'I grew up in Boston. My mom’s a shrink, and my dad was an orthodontist—I had no frame of reference of how to get a job in fashion other than kids I went to high school with who had jobs at Gap. When I was little, I used to dress up my younger, very-pretty-for-a-boy brother. Then I got really into mall shopping—all my money was going to clothes because that’s what I was into. It was also the ‘80s, which was a shame. [Laughs] My father was pretty supportive of it, but my mother is a complete hippie chick. She wears mumus and Birkenstocks and paper mache jewelry. She has that quirky art-teacher vibe to her look. My whole childhood, she'd tell me thinks like, ‘You don’t need to do that,’ ‘You don’t need to shave your legs,’ ‘You don’t need to wear a bra’...she didn't really let me wear makeup either. But surprisingly, I'm a lot like her now in that regard.
I was at Vogue for forever in a great job. My path there was sort of funny—when I was a senior in college, I noticed a sign in the career center that said Condé Nast was coming to campus to interview for interns. So I applied for an interview—you had to apply for the interview spots—even though I was looking for a more full time job. So after the interview, I didn’t hear from them. Then I got a call back from their HR department saying that there was a freelance job opportunity at Mademoiselle, which is now defunct. It was a six-month traveling road show through their ad team that functioned as a merchandising program. We traveled to 25 college campuses across the country and hosted fashion shows featuring students at each school. We'd paper the campus with flyers, I'd emcee the show, then we'd be back on the road to the next stop. It was a really interesting experience. And when I got back, I got hired at Vogue. HR was like ‘We put her through the ringer—hire her.’
First I was on the ad side, and then I moved over to the editorial side to work as an assistant in Fashion and Accessories. That's when we started laying the groundwork for the CFDA Fashion Fund. I had always worked with the young designer market, but at that point, it wasn't a particularly thrilling market. The bread and butter of Vogue were these major advertiser brands, so that's where you wanted to be. And then suddenly Zac Posen came around, and there was this change in energy around what young talent could be. For 10 years, I was a sort of camp counselor to all the designers as they went through the process. And then my last years there, I was Fashion Director of Vogue.com before it had its own staff. We were already so busy, but I saw it as an opportunity to work in a different kind of medium and meet different kinds of people. I’m really glad I did because pretty much a good portion of what we do with brands is now in digital.
One of my favorite stories from that time was back when we were still doing something called Fashion Rocks—we would do a supplement to the issue and then an event. It was when Will & Grace and Debra Messing were a really big deal. So she was the host and Naomi Campbell was flying in at the very last minute to do her thing. She was so late, and I had a hard time finding her and ended up having to dress her backstage at the show in a janitor’s closet! And I was like ‘I’m really sorry,’ and she said ‘Just dress me.’ [Laughs] Buck naked, just took off her clothes...and I’m like, ‘Look out for that mop!’ She went out there, not a hair out of place, and I was like, ‘Oh God, that’s a pro.’
So I did that thing for 10 years and had a really great time, but I left just over a year ago with a colleague of mine, Valerie Boster, to start our own company called La Marque. It’s a creative consultancy—basically applying a lot of what we learned at the magazine about compelling storytelling and applying it to the brand side. We’ve worked on projects with everyone from heritage brands like Tiffany, Carolina Herrera, and Ferragamo to younger up-and-comers like Shop Latitude and Smythe Coats. And it’s everything from social media to event planning to personal styling. We’re working with a couple people for the Met ball, which is coming up, so look out for that.
The thing about Vogue is women there, like senior stylists and Grace, don’t wear any makeup. Their style is so pared down. Even Anna—she's got a bit more flair and color, but she still has eight dresses that she rotates through with signature necklaces and shoes. My personal style goes between super New England classic—I have 15 variations of a fisherman’s knit sweater. The Row will do one, Carven will do one, and J.Crew will do one...I have them all—and jeans. I’m a sweater and jeans girl, through and through. But then, I also really love ‘70s vintage, and I have a lot of hippie dresses, which is probably again my mother’s style influence coming through in a different way. Vintage YSL from the ‘70s, just that floaty quality—I love a big sleeve and that kind of look.
