After editorial stints at Vanity Fair and Elle, Alia Ahmed-Yahia was tapped to be the fashion director of LOFT in late 2008. Since then, she's been busy revamping the brand, bringing in a cache of stylists to work with the collections and expanding LOFT's social-media reach. (She's also courting the celebrity set: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Alexa Chung, Mena Suvari, and Amanda Hearst all checked out the brand's fall preview this month.) She says, "It's a 360 degree job" that includes snapping street-style pictures for concept boards, styling the collections, and conceptualizing window displays. This spring, she helped launch LOFT's new Tumblr site (featuring guest blogger Jessica Schroeder of What I Wore), as well as coordinating the brand's blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feed. We chatted with the West Village local about her shoe addiction, styling, and DIY fashion.
What's the idea behind LOFT's new Style Studio?
We brought in three stylists — Kate Young, Tina Chai, and Joanna Blades — to arrange looks from the fall 2010 collection. It was about bringing in a diverse group of women to the table to mix the pieces in different ways. Every woman has style; some are just more fashion-confident than others.
Who are your favorite designers?
Well, I'm never mad at Balenciaga. I love YSL, especially the accessories, and my guilty pleasure is Azzedine Alaïa shoes. My friends say I have two speeds: running shoes or five-inch heels.
What's the first designer item you bought?
It was a Prada sweater, and I wore it to death. I must have gotten the price down to a penny a day. Then I passed it on to my little sister.
Where do you like to shop in New York?
I'm a fashion nomad. I shop at a lot of flea markets, like the Chelsea flea. I love Resurrection. And New World Order is a very cool store in the East Village. The guy who started it used to live in Paris, and he has these French style scouts.
How would you describe your personal style?
Colorful, creative, and experimental. I'm very DIY. I've been known to spray paint a watch or cut the sleeves off a vintage fur coat and wear them as leg warmers. I have a typically tiny New York closet, and some of my best style inspiration comes from having to hang things on the same hanger to save space — it's a forced strategy.
What trends are you appreciating right now?
I've gotten really into slim cargos. I also like mixing patterns, like classic stripes with a leopard-fur vest.
Any trends you're ready to see retired?
Ditzy florals and prairie skirts. I can't handle that — it's too literal.
What's one item you're saving up to buy?
I run past the Louboutin store every day, and there's always a new pair of shoes that I covet. There's this amazing pair that has spikes all over the heel. They're definitely dinner shoes, but I would probably wear them on the subway. When I like something, I wear it to death, then I never want to see it again. Luckily, I'm the oldest of seven kids, so I have a lot of siblings to pass things on to.
What should every woman have in her closet?
I think the feminine cropped jacket is the new cardigan. I love the look of a structured shape over a soft flowing dress.
What's something you never leave the house without?
My BlackBerry is my best friend. I'm always taking pictures of people on the street, and I e-mail ideas to myself a lot.