StreetStyleChi Exclusive: LOFT Chief Style Director Alia Ahmed-Yahia Talks Fashion & Business

Last week, LOFT Style Director, Alia Ahmed-Yahia, was in Chicago to celebrate teachers with Lucky Magazine. Alia was previously at ELLE and Vanity Fair, and was quoted by NY Mag, saying that she would probably wear spiked Louboutin’s on the New York Subway. How could you not love this woman?

I got a quick ten minutes with her, and picked her brain regarding what items every women should have in her closet, styling, and advice for beginners in the industry.

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Alex: So how did you get into the industry?

Alia: My first job was at Vanity Fair, I was a stylist and an editor for about eight years. I majored in Journalism, and I came to New York…just no job…basically on a shoe string. I lived with friends in Connecticut and commuted in. I had a friend that was a publisher at Vanity Fair and knew they were looking for a fashion assistant, so I went in knowing absolutely nothing and learned from the ground up.

Alex: Styling someone is like an art. What’s the first thing you look at when you style someone?

Alia: Real people and photo shoots are completely different. Making sure someone is comfortable is most important, and making sure you are being an active listener before coming up with ideas for them because it’s a collaboration when you’re styling somebody. It’s just as much about what are they comfortable in, what do they like…and once you understand that, you can start pulling things together in their comfort zone, and then start putting things together that maybe they hadn’t thought of, or that they would be willing to try. You don’t feel confident in something you aren’t comfortable in.

Alex: How would you style differently on a photo shoot?

Alia: I think a photo shoot is a little bit different because you go into a photo shoot with everything preplanned, and it’s all about putting together a vision. A story needs to visually put together, so you build looks around that story.

Alex: What kind of spring trends are you loving?

Alia: I have to say, I’ve never been big on pastels, but I think because it’s been such a cold winter, there are so many different iterations of pastels out there and they’ve been reinvented as a spring trend. There are really interesting textural mixes so pastels in lace, different kinds of leather…in perforated leather, lazer cut tops, I love it. I also love how Burberry paired a pastel with a heavily saturated bright color in the same color family, so it’s that light and bright effect that looks really interesting. This is the next wave of what monochromatic can look like in a little bit more of a wearable way.

Alex: What are you not so crazy about?

Alia: A trend that I’m not loving…probably the crop top. It’s such a polarizing trend, but there are ways to make it wearable. Most women hear the word crop top and think belly bearing and intimidating, but you just have to style it right. You can add long layers underneath, and make the crop top a layer of your look opposed to just wearing it by itself. There are also a lot of designers doing a crop top with a high waisted skirt, so it actually looks like a dress and doesn’t show that much skin. It’s very flattering for a lot of women’s body shapes. I also like a longer oxford with a crop top over it and a jacket…then you get three layers and it creates an interesting visual.

Alex: I’ve seen that a lot of the recent magazines and all over the runway. What’s a staple piece that every woman should own?

Alia: I’m sort of bias, because I love jewelry, and I think every woman should have a great statement necklace regardless of whether magazines are saying it’s on trend. You can throw on a t-shirt and instantly dress it up. If we’re talking about wardrobe building staples, I would say a great fitting blazer. A lot of women have blazers, but they aren’t fitted. Look for a blazer that accentuating the curves you have and giving your body some shape. The blazer has become a staple in the sense that it’s acceptable for you to wear it over everything…jeans and a tshirt, a dress, a long skirt, even shorts. I would also say grab navy over black. Navy is a universal color that is season-less.

Alex: Last question…what’s one word of advice that you would give a girl looking to get into the industry?

Alia: I would say, cold call people that you admire. Look for businesses that you think are interesting, people you find interesting…people will really surprise you in the sense that when you reach out for somebody and you aren’t necessarily asking for a job, and you’re just asking them about how they got to where they are, or to grab a coffee, a lot of people will get back to you. There is something to be said about someone who is really passionate and proactive about wanting to get into the industry they love. I always really want to support someone that is really excited and passionate, and networking is everything. I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years, I could be working with someone I’ve previously chatted with. Not everyone will get back to you, so don’t get discouraged, but I did it when I was in college.

Alex: Who did you call?

Alia: I cold called the Special Projects Editor of InStyle. She went to Wisconsin, same as myself, so that was my connection. Just find something in common. We had a great phone call, and I’ve never met her, but she gave me a lot of advice. Even just about moving to New York and looking for jobs and who to talk to and who not to talk to. She helped me level set that expectation of what it was going to be like.


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