As part of “Wine, Writing, Women and Wisdom” this month, I have decided to feature a blogger each Friday throughout the month. This Friday, I’m featuring Michael Jones of “The Stylish Standout”. Ironically enough, I first stumbled upon Mike’s blog when I threw shade at one of the posts he published. But, ever since the aftermath of ShadeGate, Mike has become a supportive, honest and encouraging blogging ally for me. He is talented, wise and driven–three words I can’t help but to admire. Here’s a little more about Mike.
Why did you start The Stylish Standout?
Selfishly, I needed a creative escape from my day job, which at the time was giving me nothing but the blues. It started as a one-man operation and I would wake up at 5:00 each morning and write as much as I could, edit as many photos as possible and schedule posts throughout the day. I would jot down ideas or sift through fashion photos on Style.com. The site was far more trend- and style-driven then.
But after getting to know our reader a little more, I realized that her lack of engagement with current events wasn’t due to apathy, but a preoccupation with life, including trying to escape the grip of her entry-level job, reconcile a budget and balance the relationships that matter to her. So we hopped on the opportunity to serve as her news filter to extract the important stories of the day through fun features like Click These and our snappy, but informative news posts, while still providing her the trends, outfit ideas and overall life inspiration that attracted the first generation of readers.
You are fusing fashion and journalism—two very competitive worlds. What distinguishes The Stylish Standout from other media?
One of the first things I wanted to do was propel the notion that Millennials — mainly women — are advanced enough that they can handle Prada and politics or careers and Comme des Garçons in one space.
We don’t place limitations on ourselves when we’re setting the news agenda for the day. I charge my team with the simple responsibility to find, report on and publish the most interesting stories and allow the reader to do with them what she will. She may not give a damn that Proenza Schouler introduced swimwear in their most recent resort collection. But what if her boss is a huge fashion obsessive? She now has a way to connect with her on a level that one of her peers may not be able to, which matters in such a competitive environment as the workplace can be.
Whether you like it or not, fashion is a gateway topic now. People care about what Kim Kardashian is wearing. Women want to look as good as they feel. Pop culture embraces personal style. The cues from the runway seamlessly interact with those from the street to influence how we put ourselves together each day. And behind these brands are robust businesses that are huge ingredients to our economy.
We think it’s important to be a fierce ambassador and ally for the industry because a lot of blood, sweat and tears go into the finished products we shop online and in stores every few months. But we also know that readers want news, perspective and ideas and inspiration so we make ample room for those elements on the site too.
What are three words that describe The Stylish Standout’s audience?
Smart, stylish, sophisticated.
The tagline for the site is “You weren’t made to fit in.” How has being a non-conformist helped you advance in life?
What’s weird is that I’ve never considered myself a non-conformist. It’s a label that that’s always been thrust upon me. I just go about my business and choose to embrace the people, places, things and ideas that make me happy.
Most people think the tagline is an invitation for readers to dye their hair eight different colors or randomly mash-up pieces from their closets to create an outfit, although if that’s what comes naturally, then more power to you. But The Stylish Standout is more about an attitude, a sensibility, a world view.
There’s an epidemic plaguing our generation that compels us to rely on an often ignorant, but vocal group of thought leaders to guide our notions of what issues are worth our attention and action. So while I love fashion, the pieces I enjoy assigning, writing and editing the most are the newsy, reported stories that analyze and explore the culture’s hot topics in what I hope are accessible ways.
To answer your question, I don’t know how much non-conformity has “helped me advance in life.” I would hope good ideas, dependability, integrity and fearlessness are the components that have driven my career, not a bag that I won’t carry in six months or cashmere sweater made by a designer whose name most people can’t pronounce.
And in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve probably spent more time as a conformist, hoping that if I dressed this way or talked that way, then maybe, just maybe, I’d have a seat at the table. But cool kids are fickle. And their tastes are fleeting. That’s why the idea of my team and I presenting a message through mostly fashion and beauty that you’re special as is and clothes and cosmetics are merely devices to amplify that truth is so important to me.
Yes, after years of wishful thinking, I packed up my stuff, sublet an apartment (shoutout to Robyn!) and booked a one-way to the city.
I’ve learned that when dreams enter the execution phase, they’re not always pretty. They’re not well-manicured and impeccably dressed-up. They’re complex, flawed and riddled with gold mines along the way. But that doesn’t make striving towards them less worthwhile. It’s actually because of the imperfections of our dreams that make the pursuit such a thrill. That which is imperfect cradles the most transformative lessons.
The biggest challenge, no matter where I am geographically, is the realization that I’m probably greater than my mind could ever comprehend. I’ve always placed limitations on myself and one of the benefits from my move is how liberated I am. A change in scenery has me beginning to see what people have seen in me all along.
And stay tuned: I’m actually launching a blog soon to chronicle the differences (subways, rats!) and similarities (Popeyes, 7-11!) between Dallas and New York, so I’ll expound more once it goes live.
Tell us a little more about The Stylish Standout team. How do you all work together and how did the team come to be?
I’m biased, but I work with some of the most passionate, hard-working women across the country. And the mere fact that they put up with me day-in and -out shows the type of patience and thick skin they have. [Laughs]
But seriously, I simply posted an ad to a website called Ed2010 and pulled together a few whip-smart journalists to help create what readers see each day. They’re a unique set of women too because one hour they could be writing fashion news and the next a commentary on a piece of legislation that impacts our readers. We don’t have segmented departments — everyone writes and edits everything and you don’t find that at websites that cover the range of topics we do.
Mornings are the craziest because that’s when we’re checking the RSS feeds and on the phone discussing which stories to pick up. But once we post our news stories, the rest of the day tends to run smoothly. We mix in some original features throughout the day and for the most part, the staff is self-sufficient. It’s not as glamorous as people think: The majority of my day is spent assigning and editing stories, writing headlines and negotiating with publicists — but the girls make it so much fun. We laugh and have such great dialogue about the issues that matter to our readers.
What’s your vision for the site a year from now? Five years from now?
This isn’t a copout, but my vision today, tomorrow and forevermore is to continue to surround myself with smart journalists who are as passionate about storytelling as I am. All I have to do is the work, block out the debilitating distractions and the divine plan will work everything else out.
But more specifically, my immediate goal is make it a profitable enough so I can rent some office space, centralize our operations and invest in growing the team and retaining some of its existing talent.
Lightning round of mad libs:
Millennials are resilient, resourceful and unapologetically riotous.
The biggest misconception people have about fashion is that it’s an exclusive industry. Fast fashion, style bloggers and society’s growing interest in fashion has made it where anyone can participate.
The last song that played on your iPod/Spotify/Pandora is “Chandelier,” by Sia.
Michael Jones is a Dallas-born, New York-based journalist and the founding editor-in-chief of The Stylish Standout, which fashion website that dispatches a daily dose of news, ideas and inspiration for Millennials who realize they weren’t made to fit in. He loves magazines, candy, skinny pants that stop just above the ankle, all things Beyoncé and misses his family back home.