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Alyssa Coscarelli and Lauren Caruso Discuss Clothing, Cause and Coming Together

Story by Rachel Schwartzmann – Follow Alyssa, Lauren and The Elk – Photos by Bridget Badore for The Style Line

“Your voice is important,” fashion editor (and longtime friend of The Style Line)

Alyssa Coscarelli relayed in our interview below, “Whether that’s through writing or fashion or social media or whatever you do, your voice matters.” To her point, both Alyssa and fellow style maven (and interviewee) Lauren Caruso recently used their respective voices as a platform for social good.

As best friends and leading forces in the fashion industry, they came together to host a clothing drive (featuring items from their enviable wardrobes) to benefit Planned Parenthood at beloved local staple, The Elk, with owner Claire Chan.

Amidst the flurry of shoppers, and with the trifecta of fashion, food and friendship fueling the atmosphere, Alyssa and Lauren’s efforts quickly translated into tangible results as they raised over $1,200 for the organization that night alone – and we were fortunate enough to witness the sartorial magic unfold in real-time.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since our initial stories with both of these dynamic women so you can imagine our excitement when getting the chance to catch up with the duo to learn more about what they’ve been up to since then. Without giving too much away, discover more from our evening with Alyssa and Lauren who brought us up to speed on what they’ve been working on, their thoughts on fashion’s growing relationship to activism and their advice for the next generation of women who are looking to change the world in style.

Hi! I’m Lauren Caruso,

and I’m the site director at StyleCaster. In 2015, I had just left my job as the Contributor Network Editor at Refinery29 to work on the digital team at Allure, and I was living in the West Village, just starting to find my stride on Instagram. Two years later, I’ve reunited with my two former R29 bosses on the editorial side at StyleCaster, moved in with my boyfriend in the LES, and I’m making a true side-hustle out of the ‘gram.

Hi! I’m Alyssa Coscarelli —

a lot has changed and a lot has also stayed the same since we last chatted in 2015. I’m still at Refinery29, only now I’ve got the title of Fashion Market Editor. I live in Williamsburg now, but I still brunch just as much. But if we want to get really dismal, the political climate has changed a lot since 2015, too (heck, even in the last month!)…

Give us a window into your world: Based on the current climate how would you say your relationship to fashion has evolved?

Lauren: I used to plan my outfits so far in advance and feel like I needed to assuage the Type A in me by following through, even if I didn’t feel as great in the outfit that morning. Now, I usually think about what I’m wearing in relation to how I’m feeling that day. It’s more of a vibe and less of an “I need to photograph and post this right now” type thing. I also find inspiration all over the place now, too, rather than the same few bloggers I used to look toward. I’ve started to incorporate color (gasp!) a bit more as well—right now it’s just in the form of a blue oxford button-down from The Frankie Shop and a couple camel coats, but I’m getting there. I quit shopping for almost two months, which really forces you to think outside of trends—and sort of gets you addicted to saving money. I’ll probably do that again in the summer.

Separately, I don’t feel like it’s frivolous to be into fashion anymore, what with publications like Teen Vogue and New York Mag showing that fashion and politics don’t have to be mutually exclusive. They don’t just influence each other, but they tell a story together. We should be proud of that instead of playing it down.

Alyssa: Especially following the election, fashion just felt pointless. It was difficult to go into work and write about something like clothes when there were so many more important things happening around us that required our action and resistance. I’ve slowly gotten back into the swing of things, but it’s still important to me now to find ways to stay active in the current political situation and find new meaning in my job, and also find new ways to make my voice heard on social media (something I admittedly hadn’t thought much about before this year). I’m also seeing fashion as a whole taking more of a stand in current topics than ever before: Feminism and women’s rights, philanthropy, and overall opinions on political issues are more prominent in fashion than ever before, both in the ways brands are responding to recent happenings and through literal clothing and words on the fronts of T-shirts.

Tell us more about the inspiration behind this event, what you love about The Elk and what you hope people take away from it the most?

