In the Spotlight: College Fashion Founder Zephyr Basine

Zephyr Basine is a candy fiend who considers vanilla cupcakes (with extra frosting) manna from heaven and Sour Patch Kids fit to rule the world. She is also “a fan of fearless style” whose name has become synonymous with College Fashion.

Basine started CF as a personal blog while an undergrad at UMASS Amherst, quickly spinning it into “a worldwide student-run online fashion magazine.”  As she recalls, “I created College Fashion in March of 2007 because I loved reading fashion blogs but couldn’t find any that were aimed specifically at college students. All my favorite fashion sites and magazines catered either to middle-aged women or 16 year olds in high school.  I started this website to fill that need. It began as a fun hobby but it’s grown into a full time job and then some!”

The blog is now not just a trendsetter (the first fashion blog by college students, for college students) but a brand name, identified to me by several fans simply by its acronym. For her fearless style, new media savvy, and entrepreneurial spirit, the CF founder rightfully earns a spot in the CMM spotlight.

Zephyr Basine, College Fashion Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Write a six-word memoir of your CF experience so far.

Doing what you love is bliss.

What is the secret to your blog’s success?

CF is successful because we are different from every other site out there, in that we’re the only fashion blog devoted solely to college students. While most fashion blogs focus on teens in high school or 30-somethings who can afford couture, our content is written by and for our reader, the average college girl. We always keep her needs and preferences in mind, and always strive to be helpful, cutting-edge, and relevant.

Making our readers happy is our marketing strategy: I’d say 90% of our growth has come about through word of mouth. I started CF in early 2007 and it’s grown like crazy since then, with pretty much zero promotion from me. We now receive over one million pageviews per month, and that number is constantly growing. It’s very exciting and surreal!

When did you realize CF was becoming big?

I first realized the site was successful when we started averaging over 20 comments per blog post. Comments are really important on blogs because they show that people care enough about what you wrote to tell you their thoughts. But the majority of people don’t comment on posts. So comments are an easy way to see how successful a blog is. It’s easy for sites that want to claim they’re popular to lie about traffic numbers, but you can’t fake an engaged community. It was only when we started to command a very large readership that we started to see lots of comments on every post, and that’s the first time I noticed the site was a success.

Standout CF memory.

The biggest standout memory for me is definitely being invited to attend New York Fashion Week this past September. It was so amazing to cover the runway shows up-close, instead of just checking out the clothes on a computer screen. Going to fashion week has been my dream for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to attend NYFW again in February!

What is the toughest part of running a high-traffic daily blog with staff?

Making myself STOP working on CF is definitely the toughest part of my job. I have always been a bit of a workaholic and since I graduated college 6 months ago, I’ve been working on the site full-time. The phrase 9-to-5 means nothing to me. My work hours are basically from 7 AM to 10 PM, 7 days a week, with the occasional break to go shopping or maybe eat something. Forcing myself to only work for one hour on Christmas was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, business-wise, this year. Crazy, maybe, but I love my job.

How did your love of fashion start?

I’ve always been interested in fashion. I can remember drawing clothing designs everywhere, spending hours coming up with new outfits, and constantly playing dress-up as a kid. As I got older, I began to see clothes as a means of self-expression, and fell in love with the idea of fashion as an art form. Fashion is about more than just an LV monogram on a bag: it’s transformative. Fashion allows you to be whoever you want to be, to express what’s on your mind, or even just escape from the monotony of everyday life. Above all, fashion helps make people feel good about themselves. I think that’s something worth appreciating.

How about your love of journalism?

While I’ve been an avid reader of the New Yorker and the Times since high school, my love of journalism really started when I was in college. I took a bunch of journalism classes after I started CF, and they really made me take my site and my writing more seriously. While I’m not sure I’d say that the topics we cover on College Fashion fall into the category of “serious journalism” (it’s not like we’re saving lives), I still have an immense amount of respect for the field.

What advice do you have for current j-students looking to start a high-impact blog or simply up their Web game?

Do something new or don’t bother. I created College Fashion because there were no sites out there that catered to college girls interested in fashion, and people love it because it’s different other fashion blogs. If you want to be successful, you have to be original. There are a million blogs out there- how will yours be unique? Copying someone else will NEVER lead to success. Everyone will always see you as a wannabe- not exactly a good branding strategy. Sure, it’s easier to take someone else’s idea and pass it off as your own, but if you do, people will either see right through you or simply ignore you. Although it’s more difficult, being original is the way to succeed.

You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?

The future is an open book and I love it that way! But my best guess: I’m living in New York, LA, or possibly Paris. As for what I’m doing? I’m still running my own company, a global media dynasty focusing on multi-channel fashion and lifestyle-related content. My job is non-boring, and I’m loving every minute of it. I have a stay-at-home husband, 2 kids, and an ever-expanding Chanel collection.

5 Responses to “In the Spotlight: College Fashion Founder Zephyr Basine”
  1. Harumi Gondo says:

    Inspiring post. Basine’s personality really shines through in the interview. I liked her comments, “Do something new or don’t bother,” and “I have a stay-at-home husband…” Great read.

  2. Inkit Myway says:

    wear loads of dark and bright colors like orange goes owsum with blue,grey and purple to have a cozy and safer feeling in the season of hot and cold.i’d like to mention Leigh Lezark’s unique style and Erin Wasson to get a cindy crawford feeling and girl olivia and Nicky Hilton are next to mention.

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  1. […] In the Spotlight: College Fashion Founder Zephyr Basine – Dan Reimold interviews a college student who started a blog about college fashion that has become a hit and lead the student to make money off the deal. Pretty sweet, right? Read the interview for more details, and notice some of the keys to making a hobby into a career start. “I created College Fashion in March of 2007 because I loved reading fashion blogs but couldn’t find any that were aimed specifically at college students. All my favorite fashion sites and magazines catered either to middle-aged women or 16 year olds in high school. I started this website to fill that need. It began as a fun hobby but it’s grown into a full time job and then some!” […]