Rey Vakili – My Newest Inspiration

As I hope we’re all aware by now, I am in the bellwether era of my life.

In my attempt to listen to six straight hours of fashion podcasts while typing away at my computer during my internship, I came across Rey Vakili.

Rey Vakili is fashion’s best-kept secret, and my absolute newest fixation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the fashion podcasts I’ve listened to so far, it’s that most fashion people have been fashion people. Studying in New York City, working at designer’s boutiques, dropping out but making it successfully at the age of 14 because they’re just so brilliant. These stories are always neat, however they aren’t exactly inspiring to all . As someone who’s biggest fashion transition prior to college was going from boy’s Nike shorts in middle school to women’s Nike shorts in high school, it’s a bit disconcerting to hear all the specialization stories. Because here I am now, a rising junior in college, wanting to work in the fashion industry but having no official background.

Then enters Rey. Rey is not like these specialized designers. Rey is the poster child for David Epstein’s book “Range” – that a broad background and experimental phase will get you just as far as a specialized one. Rey’s background is similar to mine, and makes me believe I truly can work in the fashion world if I want to.

Rey moved from Australia to the US to attend college at Yale and like me, didn’t study something creative or artistic. At Yale she majored in political science and rode the path of becoming a lawyer. I would consider a lawyer to be a big corporate job, which is what drew me more to her as I too am a university student with my scopes on a big corporate job in investment banking or consulting. It’s comforting to know that someone who is now so successful was doing the same thing at 20 I am doing now – sitting in a skyscraper, completing a full time internship during my summer to gain experience and more lines on that resume.

However as Rey neared her university graduation, it seemed as though her lawyer dreams were dwindling. She applied for every job she could find, no matter the industry. Eventually, she found a connection – a Yale alumni who intercepted Rey’s application for a role at Vogue and put her in the running for Anna Wintour’s assistant. The story is crazy perfect, and Rey contributes the job position mostly to luck. What I think though, if you work hard enough to get into Yale and keep a good GPA, you should be able to reap those Alma Mater benefits. Once she worked as Anna’s assistant, doors would swing open in any direction Rey wanted to go. She had officially broken into the fashion world, whether it was deliberate or not.

From the few podcasts I could find I’m not sure if Rey had an interest in fashion before working with Vogue. At her time in college though she had no formal education in fashion. It makes me wonder if she always had a fashion sense, or if she rolled out of bed in the morning to get to class. For my sake, I like to imagine she had a hidden passion for it, but rarely exercised that skillset. If she was like this, it would mean that someone like me, who had little interest in fashion until college rolled around, could also break into the fashion world amongst those specialized artists. But whether she had an overflowing closet or not, Rey still made the assistant role, networked her way through the fashion world making priceless connections, and became the general manager at LTK with no formal education in fashion or the fashion industry.

How does that make me feel? Like I could hop on a plane to NYC, walk into the Vogue office, and kick down the door of Anna Wintour’s office demanding a job. Of course I won’t though, because I want to receive a job from Conde Nast, not a restraining order.

Not only do I admire her for breaking into the fashion world but I am in just as much awe that she broke out of the lawyer route. As much as I want to do business in a more creative field, I still love the ways of consulting. Consulting is also secure, and it’s hard to take a break from hiking that mountain because there are specific grades, classes, and very early deadlines. I would assume becoming a lawyer is the same way. You can’t exactly take a summer off from a legal internship to try something else out because if you decide you don’t like that ‘something else’, you’ve wasted a crucial summer that other candidates spent at a law firm. It’s a vicious circle of wanting to experiment but also needing to be smart and strategic.

While I was drawn to Rey because of these parallels of our lives I found, she also just seems like a genuinely good person. She was bubbly and outgoing on the podcasts but talked about how hard constant networking is for an introvert. After living and visiting amazing cities with rich fashion scenes, she never speaks ill of her hometown and has since moved back to Australia to run her new business venture. Being from the midwest and wanting to get into finance and fashion is hard, but like Rey I’m learning to not rag on my city just because it doesn’t have those things.

So if I were to answer the question, “why are you so obsessed with Rey Vakili right now?” I’d have to say the biggest reason is that she set a precedent for other girls who want to study political science – or economics – but bring those technical skills into a creative field, and give them a whole new meaning.

I hope that some day I can be working in the fashion industry and have the opportunity to speak with girls who are in the same situation I am in right now, and help them get to where they want to be. But until then, I’ll just have to keep searching “Vogue” on Spotify, and soak in all the information I can.

Yours truly,



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