How to Make it in Manhattan: Advice From The Creative Entrepreneur Alyssa Coscarelli
If you’re going to let anyone influence you online, let it be Alyssa Coscarelli. The ex-Fashion Market Editor for Refinery29 and now full-time freelance creative (writing, editing, consulting—you name it) is as talented and bright as she is kind and amicable—someone you meet once and instantly want to be best friends with. But unfortunately for us (and fortunately for her), Alyssa is busy; she’s constantly Ubering, working, creating—all in dedication to building up her personal brand and developing her expertise. A simple Google search reveals the extent of work she’s done to make a name for herself in the industry thus far...and this is just the beginning.
I spent an afternoon with Alyssa exploring the neighborhood that surrounds her East Village apartment, picking her brain on everything from making it in fashion to being consistently kind. If you haven’t yet had the chance to run into Alyssa on the streets of Lower Manhattan, consider this your informal introduction.
Photography by Marielle Sales
I read in an interview that you moved around quite often growing up. Is there one place you consider home?
At this point in time, I consider New York home. Now that I've been here over 7 years, it's where I really feel grounded. I will always be a Florida girl at heart (that's where I spent most of my childhood), but NYC feels like home now.
How did moving frequently shape who you are today and your style of dressing?
Moving frequently made me a more flexible and adaptable person who can get along with a wide range of people and travel/move fairly easily in general, but also in a way made me slightly detached toward certain material things or even memories. Since I was always forced to move on, I'm better about detaching from certain things, but this can also lead me to compartmentalize sometimes, or block out certain times in my life or feelings in favor of just "getting over it."
Did you study fashion? How did you know it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
I always knew that fashion was the path for me, there was never another option in my mind. From a very young age, I would change my outfits a million times a day and always cared about fashion, shopping, and getting dressed. It was a no-brainer—it was the art form I was naturally drawn to. So, yes, I went on to study merchandising at LIM College here in New York City, tried a million jobs and internships, and eventually stumbled into kicking off my career in editorial at Refinery29.
You recently left your job of 5 years at Refinery29. For any readers seeking a career in fashion, can you tell us how you first landed your internship with the company and how you turned that into a full-time job?
I wish I could say it was something more professional, but I literally landed the interview for my Refinery29 internship via a Facebook status. The company was a lot smaller at the time. But still, this industry is a lot about who you know and making connections and building a network for yourself, so I think that would be my advice. Meet as many people as you can in the industry. You never know when their Facebook status will lead you down a new career path!
What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned while growing your career at Refinery29?
I don't even know where to begin. I learned just about everything I know about the industry at R29—frankly, I feel like I grew up there. But if I had to pick, I think the most valuable takeaway has to do with inclusivity, and how important and significant it is for people, when they read or see something, to feel like they can see themselves in it. From race to body type and beyond, representation matters, and R29 always made that a priority, even before diversity was a "trend." I also learned the importance of building lasting relationships in your career. The fashion industry gets really, really small once you spend a few years in it. Be kind to everyone, because they will likely show up again at some point in your life, down the line. And it's the lasting, consistent working relationships (whether with brands or publicists or coworkers) that really stick out as valuable in my time there.
What will you be pursuing now that you're on your own schedule?
I'm a bit of a jack of all trades at the moment. I'm focusing on my personal brand, which is nice because my partnerships on Instagram and personal press and partnerships were always kind of a "side" thing, and I'm excited to ride this wave and see where it takes me. But I'm also creative consulting for up-and-coming New York brands, freelance writing and editing, and planning to launch my own site. I also like to style shoots and lookbooks, and collaborate with brands on products, hosting events, and beyond. You name it, I'm open to it. The freedom to do all of the above has already proven to be so much fun and so rewarding, and it's only just the beginning.
You're constantly traveling or running from event to event, yet your skin always looks flawless. What are your best beauty tips for other women who live on the go?
My journey with my skin has been a long one. I've struggled with cystic acne in the past, and am still struggling with an impulsive skin-picking habit (seriously, it's bad!), but I've started to find the products my skin likes. I think a lot of it has to do with consistency. That doesn't mean you can't try new things or switch up your routine with the seasons, but my skin definitely responds well to a consistent routine rather than trying random products constantly. A personal favorite of mine that I keep in my bag is Caudalie Beauty Elixer, which is a delicious-smelling mist that makes you feel refreshed and glowy—I use it in Ubers and on planes, really any time I'm going place to place. I'm addicted. Also, exfoliation is important, people!
How would you describe your style ethos? Do you have any tips on how to develop a sense of personal style?
There's a fine line between getting inspired and comparing yourself or copying someone else. It sounds cheesy, but you just have to do you, and wear what you feel best in. People say it all the time because it's true!: You just have to be yourself. For me, that means a mix of trend-chasing (puffy-sleeved tops, shoulder-padded blazers, suits, and statement bags) and weaving in the classics (good jeans, classic boots, a good pair of white sneakers). I also have shifted more and more toward indie brands and vintage, and am slowly distancing myself from fast fashion. It's so much more interesting this way! Plus, it's cool when a lot of the designers you wear, you know personally or are even friends with. It makes getting dressed so fun and special.
What are some of your go-to shops in NYC or online?
The Break, The Frankie Shop, Opening Ceremony, Oak+Fort, & Other Stories, Need Supply, Lisa Says Gah... just to name a few.