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Want success? Stop being a "graduate diva", says fashion entrepreneur

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Jessica Vince, former Digital Editor at Grazia, is now striking out on her own as a tech entrepreneur with DRESSR - a website that allows the fashion-hungry to shop celebrity looks through Instagram.

Here we talk to her about fashion, following her dreams and the realities of making it in the business.

Could you explain a little about your new business, DRESSR?

DRESSR is the answer to Instagram’s most frequently asked question: where did she get that? I’m a true Instagram addict and would spend hours falling down the digital rabbit hole looking for where I could buy the coat Alexa Chung just Instagrammed or the pendant necklace in Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s selfies.

And it wasn’t just me - friends and colleagues and readers of Grazia Daily were constantly inspired by the style on Instagram. The success of websites like LikeToKnowIt show there is a real need for this, but they’re very focused on bloggers rather than celebrities. I dreamed of a place that brings you a decluttered stream of Instagram’s most stylish stars and tells you where the pieces are from. When I couldn’t find a place that does that, I decided to make it myself!

With the release of The Intern, there seems to have been a rise in interest in women in business. Long gone are the days of ‘Devil Wears Prada’ where successful women are portrayed as one-dimensional bitchy dragons. As a woman in business, have you ever encountered any obstacles because of your sex? If so, how do deal with this?

It’s hard not to notice that the tech industry is overwhelmingly male-dominated and some people struggle with the idea of women in programming. It just made me want to prove myself more so I took a coding course at Steer and learned HTML and Javascript before beginning DRESSR. A recent study by GitHub showed that women are actually more competent when it comes to coding. I also strive to promote the work of women in a field where they are such a small minority so it was really important to me to hire a female website developer [http://www.jessicaspokes.com/].

The fashion industry is incredibly competitive. How did you get to where you are?

I first cut my teeth working at a local newspaper where I was writing about everything from egg and spoon races to 60th wedding anniversaries. Not very glamorous! But it taught me so much and gave me a catalogue of articles, which I sent out to numerous publications asking for work experience.

Glamour Magazine invited me to do a one month’s work experience placement which evolved into a six month internship as Features Assistant. It is a lot about being in the right place at the right time but I also worked my socks off for it and showed how keen I was by happily doing anything and everything thrown my way. Even if I knew this wasn’tthe job, I was grateful that it was a step on the journey.

I started at Grazia in 2008 when the website had just launched - it started as a six-week internship and evolved into me becoming Digital Editor a few years later. I’m only just a millennial and I definitely didn’t have any sense of entitlement. It is a very competitive industry but I just did my job as well as I could, was pleasant, reliable and grateful to be given an opportunity.

Do you have any advice for students who may be reading this with ambitions to enter the fashion industry?

Digital knowledge is truly invaluable these days, especially as the industry is in such a state of flux. So I’d say a solid understanding of SEO, social media and shareable content is very important. I’ve come across a lot of ‘graduate divas’ who feel they’re owed something so it’s important to remember that nothing is going to be handed to you on a plate. You have to go out and get it yourself.

Is there anything in your career you regret or would do differently? If you could go back to yourself when you were just starting out in the industry and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

I don’t believe in regrets - it’s just missed opportunities that can haunt you. So my advice would be to always say yes and with bells on! When I started at Grazia, I was so nervous about interviewing celebrities that I missed out on some amazing opportunities. My editor at the time - Angela Buttolph - pushed me to go for it and I’m so glad she did because you’re only going to learn from actually doing it. Practice makes perfect. I’d also tell my younger self not to let doubt kill my dreams. I put off launching DRESSR for over a year because it would involve pushing myself out of my comfort zone and that was scary. But I had to think of the long haul. Things never work out how you imagined them, but they always work out. You owe it to yourself to create those opportunities because who knows what they might lead to.

Describe an average day in the office...

A lot of people assume that I have a bank of robots who are doing the scrolling for me, which would be so handy, but that’s not the case! I hand-pick every image and write the majority of the copy that goes on the site. It’s also important to enhance relationships with PRs, journalists and bloggers so I have regular meetings and attend press events to stay in the loop. I do have freelancers who help with writing, uploading and scheduling for social media, but I’m the only full-time member of staff so it can get full-on. Running your own company means you need to get stuck into every asset of it, whether that’s content strategy, web design, doing the accounts or just emptying the bins!

DRESSR is a site that enables users to find items seen on celebrities. Why do you think people look to celebrities for style inspiration? What impact do you think social media, especially Instagram, has had on fashion?

We’ve long had an obsession with celebrity and wanting to copy their style but their outfits are now more attainable than ever. In this age of instant gratification, there’s a hunger for ‘see-now, buy-now’ and Instagram has become the new shop window.  Most of us will never get near the custom-made Versace gown Jourdan Dunn wore on the red carpet, but we can buy the Topshop jumper she Instagrammed from her hotel room. It’s a much more intimate and relatable way of emulating celebrity looks.

It’s also true that the best outfit action is now on Instagram. It’s the new street style. It’s become an invaluable source of new brands, fashion crushes and trends, like bag designers Mansur Gavriel who have gained phenomenal traction via their Instagram following. It also makes the fashion industry feel more inclusive – as Eva Chen said, there’s a sense that the velvet ropes are coming down and that can only be a good thing.

THE INTERN is available now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.

Find DRESSR on twitter, Facebook, Instagram and its official website.   

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