28-year-old Nicolette Mason has been writing about fashion and beauty for seven years and besides her own well-recognized lifestyle and travel site, she’s also a regular contributor to Marie Claire and a designer for lines with ModCloth and Target.
photos by Alex Schmider
Nicolette has used her growing platform to be a voice for queer and body-positive women in fashion, working as a creative consultant for brands like Chanel, Christian Dior and ASOS. Living and working in Los Angeles and New York City, Nicolette works non-stop but also found time to plan a wedding with her partner, Ali, which just happened this weekend. (She co-designed her dress with Christian Siriano.)
We spoke with Nicolette about the distinction between her personal and professional personas and how she’s helping to make fashion more inclusive.
On dealing with a non-stop schedule: “One of the best things about my life and my career right now is literally no two things are alike, and I really love and appreciate that. It certainly comes with its own set of stressors and anxiety, but I don’t get bored, and everything is always new and different and exciting. But that said, I work constantly and I work really long hours. I usually start at 7 in the morning and am still up and working until 1am. That’s normal, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily working continuously throughout the day. I might have a photo shoot, I might have meetings with designers and publicists. I’m working on designing right now, a clothing line so I spend a lot of time doing inspiration and mood boards and actual design. I still have my column at Marie Claire so I do my market work for that—I edit my page, shoot, write the content and then I do the same for my own blog.
“So there’s always something to do, my to-do list is never complete because the amount of work I can do is really endless, and it’s all on my own terms. So if I’m really really not feeling creatively inspired, I can kind of opt out but that doesn’t happen. I’m kind of always working and always creating and that’s been a huge privilege for me so far.”
On loving being busy: “Even when I was in school, I was always working and interning and in school full time. So I’ve always been very busy. That’s just kind of how I operate, that’s how I’m my best self. That’s how I create the best work. But when I graduated, I was working full time at a design firm and I was doing brand design and strategy—I was probably working 60-70 hours a week. It was an intense job, but I started my blog at the same time. This was in 2008.
“So I kind of had my blog as my own little outlet and source of inspiration. It was something I created for anybody else but myself to have a page that was for me. I would post inspiration images, I would share travel photos, I would share fashion and soon I realized people were engaging with it. They were reading it and writing to me and writing comments on the blog. And around that time, I was recruited by Italian Vogue to contribute to their website. They had launched an English side to their website and they were trying to diversify their content. They wanted to have more body positive content, they wanted to have a writer from New York who could go and cover events. So while I as at my full time design job, I started moonlighting for Italian Vogue and writing for them and from that I started getting attention from other publications.
“So I went from my one full-time 70 hour a week job to spending my lunch hour writing for other websites—my evenings, my weekends—and then making a decision to leave that job and focus on fashion, and focus on this new—especially at the time—really new and amazing and inspiring space that was all about body positive voices in fashion, and bringing body diversity to fashion. That was race, it was body size, it was different levels of ability, sexuality—and that kind of became organically its own career for me. It was definitely by accident and it kind of all happened by sheer luck, but I was also devoting all of my time and energy to doing that. There’s just so much that I want to do. There’s not enough hours in the day for it to get done without me constantly working.”
Keeping personal vs. private: “It’s all kind of one in the same for me because I really truly love what I do. I love writing, I love engaging with fashion, I love creating, I love designing, so that is pure joy for me. What becomes the balancing game is the public vs. the private and maintaining a level of my own personal life that I don’t share with people because so much of my life is shared from my relationship with Ali to my dog, to the back and forth traveling and also the chaos of my life on a day-to-day basis—the organized chaos of it.
“And so there’s a very very fine line with what is mine and only mine to share, and what gets shared with other people. I think that’s a tricky thing for a lot of people to live their life publicly, especially on the internet. There are a lot of people—I don’t like the word fans—people who engage with my persona who feel very entitled to personal information and I don’t feel a responsibility to share it all the time. Or I don’t want to share it all the time. So that can be a struggle, and I think it can be very difficult tot set up some of those boundaries and say. ‘This is just mine. You don’t need to know that and it’s actually really inappropriate for you to ask that.’”
Advice to aspiring designers and fashion writers: “One of the biggest things is to just do it—just create. If what your love is is to write and it’s writing about fashion, put it out there. Get your words in front of as many as possible. I think especially with the way the internet and social media is now, people can really create their own careers anywhere in the world. You don’t to be in New York, you don’t have to be in LA. If you really love fashion and want to talk about it and write about it and design and you live in Ohio or live in Atlanta, that’s something that’s happening a lot right now. There’s a lot more access for independent entrepreneurs and publishers and creative people to do what they love, and that’s really really exciting to me.
