes, and thank you so much again.
Mandy:Thanks, Nicole! It was so nice to talk to you.
Nicole:And that is a wrap with our conversation with Mandy Lee. As I mentioned at the start of the episode, if you are interested in learning a little bit more about how Mandy moved from the corporate world to what she's doing now, check out part one of this conversation, Going Viral with Old Loser in Brooklyn. You can find Mandy on Instagram and TikTok at @OldLoserinBrooklyn, and you can find me on Instagram and TikTok as well at @Multitudes.podcast, and at multitudespodcast.com. If you are enjoying this show, I would love to know by leaving a rating or a review wherever you listen to your favorite podcast. Ratings and reviews really help a new show get discovered for new listeners. I so appreciate your support for the show, and thanks for listening. I'll see you next time!