Occupation: Creator / Fash Boulevard
Anna James’s journey to successful fashion blogger began with not-so-successfully losing her dream job a week before Christmas. While the unexpected layoff was devastating, Anna realized she had to move on. “Things in this business fall apart every day. It’s so important to keep your head up and believe that everything is a lesson or a test for something wonderful ahead.”
It was out of Anna’s optimism, and a few sleepless nights, that Fash Boulevard was born. Colliding celebrity fashion with everyday style, the Fash Boulevard blog combines fashion advice, brand history and personal stories to make fashion both fun and approachable. And it’s a fashion equation that works, leading Anna a long way from unemployment as she collaborates with industry heavy-hitters like Lauren Conrad and receives tweet cred from Rachel Zoe.
“No matter what happens, you have to keep your head up,” says Anna. “The best things in life take time.”
Where did you get the idea for Fash Boulevard, and what was the process to bring your concept to life?
I grew up in a few different, small East Coast towns where all the word “stylish” meant was that you knew how to color coordinate. It wasn’t until college that I was able to completely immerse myself in all things fashion. After I graduated, I landed a dream visual merchandising job for a third party company that had me overseeing 26 Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s in Southern California. The week before Christmas, the entire visual team was put on a conference call that we naively thought would result in holiday bonuses. Instead, we were quickly blindsided with the news that everyone was being laid off. I suddenly found myself jobless and thousands of miles away from my friends and family. I had to come up with a plan — and fast.
My dream has always been to create a brand that would allow me creative freedom, but I wasn’t sure which avenue to take. I needed a catalyst that would help open doors. After several sleepless nights, I decided to launch Fash Boulevard.
What types of responsibilities fill your day? Are you a full-time blogger?
I’m lucky enough to be a full-time blogger. I also have a style column on a few different websites and in a couple of magazines, so writing is a major part of my day, but for the most part, every day is different. Staying inspired is a huge part of the fashion and blogging world, so lots of shopping is crucial. There also are the business days where the majority of my day is taking meetings and phone calls with different brands about upcoming collaborations. Because I’m constantly expanding and plotting out the next venture in the Fash brand, building relationships with different designers and companies is the most rewarding part of the job.
We love that you blog for both Lauren Conrad and Giuliana Rancic. How did these partnerships come about?
I met Giuliana at a party she was hosting a few months ago. I’ve been such a supporter of her journey that I knew I had to approach her. She couldn’t have been nicer, and a few days later I got an email from the editor-in-chief of her website, FabFitFun.com, asking if I’d like to write a reoccurring fashion column for them. I, of course, ecstatically accepted the offer.
The opportunity to work with Lauren Conrad came about in May when a few of my readers informed me that she was holding a contest to find her favorite fashion blog. The prize was to be a guest blogger on her site for three months. After a series of style challenges and fan votes, Lauren picked Fash Boulevard as the winner. When the three months ended, Lauren asked if I’d join the team permanently. It’s been such an incredible experience and I’m having a blast working with the entire LaurenConrad.com team.
Where do you find inspiration and new ideas?
I usually get inspiration through shopping, runway shows and reading lots of magazines. I’ll sit at Barnes & Noble with a notebook for an hour every week, just flipping through magazines.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
I definitely have a long way to go, but I’ve had a few “pinch me” moments so far. The first came after winning the Lauren Conrad blogger contest. I’m pretty sure I jumped around my house in excitement for two days straight. And my style icon, Rachel Zoe, tweeted me a few months ago to let me know she was a fan of my blog. I literally almost passed out when it came up on my phone. It was definitely a surreal moment.
I also recently attended New York Fashion Week for the first time and was shocked and humbled to be approached by so many people who recognized me from my blog. I absolutely love getting to personally meet my readers. Having the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world is such a fun aspect of this job. Then, of course, there’s the fashion shows themselves. I definitely kept thinking, “OMG, how am I actually here?” One of the shows I attended was the BCBGMAXAZRIA show, which was particularly special to me, since I was an intern for them just a few years ago.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Unanswered emails. I receive an average of 200 emails a day and literally stress about each one until I’m able to write back. I know what it’s like to pour your heart into an email and never hear back from a person, so I always try to make sure I write everyone back, even if it’s three weeks later.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Balance is something I struggle with every day. I live by schedules and thrive when I’m sticking to them, so it’s very tough to have things changing and evolving on an hourly basis. The careers that my husband and I have make it very hard to step back and take a break. We’ve found that the only way to create balance is to leave our home/workspace and take trips to visit our families on the East Coast. It’s so nice to just take a break and catch up with our friends and families. It’s a welcome distraction from the never-ending chaos of this industry.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Work hard and people will notice. This is something that I’ve been repeating since college.
Another one of my favorite phrases is everything happens for a reason. Things in this business fall apart every day. It’s so important to keep your head up and believe that everything is a lesson or a test for something wonderful ahead.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in breaking through the clutter as a fashion blogger?
Creativity, hard work and a drive to create original content. It’s so important for new bloggers to find their niche and to stick to it. Anyone can take beautiful photographs and create fabulous outfits, but sharing your our own personal stories, your ups and downs, will always help keep the content original and fresh.
What advice do you have for women who aspire to walk in your heels?
To continue to believe anything is possible. I believe we have our dreams and want the things we want for a reason. No matter what happens, you have to keep your head up. The best things in life take time.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
We’re currently working on a TV show targeted for ABC Family, loosely based on my experience balancing life in LA and Alabama. It’s sort of like Clueless set in the world of fashion and sororities. It’s at the very beginning stages of development, but I’d love to see it come to fruition. My ultimate dream is to have an accessory line, including jewelry, handbags, and of course, shoes! I’d also love to write a book or two.