“But I think it would be unfair to not also acknowledge that I’ve come into this with a lot of privilege and I have a lot of access not everyone necessarily has. I went to Parsons in New York City and I worked at Chanel and so I had a fluency with fashion that allowed me to work at Italian Vogue, that allowed me to work at Marie Claire, and there’s only so many positions available so there’s not a clear path. I can’t say, “These are the steps and you can do it to!” because it’s not realistic. Not that people shouldn’t strive to do those things, but I think it’s maybe unfair to use me as an example of ‘anyone can do this,’ because I’ve had a lot of access points and privilege that aren’t available to the average person.”
On being inspired by her mom: “My mom, big time. She’s worked my whole life and she’s just incredibly smart. She’s an engineer. She moved to the U.S. in the ‘80s before I was born. She’s Iranian and she went to school in England, and came here from there after her and my dad got married. I’ve very much grown up in the mode of first generation American where, especially coming from a Persian family, it’s all about work ethic, and so much about putting your career and your independence and creating your own path, whatever that looks like.
“Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently too—even in talking to my mom about marriage and the relationships her friends have with their partners (or husbands, mostly) is that I was raised with the attitude of really being an independent woman. My mom was an engineer and a female engineer from Iran—so for her to create that career path for herself and to be so focused and so smart has been a huge source of inspiration for me. She’s been a huge proponent of feminist values for me. Not consciously—I don’t think she’d say, ‘I am a feminist,’ but she’s such a feminist. It’s just her truth.”
On who she looks up to in fashion: “In the fashion world, there are so many that really inspire me. Iris Apfel is an incredible, incredible soul and person. Her story is really amazing. She started her own business when she was really young, like before women were even out working, especially in New York in creative fields as business women, and has become kind of icon in New York. I really appreciate her spirit and her message that you don’t have to be pretty or conform to a certain aesthetic point of view in order to be interesting, in order to be successful, or to be a person who lives and breathes fashion. That’s very exciting to me because I’ve certainly never fit into any of there stereotypes of what a girl in fashion looks like. “
On being out in fashion: “It’s such a huge part of my identity and it’s also the part of my identity that is the least visible. People often say, ‘Oh, she’s plus size…’ that’s always the qualifier. It’s like, oh my god, there’s so much more about me and my identity and personality and who I am as a person that has nothing to do with body. It’s very much about my queerness or my Middle Eastern heritage or the fact that I’m Jewish. Those shape a lot more about my everyday ideas and thoughts and consciousness. It definitely shapes my social justice mindedness. I think that hugely impacts the way I operate in fashion because I’m always looking at fashion through a socially conscious lens, and a lot of that has been shaped by queer politics, and by my queer identity and my queer community. So it’s kind of everything to who I am as a person.”
“There’s a presumption that I am straight. I’m very femme and I present very feminine and maybe to the outside cis heterosexual world that is ‘straight girl’ presentation, but for me its queer femme presentation. I’m just being myself, and I think a big part of my message on all platforms is you should be yourself and do what’s true to you, regardless of what the rules and what the boxes tell you to be.
“Especially when I was growing up, there weren’t femme role models to look up to. We had Ellen DeGeneres and that’s kind of it. We didn’t have a lot of people to look up to and say, “I can be like that person.” And so I think for me—especially being in the fashion world—it’s been very important to be very visible and be very vocal about my sexuality because you can be so many different things and still be lesbian, queer, bisexual—where you are on the spectrum, whatever your identity is, you don’t have to look like one particular thing.”
On designing for every woman: “Definitely my ModCloth project was a lot of fun because it can be a little tedious to constantly have my body used as the qualifier for what I am and what I do. I think I have a lot more to offer than just my body. But it was really exciting because they allowed me to create a line that was not restricted by size and wasn’t just plus size. We offered from an XS to a 4X so it was really, really exciting to me that I could imagine all of my friends in; that I could imagine my mom and my sister in, because they’re tiny. And so that felt very good for me because it felt like I was being recognized as a fashion authority beyond—not to say that the plus size world is so important, it’s who I am as a physical person and the focus of my career absolutely—but it felt really good to have a company say, ‘We recognize your power beyond the size restriction.” It’s everything that I’m about: Your style shouldn’t be restricted by size. So to have that be part of my collection was so great and so gratifying, and the inclusivity of it was really, really heartwarming. Having women send me pictures of them wearing the clothes was so great. It was the best part.”