MINT: Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Emily Koufakis and I am a Junior undergraduate from New York, studying Science, Technology, and Society (STS). I am involved in my sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and I am a head lacrosse coach for young girls in the Palo Alto community.
MINT: How did you get involved in the Condé Nast program?
Growing up in the New York City area, I was surrounded by eclectic style and a thriving, diverse culture, and I have always had a deep interest in fashion. However, I never had the opportunity to pursue it in a professional or educational setting. Being such a vivacious reader of Condé Nast publications, I stumbled upon an advertisement for “The Vogue Fashion Certificate Program” at the “Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design” in London. I was immediately enthralled by this program and knew that there was no loss in applying. Moreover, I knew that I always wanted to work/study abroad, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. After a rigorous application and interview process, I was accepted into Vogue’s program. I was one of twenty-five people worldwide to participate in the course, and I was the only American.
MINT: How did the Condé Nast program fit into the career path you want to pursue after Stanford?
Throughout the program, I learned a great deal about myself, my interests, and even my disinterests. The other students and I shared a similar passion for fashion, but I was unsure of exactly what I wanted to do. Through my experiences, projects, and meetings with the most highly regarded professionals in the industry, I came to learn that the business side--specifically the technology/digital aspect--was where I wanted to be. Today, the entire publication industry is undergoing drastic change due to the development of technology. Magazines are shifting from print to digital, and this is essentially the future of the business. I found the digital side extremely intriguing and entrepreneurial. After Stanford, I hope to pursue fashion and tech--whether that is e-commerce, handling the digital side of a magazine’s website, or starting my own company.
MINT: That sounds awesome! What was a typical day like for you during the program?
A typical day at the program: I would arrive to school at 9 am. We would start with an industry guest speaker, which turned out to be my favorite part of the program. Speakers such as Alexandra Shulman, Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue, founder of Net-A-Porter Natalie Massenet, and other highly regarded photographers, writers, etc. would come and share their experiences in the industry. After the guest speaker, we would have lecture. The first half of the course consisted of fashion media, while the second half consisted of fashion business and marketing. With in all of these broad subjects, each day would focus on one specific topic, whether that is trend forecasting, fashion buying, public relations, ads and sponsorships, etc. At least one day per week, the program would arrange visits to museums, exhibitions, and screenings to various locations throughout London. This was an extremely special opportunity, as most of our visits were exclusive and not open to the public. It was awesome getting to experience the diversity of London. To end the day, we would either go to the Vogue House (where Condé Nast headquarters are) to work with the professionals at British Vogue, or we would work on our assigned projects.
MINT: How was the work/study program like for you compared to that of Stanford? Did you experience any major challenges adjusting to the program?
The work/study environment was completely different than Stanford’s. First, we called our “instructors” by their first names, so it was personal and it felt as if they were my peers. Second, although I initially found being the only American a huge challenge, this very aspect evolved to become the reason why the program was so humbling and special. I had the opportunity to meet women from about twenty different countries such as India, Dubai, Scotland, England, Italy, Mexico, Australia, and Spain, to name a few. Working with these women and learning about all of their different cultures, backgrounds, and interests completely changed my perspective on life. It was so rewarding being able to work on group projects and share ideas with those who are so different from your own background. Overall, the program was extremely collaborative and hands-on, which I loved. Though I was the youngest (I’m 21, and most people were 20-30), the program was extremely professional, and it sometimes felt as if I was in a work/professional environment compared to an educational one. I acquired skills and knowledge that are so applicable to the fashion industry, something that I have not so directly experienced at Stanford. For example, for my final project, I was able to create an app prototype for Condé Nast, in addition to creating its marketing strategy and pitching the app to their team. I also had the opportunity to create a Vogue mockup issue from scratch, acquiring intense skills in Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.
MINT: What were some of the highlights of participating in such a prestigious corporation’s program?
Having the opportunity to be a part of such a prestigious corporation and working alongside their professionals was the most rewarding experience of my life thus far. As I said before, the industry guest speakers who came to speak with us were a definite highlight, as each talk was personal and provided us with the chance to ask questions. I will forever cherish the advice I got from the professionals in the industry. Meeting Nicholas Coleridge, President of Condé Nast International, was the experience of a lifetime.
MINT: What were some of the lessons from the program that left a lasting impression on you?
One lesson from the program that left a lasting impression on me was that figuring out what you don’t want in your professional career is just as important as figuring out what you do want, and everyone should keep an open mind and be willing to adapt to changing interests along the way. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to work for Vogue in New York. However, while completing this program, my interests changed immensely. At first, I was overwhelmed and confused, as my lifelong dream was being challenged by my environment and experiences in the industry. As I came to learn more about Vogue, my interests became tailored to the digital and tech side of the company, as I mentioned before. I found that I didn’t have as strong a love for the print and design, styling, and clothing that consumed the pages of the magazine, but instead for the company’s business and digital side. Today, our world is shifting from print to digital, and it is such a novel area to be involved in. At Vogue, the professionals working on this side of the business were quick on their feet, entrepreneurial, and they shared a common vision to adapt to the millennial of today. For example, young adults are transitioning to reading the publications on their phone or computer, because it is easily accessible and free! This lesson was so beneficial to me, because it highlighted that I did not want to pursue fashion exclusively; rather, I hope to combine the two--fashion and tech--and help to change a traditional business such as Vogue better cater to the digital age.