This is the first in a four-part series taking a look at what it’s like to work at an emerging fashion media company from a variety of employee perspectives. Coveteur was founded by Stephanie Mark and Jake Rosenberg in 2011 to tell the stories of the fashion elite, tastemakers and celebrities through their closets. We applied the Coveteur approach to their new office space. Just as a closet can reveal much more about a person than what they wear, so can an office reveal the lessons learned, productivity hacks and inspirations of the people who inhabit it.
Founder: Stephanie Mark, cofounder and editor-in-chief, Coveteur
Funding: Privately held
Hometown: Toronto, Canada
Education: Dallhouse University, Halifax, NS; Parsons School of Design, New York City
What I wanted to be when I was a kid:
There was never any option for me to do anything except something in fashion. Always. It was the only thing I cared about; the only thing that I wanted to do. My grandparents owned a women’s clothing store in Halifax, Nova Scotia. When we visited I would sit in the store for hours, fascinated by the women shopping.
First job in fashion:
I worked in retail in Toronto at Roots, a Canadian retailer. They had a canoe they put out front to sell T-shirts to passersby. Essentially, my job was to stand by the canoe and offer T-shirts to everyone that walked by.
First major step in fashion career:
I was a professional intern in New York City, to my parents’ dismay. Being from Canada I couldn’t legally work in the US. I had to intern. I interned everywhere – at Philip Lim, at Intermix. I interned for Kate Lanphear (now Creative Director at Marie Claire) at Elle. That experience really stuck with me. She took me under her wing. Her mentality and how she approached fashion and how she worked with everyone in the office was inspiring to see. She’s a “be nice to everyone” type of person.
Best thing about working in fashion in your twenties:
Working with people like Leslie Fremar [the A-list stylist who dresses the likes of Charleze Theron, Julianne Moore and Reese Witherspoon] and finding ourselves in the houses of her amazing clients trying on couture dresses in their bathrooms.
Worst thing about working in fashion in your twenties:
I was recruited for a job back in Toronto that I ended up taking. It was not what I thought was going to be at all. I was so devastated. I cried in the shower every morning. I left New York City. The mentorship that I was promised didn’t come into fruition. People left the company. It was awful. I felt like all the experience I worked so hard for as an intern was a waste. I was afraid that the career that I wanted so badly for myself was over. I was heartbroken. Looking back on it now, I was so dramatic.
The silver lining:
Being so unhappy in that job is what pushed me to start something on the side. Whenever a younger person tells me they are lost, I tell them: “It will all work out.” It seems like the end of the world at the time, but somehow we all find our own path.
How we got the idea:
The idea originated over brunch one day in Toronto. Street style was at its peak and we wanted to show what went into these people creating their looks. This was twofold. The first was, of course, their closets, but the second was to really shed light on all of the behind the scenes tastemakers that went into creating the final results of fashion. The hairstylist, editors, makeup artists.
Photo by Kassidy Silva for Forbes
The first step:
We shot a couple of closets in Toronto and made a mockup of the site. Then we came to New York and pitched some editors and PR people to be on the site and just launched it. The site crashed the first day we put it up from too much traffic. At that point, I assumed it would be a passion project but the launch was more successful than we imagined.
On accidental success:
Looking back, we’re like, “Holy shit. That was really well-planned.” The funny thing is, it wasn’t on purpose. There were two factors. First, we launched with six people from different facets of the industry. Each of their companies promoted it the day that it went live. Second, we had a lot of banked content. So, when we finally launched all the people who we had shot but hadn’t put up yet told their friends to check it out. Style.com heard about it. Elle.com heard about it. Vogue.com heard about it. It was this perfect storm of a lot of people hearing about it at once.
The “It’s more than a side hustle” moment:
There were two stages of “let’s make this a thing”. The first was when we got a few clients and realized we could live minimally and do this. Then there was about 2 ½ years ago when we realized this thing had legs. We brought on our current CEO Warren Webster. Those were the two big decisions we made in terms of the growth of the company.
Biggest fear when you first started:
I was young and stupid and didn’t know enough to be scared. Now, I know too much. Back then, it was an adrenaline rush. I never thought I would be someone that had my own company, so the fact that this was all happening around me was so, so real and exciting. I don’t think I ever took the time to think about what could go wrong.
On getting Oprah to open up her closet as a fashion newcomer:
I think half the battle is just doing it. So often people over-analyze or only respond to ‘email jobs at fashioncompany.com’. You have to put in the extra effort like finding a specific editors name and figuring out the email format for the company. Be persistent and seize opportunities. Introduce yourself to someone if you see them; even if it’s at a restaurant. That’s how I got the internship with Kate Lanphear at Elle. I went up to her and asked for her email address.
Advice for someone who wants to get in to fashion:
Get any experience any way you can. We did a ton of creative shoots for free when I was younger. Interning maybe isn’t the most glamorous job, but I do think putting that time in and being strategic about it will go a really long way.
The next step for Coveteur:
At the very start of it people called it a “blog”. Then people called it a website. Then we grew into a media company. Now, we see Coveteur as a brand. We have many extensions of that brand: the website, our social channels, videos, a book. The next phase is about growing Coveteur as a brand doing more consumer-facing events and putting our name on products.
On bringing in an outside CEO:
It got to the point where so much of our day was spent trying to figure out things that would take a CEO ten minutes to figure out. I was calling our lawyers eight times a day and costing the company a lot of money. It also wasn’t the best use of my time or anyone else’s time. Now we can focus on the things that we really loved and all the reasons we started the company in the first place.
We just moved into this space, our first official Coveteur Headquarters. Our premise is to make it feel like the Coveteur home. Our thing is going into people’s homes, so how can we welcome someone into our home? Culture is so important. It’s really hard to build and really easy to screw up. We want people to feel like it’s their second home.
Photo by Kassidy Silva for Forbes
The one thing on your desk that you can’t live without:
Byredo Rose Hand Cream. It’s the smell of my dreams.
What moves you? The thing that inspires you to keep going towards your goals:
We get to have these experiences — from brainstorming with our team to working with and being in the homes of people that I idolize. Having that intimate moment with them is so inspiring and surreal. It reinvigorates me every single time.
The one thing that every young professional, twenty-something needs in her closet:
A good blazer. It looks chic. It dresses up any outfit. It’s not “in your face.” It’s not a super trendy item. You can wear it a lot. I think it’s something that you can get a lot of longevity out of.