Obama and InStyle team up for handbag collection

While fashion helps us look good, it can also do good — and that’s exactly the aim of a new handbag collection from First Lady Michelle Obama and InStyle.

Fresh off her stint as covergirl for InStyle‘s October issue, People Style says Obama and InStyle channeled their working relationship into a new line of handbags that will benefit the Peace Corps Let Girls Learn Fund, the First Lady’s project to “to help adolescent girls around the world attend school since more than 62 million girls are currently not in classrooms due to physical, cultural, or financial barriers.”

Teaming up with American designers, the line features several limited-edition tote bags that depict a country of the designers’ choosing in which “Let Girls Learn is working to provide education to young women who need it,” reports People Style, and the resulting design is inspired by the culture of the country.

Designers like Carolina Herrera (who chose Peru), Prabal Gurung (who chose South Africa), Jason Wu, DKNY, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tanya Taylor and Narciso Rodriguez all joined in on the project, offering stylish tote designs that People Style says will be available only at shop.InStyle.com starting on Oct. 10 (pre-orders started on Sept. 12).

Totes start at $52, says People Style, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Let Girls Learn.


Inside the Inspired Life: The Social Media Mentor

Becoming a social media maven was never Aliza Licht’s original goal. She was on a pre-med track while studying at the University of Maryland College Park, but quit this pursuit three years in, discovering that her initial path just didn’t sit right with her. Her decision proved beneficial: after starting her career in the fashion and media industries as an intern at Harper’s Bazaar, Licht eventually found herself as the senior vice president of global communications at Donna Karan International and the voice behind the @DKNYPRGIRL Twitter. Although Licht has since parted ways with the company she spent 17 years with, she is setting out on her own to share her secrets to success with those hungry for similar pursuits.

After starting her career at Harper’s Bazaar with an editorial internship, Licht moved on to Marie Claire where she spent two years as an accessories specialist, says The New York Times. In 1998, Licht opted for a public relations job at Donna Karan.

Eleven years into her time with the fashion chain, a new platform that would become essential to public relations surfaced: social media. According to Forbes, the onset of social media prompted the company to create a social media presence that was equally inspired by the TV show Gossip Girl as it was a need for authentic human conversation. The product formed a social media presence no one could predict, one that launched Licht’s career: @DKNYPRGIRL.

The account was run anonymously for two years, garnering well over 300,000 followers by 2011. In October of the same year, Licht revealed her identity as not only the voice behind the ever-popular account, but also as the brand’s senior vice president of global communications. The reveal attracted the attention of major news outlets, including The New York Times, pointing to the popularity of her online persona.

In reflecting on her former position, Licht attributed the account’s popularity to her conversational, noncommercial approach to creating an engaged yet authentic following.

“My goal was to be their best girlfriend while giving the community a unique and privileged behind-the-scenes view into the world of fashion through my role as SVP of Global Communications at Donna Karan,” she explained. “It was about public relations and not the newest handbag that shipped to store; at least not a majority of the time. People didn’t view the account as a brand as much as they did an entertaining friend who had this cool job they could get a fly on the wall view into.”

In May 2015, Licht offered a more in-depth view of her life with the release her first book, Leave Your Mark: Land your dream job. Kill it in your career. Rock social media., in which she shares her personal and professional experiences to help others succeed in their careers and build their own personal brands. “Personal branding is not about being famous or amassing millions of followers,” Licht said. “It’s about aligning how people view you with what how you intend them to view you.”

To create a personal brand, Licht explained that it is first important to know “what you stand for, how you present, what people take away from meeting you or working with you are.”

One way to create a personal brand that Licht seems to specialize in: social media. Allowing people to create their personal brands online, Licht said social media “allows the everyday person to create a curated, smart presence that can help leverage whatever that person wants to promote.”

There are several steps to building a personal brand, said Licht. “First decide what you stand for. What do you want to be known for? Then create your brand filter- 5 adjectives or statements that can help you create parameters for what you should or should not be speaking about.”

The remaining steps, she said, are found within the pages of Leave Your Mark, a work dubbed “a mentorship in 288 pages.”

In explaining the book’s aim to mentor its readers, Licht said, “It’s a mentorship [book] because it teaches through storytelling and tough love. It’s also a comprehensive experience, as if you and I had a very, very long coffee.”

Although Licht decided to leave Donna Karan International in 2015, she still has a lot more to offer — and a lot more to teach. On Jan. 11, 2016, Licht launched “Blackboard,” a newsletter designed to share inspirational and insightful content while she learns just how she will leave her mark yet again.