Lauren: Alyssa and I both recently downsized in terms of our living spaces, and we’d been selling our stuff on Instagram and making decent money, but it took up so much time for so little reward. We both figured it would be great to unload all our stuff at some sort of a sidewalk sale, donate anything that doesn’t sell, and give the money to a cause we’re both passionate about: Planned Parenthood. I can honestly say that PP has saved my life, and access to solid reproductive health care is essential for every single person living in this country. Unfortunately, the current administration seems to think differently, so we’re doing what we can to raise awareness and money, even if it’s not a life-changing amount. We both already love The Elk and Claire—she was stoked and all-in when we approached her. It just made sense.

Alyssa: Lauren and I both accumulate a lot of clothing and accessories through our jobs, our Instagram presences, and through our own shopping addictions. We use my Instagram account @shopalyssainthecity to sell some of it, but we both cleaned house and were overwhelmed by the amount of perfectly good condition clothing, shoes, bags, etc. that we didn’t want and wanted to find good homes for. So, we had the idea of hosting a little sale and it just felt like an obvious thing to us to put it toward a cause we cared so much about (and one whose funding is in jeopardy) rather than just pocketing the money. We’re regulars at The Elk and knew Claire would be down to host us for the cause, and it all kind of just fell into place from there. We were shocked at what a great turnout we had and can’t wait to do more soon. I hope that people realize (and I think they did!) just how easy it is to get involved and to donate to the causes that need it, and I hope it sends people in a spiral of donating more and taking more action aside from just shopping for the cause. I also hope that people took away the idea that fashion is not always just frivolous consumerism, and that people who care about fashion can care just as much about politics or women’s issues.

Do you plan to do more to merge your personal/professional lives in fashion with more activism and philanthropic efforts?

Lauren: It would be great to use my platform for good more often. Depending on the success of the event, Alyssa and I are hoping we can make it a more regular thing. 

Alyssa: Absolutely! The success of our event at The Elk only made me more excited to think about what else I can do philanthropically in the coming weeks, months, and years. This may have been the first little event we hosted, but it definitely won’t be the last, and I hope they get bigger and better and involve more and more friends from the community as we go.

Based on everything that’s going now and your respective professions in fashion what are your thoughts on promoting/championing vintage, sustainable or ethical fashion brands? Who are a few of your favorites at the moment?

Lauren: I’ll be the first to admit I have a Zara problem, but I’ve really started caring more about where my clothes came from over the past couple of years for obvious reasons. Not everyone has the time to sort through racks of vintage tees at a thrift store, so I love the new crop of Instagram vintage shops like Na Nin and Maganda Pa, and I’m really looking toward quality mid-level brands, like AYR and Cuyana, the latter of which goes by the slogan, “fewer, better.” I can get behind that. Alyssa on the other hand…

Alyssa: I find myself shopping more vintage shops and sustainable/ethical brands than ever as of late. I love shopping vintage through Instagram on accounts like @shoplittlegood, @naninvintage, and @goodvintagenyc (shop while ya scroll!), and some of my favorite fast-fashion alternatives can be found here.

At this point what is one question you hope people will ask you more of?

Lauren: “How does this affect you?” – Everyone’s always so concerned about themselves, and how certain decisions will trickle down to them, if at all, and they leave no room to understand how something can affect someone else—a co-worker, a neighbor, the bodega guy that you grab a coffee from every morning—in a real, measurable way.

Alyssa: “How are you using your platform for good?” I hope we can continue to challenge each other and hold each other accountable (myself included!) for speaking up on what’s really important and taking action for the greater good.

How would you advise the next generation of style mavens or writers, to leave an imprint in the world simply by doing what they love?

Lauren: I was always taught that you can’t always do what you love full-time, and I believe that to be true. My dad was a bus driver and my mom still works as a secretary, and they taught me that that’s okay to not always find fulfillment from their careers.

Instead, you have to make room for the things you love so you can understand how easily that privilege can slip away if you’re not careful. And if your career can intersect with your passion, then count yourself as one of the lucky ones.

Alyssa: Stay true to what you love and don’t let anyone silence you, ever. Your voice is important. Whether that’s through writing or fashion or social media or whatever you do, your voice matters.

“I hope we can continue to challenge each other and hold each other accountable (myself included!) for speaking up…”

– Alyssa Coscarelli