I have a daughter, a son, and I'm six months pregnant right now. Then we’ve got two dogs, so we have a full house. Motherhood certainly cuts into your time. It’s made me streamline my routine, for sure. I used to have a big bin full of makeup—a couple of different bronzers and things like that. Now it's about figuring out what your favorite is and only using that. It's also made me much more aware of skincare. Your skin can get dry, your hair can get dry...a lot of it is about more focus on things that aren't immediately noticeable, but are things that you're working toward improving.
I don’t think I started using proper cleanser until I turned 30. I was a soap and water kind of girl, until one of my friends who’s a dermatologist was like, ‘You’ve got to get a cleanser.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh I have to buy beauty products now?' I only wanted to spend money on clothes—and products can get expensive! But since then, I started cleansing every morning and night with my Clarisonic. I like cleansers that are milkier as opposed to foamier. Vichy Puréte Thermal 3-in-1 Cleansing Solutionis a nice drugstore brand that I use. Recently I got the most amazing facial from Tammy Fender in Palm Beach, and I've been using her stuff ever since. It's all plant-based and natural, which I like. Before, I was using Plum Organic Beauty products. I love Caudalie Beauty Elixir throughout the day. There’s that, and I also use rosewater. It’s just not a practical application. I need to buy a spray bottle. You have to pump it and then splash it.
Some nights if my husbands away, I’ll just have a really greasy face before going to bed. Without all that stuff, I’m dry. Even the woman who threads my eyebrows is like, ‘You’re dry.’ The Tammy Fender Quintessential Serum is great. And since I went to Morocco, I started using argan oil, too. Then I’ve been using tea tree oil on my mosquito bites.
It's terrible, but I love how I look with a tan. I think it’s the Ban de Soleil, but I also use St. Tropez Tanning Essentials Self Tan Bronzing Spray to compromise. I wear less makeup when I'm tan, but I know real tanning isn't good for me, so I wear Lancaster Velvet Touch Cream SPF 30 and use their After Sun Intense moisturizer, too.
I hardly wear any makeup—I'm not crazy about how it feels. But I still use Giorgio Armani Lasting Silk UV Foundation in 6. It's good because my skin can look so green in the winter without it. Sometimes I even mix it in with some argan oil when I'm feeling dry. I really don't like powders, so I use a lot of liquid or creamy formulas. Benetint and Tarte Cheek Stain in Flush are always in my kit. The Nars Multiple in Orgasm is good for a little higher up on the face. I feel really confident applying the Touche Éclat without a mirror—I don't have to check in a mirror if it's cakey or not, so I put it around the corners of my nose and the just below the brow.
Then I have a lot of different bronzers—it's that tan thing! The Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in 00 is the best, but I just tried Aerin's Bronze Illuminating Powder and really like that, too. My concealer is my old Cle de Peau—I'm obsessed with it. I also curl my eyelashes because they're long. Sometimes I don’t even put on mascara, I just curl them to help wake me up. I had a Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, but I lost it, so I picked up a Tweezerman one before I left for vacation. And then, the only mascara I've ever liked is Lancôme Öscillation Intensity. I don’t know if it’s the bristles or what, but it goes on so light and that’s all I want, so that one makes me happy. It’s not thickening at all.
My hair is naturally curly, and I was super low-maintenance about it until it went out of style. Now that it’s long and I’ve had a couple of kids, the curl's more pulled out, but when I was young and people were getting perms, I felt really lucky to have naturally curly hair, and I would diffuse it or mousse it a little. I stopped that when I got to Vogue—I felt disheveled there with curly hair...just a little too messy. But I always liked having the option of wearing it either way.
Jonathan Dirt Texturizing Paste is my favorite hair product—it smells great. And then, most everything else for my hair is drugstore. I love Pantene. Sometimes I have Color Preserve, sometimes I have Daily Moisture Renewal, but it doesn't really matter. They’re just labels. My colorist, Kyle White at Oscar Blandi, showed me this It's a 10 Miracle Leave In Product. It takes the frizz out and gives my hair texture, so it doesn’t get frizzy. Then I like this Bumble and bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil—anything anti-frizz. The Frederic Fekkai Glossing Brilliant Crème is also good if I do happen to blow dry and need to take care of flyaways. And because I’m blonde, I can get away with using dry shampoo more, so I can make a blowout last for days.”
—as told to ITG
Meredith Melling photographed by Tom Newton in her home in New York on March 31, 2015. Read more of The Top Shelf here.