Licht has learned a thing or two throughout her illustrious career, which she details in Leave Your Mark and will most likely share in her forthcoming newsletters. But in reflecting on the best piece of advice she’s received in her life, Licht offered, “Say thank you, sincerely and often.”

Thank you, Aliza Licht, for sharing your wisdom with us.


Follow Aliza Licht on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and visit her website here. Sign up for her Blackboard newsletter here


Take Her Look [For Less] – ‘The Mindy Project’ Edition

Everyone’s favorite OB-GYN, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, will be returning to the small screen on September 15 when The Mindy Project makes its Hulu debut. Although fans have to wait a few more weeks for the show’s return, fans of Mindy Kaling’s on-screen fashion can start dressing like her stylish character almost immediately with our new Look for Less series featuring The Mindy Project. 

On August 23, Kaling posted a photo on Instagram of a red-themed outfit from an upcoming episode of the show. Standing just outside of Dr. Lahiri’s office at the fictional Shulman and Associates, Kaling posed to show off her candy apple red Guess trench coat, which she paired with a denim skirt by Alexa Chung for AG and a sweater and boots both by rag & bone.

Instagram / @mindykaling

Instagram / @mindykaling

Kaling’s office look for her character is certainly eye-catching, but what’s more eye-catching is its total price! Her trench, the Curved-Hem Trench Coat by Guess, was last available for $180, while her Alexa Chung for AG A-Line Denim Skirt is available at Nordstrom for $178. Add in her $325 rag & bone ‘Isabella’ sweater and her $525 red rag & bone Margot booties, and her outfit totals $1,208. But if you love this all-red ensemble, we’ve found all the pieces necessary to recreate the entire look for less. Read on for the results!

A classic red trench coat was the first item on our shopping list, and we quickly found a beautiful alternative to Kaling’s Guess trench in the DKNY Double-Breasted Skirted Trench Coat from 6pm. Done in an equally cheery red, this trench could easily pass for Kaling’s Guess trench, but it’s available at a fraction of the cost for only $57.99.

The DKNY Double-Breasted Skirted Trench Coat in Primrose, found on 6pm.com.

The DKNY Double-Breasted Skirted Trench Coat in Primrose, found on 6pm.com.

Finding a sweater to rival the intricate print of the rag & bone sweater was no easy task, but the MICHAEL by Michael Kors Bead Hem Long Sleeve Crew Sweater proved itself to be a strong competitor. Although this sweater is done in a crew neck, the band of beading along the hemline invokes the small dot pattern at the bottom of Kaling’s sweater. Done in a rich navy, this sweater will perfectly complement your new red trench, and what’s more is that it’s available from 6pm for only $54.99.

The MICHAEL by Michael Kors Bead Hem Long Sleeve Sweater in New Navy, found on 6pm.com.

The MICHAEL by Michael Kors Bead Hem Long Sleeve Sweater in New Navy, found on 6pm.com.

Button-front denim skirts have seen a bit of a revival these days, so finding a style to mimic the Alexa Chung for AG number was fairly simple. The Button-Front A-Line Skirt by MOTO not only offers a similar A-line shape to Kaling’s skirt, it also boasts a similar construction with the two parallel seams running vertically down the front of the skirt. This look-alike skirt acts as a perfect substitute for the Alexa Chung for AG skirt, coming in at only $52 from Topshop.

The MOTO Button-Front A-Line Skirt, found on Topshop.com.

The MOTO Button-Front A-Line Skirt, found on Topshop.com.

A red ankle boot completes our look for less, and although nothing can really compete with Kaling’s red rag & bone booties, we thought the Diba Oh Sage Red Suede booties from 6pm came pretty close. Done in a bright red, these booties not only mimic the color of the rag & bone booties, they also feature a similar stacked heel construction and side zipper detail. The best part is that these boots won’t set you back $525 like the rag & bone style, coming it at only $50.99.

The Diba Oh Sage Red Suede Booties, found on 6pm.com.

The Diba Oh Sage Red Suede Booties, found on 6pm.com.

Kaling’s all-red office-ready look for Dr. Lahiri is certainly eye-catching, and so is its $1,208 price tag. But if you love her look and want to recreate it for yourself, our look-alike outfit only totals $215.88, allowing you to look like the trendy Manhattan doctor without spending like her!

Happy Shopping!