StyleLikeU: Interview Today, Party Tonight

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Tonight, Vanity Fair will host a party at Bumble and Bumble for the StyleLikeU book. Forget about attending—the list has been closed for eons. But I used to be Steve Lewis, so they invited me. No worries, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow — or go to 1OAK for the afterparty. I caught up with StyeLikeU’s Dani Baum and asked her all about it.

What is StyeLikeU and how was it started? StyleLikeU is an online magazine dedicated to highlighting incredible individuals who possess a unique personal style. It is not so much about the clothes on the man but more about the man in the clothes. It was started roughly 3 years ago by the mother/daughter team Elisa Goodkind & Lily Mandelbaum. Elisa was a stylist. She was in the business for over 25 years. I would never want to put words in her mouth, but at a point she became frustrated with an overall lack of creativity and collaboration. At the same time, her daughter Lily admits that she doesn’t like fashion so much, but has almost “a borderline obsession” with people who express themselves freely through their clothing. Lily was particularly inspired by some of the people that were around her as she was growing up. It was just her shear curiosity about why these people dress the way they dress that sparked her and Elisa to start StyleLikeU. They grabbed the family video camera and began entering peoples homes. Three years later we have over 450 “in-closet” interviews archived on our site.

How has it evolved since its inception and how did the book come about? StyleLikeU has evolved a lot since the inception. If you go back to the very first posts, which I love to do, there is a lot less detail. There are less pictures, less quotes—less everything. But it’s really interesting to watch all of the posts in order from the beginning, because when you get to about the 10th one, you really see them starting to shape into what they are now. The questions dig much deeper, and the people inside of the clothes really start to be revealed. We just relaunched the site last Monday. We now have a completely new design, and whereas before we only posted our in-closet interviews, now we are featuring tons of new, original content. I should probably also mention that we got new cameras, Canon 7D’s to be exact. Apparently you can shoot a feature film on those things. The book came about because powerHouse Books approached Elisa and Lily about it. Lily knew that she wanted the book to contain really strong, dynamic images, and of course her beloved quotes.

How did Vanity Fair get involved with the event? What does that mean, and what are the lucky few in attendance going to see? Vanity Fair getting involved is actually a great story. When Elisa was styling, she was on a job and there was an intern there who thought that she was really nice and cool. Fast forward ten or more years: that intern now works at Vanity Fair. They remembered her! When they heard that StyleLikeU was coming out with a book, they proposed the idea to Vanity Fair to host the party. When Vanity Fair asked us if we wanted to team up with them, of course we said yes—how could anyone say no to Vanity Fair? They have been great to us and we all can’t wait for tonight. The event means a lot for the celebration of StyleLikeU’s first book. There are over 275 individuals featured inside of it, so it’s a large accomplishment. Lily took most of the photos and had to reshoot 60 of the muses in just 3 months, so this is particularly exciting for her. The best thing about StyleLikeU parties is, hands down, the people who attend. In my opinion, we feature the most interesting people. I die and cry just watching one video at a time on the website—imagine being in one room with all of them! It’s really a sight to be seen. The energy is incomparable to any other room or party that you will ever be at. Old/young rich/poor fat/skinny black, white, or purple—all kinds of people with a soulful connection to clothing and humanity.

What is your job? I wear a lot of hats, as we all do. We have a really great team and all of our jobs overlap in a way, but mainly I am the director of events and scouting. It all started when Elisa interviewed me to be on StyleLikeU. I pretty much just fell in love with her, the website, and all of the people on the website. I called her up one day and said, “Elisa, we have to get all of these people in one room. This community can not just live on the internet! I want to bring it into a physical environment.” That is how I became the director of events, basically because I became obsessed with wanting all the Muses on the site to be together at one time. I am actually an actor but I couldn’t resist. I feel that what we are doing here is so important. Essentially, we are archiving our culture as we know it—think of what StyleLikeU will be in 50, or even 5 years! What an incredible resource.

In regards to the scouting, I scour the city, events, the sidewalks for people that I feel would be great for the site. I get really passionate about it too. If I see someone, or want someone for the site, I just go for it. I’ll chase someone down the street if that’s what it calls for. I’ll call you, I’ll email you, I’ll send you a smoke signal if I have to. I love the people that I love and I make it my mission to get them on the site.

What’s next for the brand? To go global! Most of our features have been done in NY, LA, London, and we have some from Italy, and Chicago. The next step is travel! We want to go everywhere and we will be soon.

You said you just relaunched the website—tell me a bit about your new content. We love our Twisted Classic feature which is where you take 1 item and twist it 6 ways. It’s a really great feature because it shows people how creative you can be with just one item. How far it can go and how many ways you can twist it? It shows you that you don’t necessarily have to have a lot of clothes. I also love the SLU additions, which is where we interview people on what they are “addicted” to. It’s really interesting, emotional, and psychological. It shows the emotional connection we have to our things—but not in a superficial way. In the first addiction, we interviewed a girl who said she couldn’t live without having her long hair—that she has nightmares about someone coming and cutting it off. That is something I totally relate too, I think most girls who have long hair do. The Addictions show that our things are not just things, but tools that help us express who we are.

If there was one thing that you wanted people to know or take from StyleLikeU, what would you want that to be? I would want you to be empowered by it. StyleLikeU isn’t here to tell you what to do or how do dress, we only want to show you what is possible. Elisa and Lily have set out to erase the boxes, and I really believe that we will. I think we have a capability to save a life. We live in NY, so we can get jaded, and we can forget how easy we have it here, but let’s not forget that on the scale of things, New York is one of the most, if not the most, accepting place in the world. But imagine how much our site could help a young, gay boy in the middle of America who has no one to relate to. Who thinks that, because he is “different,” he is a freak. All of a sudden he discovers StyleLikeU and he now has 450 friends who will help him get through, and make him realize the beauty in his differences. Just the other day a 17-year old boy from Texas emailed me for advice. He told me how much he loves the site, and that it has inspired him to make the move to New York where he know he will find the type of people that he is seeking to be around. I emailed him back saying that he should come by the office when he gets here. That’s what I want people to get from StyleLikeU. That we are here, that this is real, and that most importantly, we are doing everything in our power to uncover the subculture that has been covered by the mass culture. We wouldn’t have it any other way!