Leah Karp, Accessories Director at InStyle & Erika Szychowski, SVP of Marketing at Nine West

Last night I chatted with Leah Karp - Accessories Director at InStyle Magazine, and Erika Szychowski - SVP of Marking at Nine West, at the launch party for the Nine West x InStyle Fall collection. Read the interview to learn about their career paths, their advice for you, and find out more about the fabulous collaboration between Nine West & InStyle.

Me with Leah Karp and Erika Szychowski at the Nine West x InStyle party.

M: Tell me about your career background, and how you ended up at your job today?

Leah (Accessories Director, InStyle): I started as an intern at Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. When I graduated an assistant position opened up and I jumped at the opportunity. I started there and have worked at several magazines from Seventeen, Marie Claire, Allure, and now InStyle. I’ve been an accessories director for 9 years, 3 of them being at InStyle.

Erika (SVP Marketing, Nine West): I actually started my career in Sports and Entertainment and then made a transition into sponsorship marketing in financial services. I started working in footwear at Nine West about five years ago. My career path has been unconventional, but I’ve never been bored. I got to where I am by hard work, and lots of networking.

M: What's your career advice for young women that want to pursue a career in the fashion industry?

L: When you're young don’t take a job just for the paycheck, be eager to learn as much as you can. Focus on making the right connections, and creating a foundation for your future. Building off of what Erika said, every job I’ve had has been the result of a connection I made at a previous job. Work hard and people will take care of you. This is important especially for the interns coming in today. If certain interns are working really hard we take notice. If you prove yourself during your internship I will help you find a job. I will do anything for my former interns; a lot of them come back and become my assistant or freelance for me if I don’t have a position open.

E: Throughout my career I’ve been able to create a space full of great leadership and mentors, which is crucial. Now I mentor a lot of young women and try to help them build thought leadership skills. Thought leaders take initiative. They inspire people with innovation and turn ideas into reality. They surround themselves with other dedicated people that help them scale those ideas into sustainable change. They have an impact, and create a foundation for others to build on. These leaders often envision the end result first, and then build the steps to get there. This kind of leadership reveals ambition. You can still be a thought leader in your field even if the company you’re working for isn’t aligned with your long-term goals. Your first job might not be your dream job, but you can still decide to excel at it. Be a go-getter.

M: What skills or qualities do you look for when hiring?

L: When I’m hiring I look for people who are incredibly detail oriented. I’m so busy, and I need to work with people who are on top of it. I can’t have things falling through the cracks. Above all, the most important thing is being dedicated. If you want a career in fashion you have to be willing to put everything else on hold to make it happen. It’s pretty easy to identify who's willing to do this. If it’s not you there is someone standing right behind you willing to step up.

E: I look for courage to step out of your comfort zone. When you’re young and starting out you might not have the experience, but you have to have the courage and perseverance to get through it. You need to be a self-starter, but you don’t have to do it alone. I look for people who have a spark to their personality and will be a fit for my team. When you’re surrounded by others who are self-motivated and courageous, that’s when the magic happens.

M: Thanks for your great advice, now I want to talk about this amazing Nine West x InStyle Fall collection. What was the process like for this collaboration?

L: The idea for the collaboration came to life over a dinner in Paris between Ariel Foxman (Editor in Chief, InStyle), and the former CEO of The Jones Group (Nine West). I was then brought on to the process. I start each season with books full of trends, color boards, and inspiration and decide how I want these to translate to a collection. I work closely with the head footwear, handbag, and jewelry designers at Nine West to create a collaboration that is cohesive with both our brands. This is the third season that we’ve collaborated.

E: The hardest thing about collaboration is finding the right team for the job. When you put a lot of creative minds in one room things can tend to go off on a tangent, but this team has been such a harmonious match. We’re so proud of what we’ve been able to create together.

M: What’s your favorite piece in the collection?

L: My favorite piece is the shoe that I’m wearing, the Cate. It’s very comfortable, and classic with an edge. It’s a great transitional piece from season to season, and also day to night. It’s a shoe that I think is so versatile and fits with anyone’s style.

Cate Pointed Toe Pumps, $89

E: My favorite is the Jaiden. It’s an amazing bootie. I also love this knot collar necklace we’ve created. It’s pretty fabulous.


Jaiden Pointed Toe Booties, $119

InStyle Knot Collar Necklace, $60

L: I know. I actually think the necklace is my favorite piece. I’ve wanted it in my mind forever, and our design team was able to create it for me.

M: Thank you for chatting with me. I can't wait to incorporate the collection into my fall wardrobe! 

Click through the slideshow to check out the collection and find styling inspiration.

My Opinion: At the party I had a chance to try on the shoes. I was pretty surprised with how much I liked the collection. Sometimes these collaborations between megabrands can end up being a little cheesy, but I was impressed with the quality and style of the collection. Like Leah, my favorite shoes were the Cate. They somehow manage to be timeless and modern all at once.

Above is a photo of my friend Jessica and I at the event. I'm wearing the Cate shoes with a leather clutch from the collection. Jessica's wearing the Tessa pumps. Check out this limited edition collection in stores and online.

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