Today’s interview is with the talented and very stylish Carolyn Hsu – editorial director of Makeup.com. Carolyn has had a very cool career path across many different brands, ranging from Microsoft, to Saks, to The Economist. I was excited to have the chance to interview Carolyn and hear more about her life in her own words, as well as ask her some questions about career, and her closet (she has amazing style!). Enjoy meeting Carolyn!
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
By day I am the editorial director of Makeup.com, an online beauty magazine. When not at the office, I run my blog The Hsu Closet as well as my longtime beauty and lifestyle site The Daily Obsession. I live in NYC- at the center of the beauty media industry!
You’ve had a very diverse and interesting career path – starting from Microsoft and The Economist, and later moving onto brands such as Saks. How did your career evolve in this way?
My education and early work experience had nothing to do with fashion or beauty at all! In fact my degree was in International Relations and Economics and I had aspired to work at the World Bank! However, when companies came recruiting at my university during my senior year, The World Bank was not one of them but Microsoft was, and I managed to land an Analyst position on their digital marketing team. It was far from a dream job at the time (I didn’t even know what my job would entail at the time I signed the offer letter), but little did I know it would set what would eventually become my career in motion. The company relocated my 21 year old self to New York City and I’ve never looked back.
Around this same time, I started The Daily Obsession with a friend of mine as a hobby and we blogged about all the cool new products we were discovering and obsessing over. About a year in, I realized that the site was rapidly gaining readers and was piquing the interest of many fashion and beauty brands. I had no idea how beauty editorial worked and was shocked when I started getting pitches and event invites from some of my favorite brands! Of course, who would say no to that? So I started attending more beauty events and getting to know different professionals who worked in the industry- other bloggers, magazine editors, and marketing and PR managers from different brands. Through some of the connections that I had made by going to events, I was able to get a couple job referrals that allowed me to move into the glossy world of fashion and beauty media as a full time job. I combined my professional marketing background with my blogging know-how and got some cool gigs running digital content and strategy for some great brands.
Finally, I realized that what I’m really passionate about is editorial and always having change and creativity in my work, so I reset my career once more and became a full time beauty editor!
What’s a piece of advice you could offer to those who are just starting with their blogs?
Produce original content, update consistently, and pay attention to aesthetics.
How about some general career advice that you’ve learned that you would want to pass on?
Never burn bridges and get to know all kinds of people. It’s a small world and a smaller industry. You are bound to want to ask for a favor or an introduction or a referral at some point in your career, and it’s much less awkward when that person actually likes you.
You are now the editor of Makeup.com. Can you share some of your favorite beauty items, that you buy over and over again?
My all time favorite product of the moment is Amore Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact. It’s a CC “cream” that is actually packaged as a sponge soaked in product. The texture is like water yet offers amazing coverage. The shades are also all customized both to undertone and skin tone so you’re guaranteed to have a perfect match and it’s Broad Spectrum SPF 50+. On hot summer days, this is by far the best makeup you could wear.
The other product I would buy over and over again is my Mason Pearson brush. There’s a good reason all the editors and hair stylists obsess over it! The good thing is, the brush will probably last a lifetime (at least a couple decades) so I haven’t had the need to buy a replacement yet.
What are some of the most worn items in your closet? How about your favorite items?
Despite parading in front of the camera in various outfits for my blog, I am actually a very low key dresser (when I don’t have somewhere important to be). My most worn items during the summer would probably be my Rag and Bone denim cutoff shorts and a pair of leather gym shorts from Monika Chiang. During the winter it would be my black coated denim skinny jeans and my Goldsign boyfriend jeans. Pretty boring I must admit!
Now in terms of favorite items–I do have a bad habit of buying really fancy pieces “just in case.” I have a few really beautiful gowns (Lanvin, Narciso Rodriguez,Donna Karan) that I still have yet to wear. For fancier day wear, I’m loving Erdem.
What have been some of your biggest wardrobe splurges…and were they worth it?
Shoes: .A pair of shimmery black suede Chanel boots I picked up when I was in Paris for work last year Not worth it. Beautiful to look at but too pretty to wear on the dirty NYC streets so I never wear them!
Bags: The Celine Trapeze- Bought it in Paris at the same time. Much cheaper in France than the US so definitely worth it!
Jewelry: Cartier Love bracelet (Okay my mom splurged on this for me) Definitely worth it-I don’t wear a lot of jewelry but I never take this off.
What’s a piece of advice about style that you could share? Any mistakes that you’ve made that you could share?
Invest in the best quality pieces you can. Don’t be tempted by fast fashion and cheap buys. Save that money and buy something nice (on sale!). It will mean a lot more to you and last much longer. My biggest mistake was buying a lot of things because they were cheap. Now they all sit in a pile in the bottom of my laundry bag and I loathe looking at them.
You are a big traveler. Can you share some of your favorite places to visit and stay at, around the world?
My favorite place in the world is Lake Como in Italy. So I got engaged there…but even that aside, the place is so beautiful and special–the mountain, the water, food, wine, and amazing villas. I stayed at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo,which I highly recommend (not just because it’s like a fantasy), but it overlooks Bellagio, the most picturesque part of the Lake.
Another one of my favorite resorts is Maroma, an Orient Express property in the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It’s an incredibly private and romantic place that feels very authentic to its location. Every evening, the entire property is illuminated with candles-it’s still one of the most beautiful memories I have from any of my travels.
On a more local scale, The Surf Lodge in Montauk is another one of my favorite destinations. Yes the “club” portion of the hotel can be a bit of a scene, but actually staying at the property is incredibly relaxing. The rooms are simple but done just right and I love that they all overlook the pond.
What are some of your other passions and hobbies?
– Reading Wikipedia– I could spend hours surfing the site reading about all kinds of random topics.
– Learning about nutrition.
– I also hope to start taking some design classes. I work so closely with designers in my job and an constantly amazed by their ability to produce something so beautiful out of a blank canvas. I also think its fascinating how designer approach and think through problems and would love to learn that skill..
Finally – please share something surprising about yourself!
I’m very much a homebody! Though I would love to be one of those social butterflies always with somewhere to be and someone to see, it’s far more likely that you’ll find me at home on nights and weekends.
Thank you very much to the beautiful Carolyn Hsu for being here today! For more of Carolyn, please visit The Hsu Closet.