The pandemic raging on has thrown this world into a whirlwind storm of unexpected events and chaos. As people started to cave in their homes, new routines started emerging and what once was considered seemingly mundane rituals we simply just didn’t have enough time for had turned into moments we learnt to cherish the most. Or as Alanis would so bluntly put it “Isn’t it ironic?” . The small bits of happiness like waking up in the morning right next to your entire family with enough time to cuddle without rushing into the mayhem of a morning preparation or have enough time to prepare a healthy breakfast is what all of us used to take for granted. And now these moments are fragments we savor each and every second of, perhaps because we understand just how fleeting they really are. So, even though the pandemic has brought so much uncertainty, it has also brought us a new perspective, sort of like a new outlook on life if you will.
Hannah McKinley, fashion director at POPSUGAR wearing the Lampe Dress custom-made for her
For Hannah McKinley, the fashion director at POPSUGAR these moments used to be so rare, as she rushed through her mornings with just enough time to take a shower and drive to the office. Now they are the new normal. The highly accomplished content creator and mom who has spent more than 10 years in fashion media is a person who leads with emotions and loves to laugh. She’s also the reason why we love POPSUGAR. Her thought provoking articles such as this one “After all this time at home, are we finally dressing for ourselves?” and honest take on parenthood like this one “When mom’s on island time” make her one of the journalists we regularly stalk on social media and are not even ashamed to admit it. For our latest instalment of Cool Faces of Bastet Noir, Hannah gets really honest on what it’s really like to work in the fashion industry, the pressure that comes with it, her tips on how to make it if you want to follow her footsteps and the organizations and initiatives she supports.
Who is Hannah McKinley?
I’m the Fashion Director at POPSUGAR by day, but I think of myself primarily as a writer. I’m most interested in telling stories. I have a little side project — a blog that’s mostly mom musings and a compilation of some creative writing I’ve done. Work identity aside, I like to think I’m lots of things. I’m a person who leads with my emotions, and loves to laugh. I love time with my family and friends (though I never underestimate the importance of alone time). I love travel, good food, and good conversation. I think I’m finally comfortable with the fact that I’m a work in progress — figuring out motherhood and finding ways to stay creative.
What’s your morning routine like?
Before sheltering in place, my routine was pretty rushed — emails and Instagram in bed around 6:30am when my daughter woke up, then a quick shower and drive to the office, while listening to a podcast. Now, I’m taking advantage of the extra time at home. The day still starts with work emails and a scroll through social media to make sure I’m caught up, but our family lounges in bed a bit before we head to the kitchen to make breakfast, and eat as a family before we start working from home around 8am. Mornings like this have become our new normal and I’m savoring them as much as possible.
You’ve been working for Popsugar for almost a decade now and currently you’re the fashion editorial director. Could you tell us how you ended up in PopSugar and what are the three things you wished you knew before starting out?
After I graduated college, I took an internship in San Francisco in PR and realized very quickly that it wasn’t for me. After a sixth month stint, I ended up freelancing for a local bridal magazine and applying (not to date myself, but via Craigslist) for an editorial assistant position at POPSUGAR. It was 2009, just as blogs were becoming a thing. I toyed with the idea of launching my own, but my dream had always been to work as an editor for a publication. When PS hired me, I ended up assisting the whole department, writing for every vertical, and learning the digital publishing game at a time when it was all really taking off. From there, I was promoted on to the Fashion team, before moving to NYC to work more closely with my editor. I kept working my way up and ended up back here in SF about 5 years ago.
The Fashion industry can feel a lot like high school, and I’ve definitely succumbed to my own insecurities around that — who’s the most popular, who has the most Instagram followers. I wish I knew earlier on that everyone has those feelings — everyone is dealing with some form of imposter syndrome, and the truth is, you’re in that room for a reason. Embrace it and use your time there to get out of it exactly what you want to.
Your experience is what you make it. Speak up, volunteer for the assignments you want, pitch your passion projects and get to work! No one is a mind-reader, so you’ve got to speak your mind and carve out the path you want. Chances are, it exists, you just have to ask for it.
Do the stuff that scares you. There’s opportunity that will surprise you in saying yes to the unfamiliar, the most challenging, and in making the most unpopular choice. I feel like this is a lesson I’m still learning, but I’m finding more ways to get out of my comfort zone and to say yes to the stuff that challenges what I know and what I have always done. That doesn’t mean that you should ignore your instincts, but don’t shy away from the stuff that makes you grow.
With the current pandemic situation, fashion was one of the industries that were hit the hardest. Small businesses like Bastet Noir on the other hand that produce custom-made and made-to-order pieces have become more relevant. From your extensive experience working in the fashion industry, we’re curious to know what do you think about this type of production model? Do you think the pandemic will influence the way we produce clothes and maybe change the entire production cycle in the fashion industry or are we far from seeing that happening?
The pandemic is causing a total and necessary rewiring of the industry. I think the way consumers think about their wardrobes is going to drive a lot of the change — that and designers who are finally responding to the tireless demand that’s been placed on them to work at break-neck speed to keep up with the fashion calendar. I think it will be interesting to see what the lasting consumer response is, but it does definitely feel like we’re seeing a change in more mindful consumption, thoughtful shopping, and finally vetting the brands we purchase from. I hope that means the production cycle will change overall and the emphasis will be on quality goods, ethical conditions and fair wages for workers, DTC brands, and sustainability.
Apart from supporting our community of women single parents, this year we’ve established a special fund for them where our customers donate to support the growth of their businesses. What are the initiatives closest to your heart that are both educational and beneficial and are worth supporting during these challenging times?
I have always been inspired by the work of Tipping Point here in the Bay Area. They fund organizations that work directly with the homeless to offer both immediate relief around crises, and to support long term change through education, housing, and employment. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to hear from some of the individuals who have, through Tipping Point’s portfolio companies and nonprofits, transitioned out of poverty, and I’ve been profoundly moved by their stories. When we’re all facing a crisis, the homeless are the most vulnerable. We have to do what we can to help the people who don’t have the resources to care for themselves.
Biggest failure/setback in life and what you’ve learnt from it?
As I mentioned, I started in PR as an intern and knew the job wasn’t right for me. Still, when I didn’t get hired full time after my 6 month internship ended, as lots of the other interns did, I was crushed. Even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, the end of it felt like such a blow. I was so afraid of being unemployed and without a purpose. I really had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, job search, and figure out my next move while living across the country from my family and on my own for the first time. It was an important exercise in self-discovery and in building confidence, and a reminder that your job doesn’t define you — a failure or a setback professionally is not who you are.
Books that changed your life
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Both books have stayed with me, for very different reasons.
Favorite female empowerment speech