Good Style Comes from Within
INSTYLE FASHION DIRECTOR JAN-MICHAEL QUAMMIE
Jan-Michael Quammie’s personal style is hard to pin down. It’s an eclectic mix of high fashion with street style, bright colors with understated elegance, statement pieces with quiet accessories. And it’s always up to date: As the fashion director of InStyle magazine’s German edition, the native New Yorker spends her days deeply immersed in the latest trends. This makes her a perfect candidate for our Fashion Direction segment, where we’re inviting fashion professionals – naturally some of the best-dressed people out there – to speak out on what’s keeping them inspired. In this SPECTR exclusive, Jan-Michael Quammie explains the stylistic influences behind her outfits and the role of eyewear in putting it all together.
Your first name “Jan–Michael” sounds like your parents rather wanted to have a son than a daughter?
Well, “Jan” is a woman’s name in America, not a man’s name. And Michael is my dad’s first name and he just wanted to name me after him.
Where do are you from in the U.S.?
I’m from Brooklyn, New York.
As the fashion director at InStyle Germany, is it important to have a strong personal commitment to fashion?
Yes, for sure. Being a fashion director means that you spend your entire life surrounded by fashion. You’re supposed to look at every little corner for inspiration and turn these things into stories and material for the magazine. We’re a monthly magazine, so my turnover is very quick and there’s a lot to see. And it’s also my personal commitment to be inspired by fashion.
How did you get into the fashion business, initially?
I’ve always been interested in fashion. At 13 or 14 I used to sketch my own fashion designs and went to a fashion design school. Back then, the only thing I wanted to do was be a model or a fashion designer. I tried both, and decided I wanted to be behind the scenes more. I didn’t know there were other roles you could have in fashion, until I got older. Once I realized there was something like a “fashion buyer”, which is even more behind the scenes, I decided that was a good fit.
What’s the required skill set for a fashion buyer?
I’m pretty good with math and have a good eye for trends and forecasting new up-and-coming designers. So I took a job at Saks Fifth Avenue as an assistant buyer ten years ago, where I learned the skill set of a corporate buyer. That’s what I did for most of my career, hopping around between wholesale and retail, seeing every aspect of the fashion business. I did buying at Christian Dior, Saks, Mytheresa, and Net-a-Porter in China. Later I started styling because my friends worked for awesome magazines in China and in New York. They liked my personal sense of style and invited me on their sets to style looks for Vogue China or Elle China. It kind of fell in my lap, and I started creating a book that became my portfolio, which got me even more styling projects.
How does that background translate into your current position?
My current job as fashion director is really a combination between styling and fashion buying, because both are telling the reader the same message: What you need to wear and how you need to style it.
But you’re exposed to fashion every single day, doesn’t that get boring?
I don’t get bored, because I’m interested in it. And I’m thankful to be here because I know there are a million people that would kill for my job. I’m really grateful, even when I’m tired and traveling. It keeps me inspired, which is important since I have a team of seven people that look at me for that sparkle in the eye.
Speaking of sparkle, what is the most exciting part of the fashion business for you?
It’s when I get to create in any realm. When I’m out styling and shooting, that’s the most exciting part. When I start something from the beginning and develop it into a huge production. In my styling work, everything comes from me: I pick the models, the photographer, the location, so I create the entire mood. And to see it come to life is the most rewarding thing. Because it comes from my brain and materializes into something bigger. That’s the most exciting part, actually for everyone who worked on it. Because at the end of the day, making it a reality is really a team effort.
From your vantage point, what are the biggest fashion trends today right now?
Actually, SS17 is a bit repetitive. It’s all about over-sized, very voluminous blouses, and destruction of clothing. It’s all about masculine styles for women, inspired by men’s suiting and men’s denim. Sneakers are very strong. You’re seeing a big influence of old-school OG Nike and adidas. It’s all about mixing street with high fashion, like Louis Vuitton and Supreme did. Also mixing sporty with high-end, like wearing a track suit with high heels, just bringing that technical vibe into your wardrobe.
Based on your extensive background, which designers inspire you?
Céline is a huge favorite for me. I love what J.W. Anderson is doing at Loewe. As far as newcomers go, Y/Project is really fresh and modern. I also admire Maison Margiela, Dries Van Noten and ACNE which are long-time favorites of mine.
And which styles and labels catch your attention in eyewear?
I’m a fan of oversized [frames] and cat eyes. Céline does a good one, but they don’t do it anymore.
Big question to wrap things up: What is your personal definition of good style?
Good style is whatever you feel like. Good style comes from within, it’s not something you can create. It’s not something you can be taught. If you have style, you have it. If you don’t, you don’t. Style also exudes in your attitude, your confidence. People with style don’t need to do much. They can just wear a white T-shirt with jeans and a blazer, and pull it off because they just look so confident. People with no style feel like they have to do a lot, and just look horrible. Style is like a sixth sense. I believe it’s a skill.
Thanks for the interview, Jan-Michael.