Monday, September 15, 2014

Lauren Caruso: Senior Digital Editor at Allure Magazine

I first came across Lauren via her friend Alyssa Coscarelli's frequent Instagrams featuring their brunch escapades, and upon discovery, was all about her own carefully crafted Instagram feed. A few liked posts later, I realized that she worked at Refinery 29 and made it my mission to try to reach out to her for an interview. Life got in the way, and by the time I tracked her down, she had relocated to Allure Magazine. Good news — this digital maven has settled into her new position and gave me all of the deets on life at Allure, her favorite NYFW trends, and exactly what part she'll play in the fashion world's digital evolution, happening as we speak.

You recently switched up jobs. How's the bright, beautiful world of Allure treating you?

I did! I just had my one-month anniversary, and can report that it truly is a dream job. All of the editors have this great mix of journalistic prowess and genuine enthusiasm that never feels dutiful or forced. Linda Wells is a powerful editor with a clear vision, and it's beyond exciting to work so closely with her every day. Heck, it also doesn't hurt that I get to spend a solid chunk of my time trying new beauty products.

So how did you get your start in editorial?

Oddly enough, I never set out to work in editorial — or magazines at all, really. I went to Rutgers University to study medicine, and I was writing college admissions essays on the side to pay for school. It was much more lucrative than waitressing, but the moment I realized I was more excited about writing than I was about biology, I switched my major to journalism and got a job at the Rutgers college paper, The Daily Targum. Of course, this was in my senior year, so I scrambled to complete the major in just two semesters and I took on two internships — one at Good Housekeeping and another at StyleCaster. The second I saw my byline, I was hooked. After freelancing for a bunch of fashion and beauty websites for a few years, I landed a full-time gig at Refinery29, which was basically like digital bootcamp. I spent two years working alongside the most amazingly creative people, first as a fashion and beauty staff writer, and later as the site's Contributor Network Editor. Now, I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

What's been your most favorite memory of your career so far?

I think sitting in +Eva Chen's +Teen Vogue office in 2012 trumps all. Her desk was completely littered with nail polish, but it was an organized chaos. I managed to snag some time with her while I was freelancing, and when I told her I was feeling burned out, she eloquently told me I was too young to feel anything but eager. It was the best nugget of advice I'd ever received. Not long after, I got a call from Refinery29's executive editor with a job offer. When I emailed Eva with the good news, she was genuinely happy and wrote the most thoughtful response. It reminded me that you should never be too busy for anyone — and it's by far, my favorite memory.

A close runner up is when Refinery29's editor-in-chief, +Christene Barberich, was looking at a long-form essay I edited. She looked me square in the eye and asked me, "Did you change this to make it better, or did you change it just to change it?" Now, I look at every piece of content through a new lens.

It's New York Fashion Week aka fashion's version of what thespians call "hell week". With the demand on editors at an all-time high, how do you keep up with churning out so much content with such a short lead time?

Ha! Sure, the running around and last-minute scrambling isn't easy, but it's hardly hell! Because there are so many shows, runway photos and backstage interviews can go from being breaking news to old news in as little as an hour. It's important to map out a game plan in advance to stay ahead of the curve and keep our content fresh and relevant.

Let's take a 5-second break from career talk. I have to ask — what are your favorite trends/shows that you've seen so far?

I'm more of a skin care junkie than a beauty junkie (I've actually never worn eyeshadow!), so I'm loving the clean-skin-bushy-brow thing that we've seen at Alexander Wang and Thakoon this season. I loved the dewy look Charlotte Tilbury created at Donna Karan for spring 2015, and makeup artist Grace Lee used lip balm to create highlight the skin at Nanette Lepore. I'm also wearing the same face mask as the model in this photo, so I'm halfway there, right? Oh, and sneakers. Let's all just never stop embracing sneakers. This Nike x J.Crew pair is my current obsession.

Ok, back to scheduled programming. After a scroll down your LinkedIn profile, I see that professionally you've worked solely in digital media. Do you feel like you missed out on anything by foregoing formal print experience?

I had a taste of traditional media thanks to a few odd jobs in print, but nothing's ever excited me as much as the digital landscape. It's never static, and its constant evolvement means that as an editor, I have no choice but to adapt quickly. The feedback is instant, and there's always a new audience to connect with. I'm not embellishing for a second when I say that no day is identical.

With apps like Instagram and Hyperlapse totally changing up the storytelling game, where do you see media headed in the next 10 years? What part do you think you'll play in it?

I know I grew up in the internet age, but I sort of cringe to think how immersed we'll be with our devices in a decade. I'd wager a guess that more than 90% of people will consume content solely on mobile, and there'll be a whole new set of apps that we can post way-too-personal info on. Kids these days, ya know? (Kidding. Sort of.)

Speaking of Instagram, your account is killer. Do you think being an editor nowadays is more about the full package — talents + online persona?

Ah, thanks! I'd be lying if I said I didn't seek out weekend brunch spots (somewhat) based on their Instagramability factor, though now I'm a little embarrassed I actually said that out loud. I don't think an online presence is necessary to be a good editor, but if you want to be relevant & you're not established in the industry yet, you need some level of social visibility. It all falls under the digital strategy umbrella.

Say somebody wants to be just like you when she grows up. Advice?

Don't be afraid to accept the fact that what you want will inevitably change. Your goals will change. Your strengths will change. Roll with it. Or better yet, evolve with it. And never be afraid to speak up, especially if you feel like you're being taken advantage of.

Personal motto?

Stop whining already.