Molly Flynn: You’re the Fashion and Entertainment Director at Hearst International. What was your first job in the fashion industry?
Kristen Ingersoll: When I was in college I worked for a modeling agency. I also worked at Filene’s Basement where we produced fashion shows for various magazines, which included one of Donna Karan’s first trunk shows.
M: Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
K: Absolutely. When I was 13 years old I helped out at a modeling agency. I overheard one of the agents on the phone needing someone to dress the models at a show. I chimed in confidently that I could do that. I then had my mom drive me to the show. I remember bringing a small bag of safety pins and clips. No one taught me; I just did it.
M: How did you land a job in the industry after you graduated from college?
K: When I graduated I turned down two job offers in New York, and bought a one-way ticket to Paris. It was a huge risk. My parents were not keen on me going. I didn’t have a job offer in Paris, but I knew what I wanted and no one could really stop me.
I studied French in college so I prepared my resume in French and brought it along with me. I put “styliste” on my resume thinking a stylist who puts together clothes but styliste in French also means designer.
I was then hired as an intern at the clothing company Naf Naf upon showing my resume. However, on my first day there they brought me up to their design atelier and showed me to my desk. I looked around for the clothes but there were no clothes. It was an atelier with about 5 designers in it at their respective desks. I had a rude awakening. Basically, I was joining their design team as a design intern. I sat at my empty desk in a quiet room of people sketching away and and I felt a little sick to my stomach. I figured I better try to draw something—give it my best shot—as I was probably going to go home at the end of the day and never return when they discovered I was in the wrong place. Within the first hour I researched the history behind Naf Naf and then put together their favorite symbols, one of them being a pig! I drew lots of pigs, including some pigs jumping rope as well as three pigs hanging out of a helicopter. At the end of the day, all of the designers had to post their drawings on the wall for the owners to see (we didn’t have to sign our work so at least we were anonymous). Two out of my four drawings were selected, which was a relief… better than going home forever! I then stayed at Naf Naf for about a year and learned so much. When that internship was over I started another one at French ELLE.
M: How did you get the job at French ELLE?
K: I sent my resume wrapped as a present in a big box of confetti. To my surprise, they called me.
M: Do you think that would work today?
K: I doubt it. I think today I would probably send a horse.
That being said, it’s really important to take a risk. Looking back I have no regrets at all because I put myself out on the line and it paid off.
M: After you finished up in Paris what brought you back to New York?
K: There was an opening at ELLE in New York, and it was time for me to come home.
M: Your job is what many would call their “dream job”. What is your favorite part about being the fashion and entertainment director at Hearst?
K: My favorite part is working with all of our international editions. It’s fascinating to work with other cultures and get new perspectives. It draws forth a lot of inspiration.
M: From an outsider’s perspective, people only see the glamorous parts of your job. What are the critical parts of your work that most people wouldn’t consider?
K: I don’t have a lot of time to myself and you can’t always get the sleep and rest you need. I’m constantly traveling and meeting new people, which I love, but it can take the energy out of you. In addition the fashion industry is filled with many creative and unique people. Collaborating with all these personalities can be challenging, but the end result is very beautiful.
M: Is it difficult to maintain steady relationships?
K: You have to learn how to balance everything. You can’t always see your friends and family when you want to see them. I’m not just working a 9-5 schedule; our international colleagues are on different time zones around the world so we have to meet their deadlines on a regular basis. Not to mention, I always have dinner meetings, business events and travels. My work is extremely deadline oriented so there is often little time left for maintaining relationships outside of work.
M: Who has been the most memorable celebrity you’ve worked with and why?
K: I’m a huge fan of rock and roll so one of my absolute favorite shoots was with Lenny Kravitz for Esquire. I was sick with a fever that day, but it was still an amazing experience. I’m a huge fan of his, and it was so much fun to spend the day with him in his home.