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“The 4 mistakes that made influencer Danielle Bernstein successful”
“The industry was not an industry,” she tells The Post. So the Long Island native had to make up her career as she went along. What started as a fun hobby documenting the outfits of her classmates at FIT quickly ballooned into a full-time career that now includes her own fashion line, named for her site.
Her path to success wasn’t perfect, however. She made some hard mistakes that cost her money and time.
“It’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and you grow from them,” Bernstein, 27, says. She chronicles many of them in her new book, “This Is Not a Fashion Story: Taking Chances, Breaking Rules, and Being a Boss in the Big City” (Vertel Publishing).
Here, the bona fide fashion influencer — who has more than 2.4 million Instagram followers — outlines how she corrected her flubs.
1. She was altering her photos too much
“I grew obsessed with photo-editing tools that I could use to make my thighs a little thinner or my arms a little more sculpted,” Bernstein writes. That was partly fueled, according to the book, by her quickly growing following and a disapproving boyfriend. “Between the exposure and a slew of drama-filled relationships, I started to feel like the real me wasn’t good enough.”
Once that romance ended, she started seeing a life coach and a personal trainer, who helped Bernstein change her habits, question her past behavior and make better choices for the future.
That led to the decision in late 2018 to use “fewer [photo] filters, [and show] more transparency.”
“I’ve always been outwardly confident, but it helped me to become a more secure person,” she says of seeking support for her emotional and physical health. “I have no shame in asking for help.”
2. She moved to the sticks
Bernstein grew up on Long Island. But as a teenager, she decided to make a big leap: Rather than applying to attend school in her favorite place in the world, New York City, she opted to attend the University of Wisconsin.
“I knew I was always going to end up in New York City, [and] I wanted to take the one opportunity I had to live somewhere else,” she says.
She left after a year and high-tailed it to Manhattan. Even though most of her freshman-year credits didn’t transfer and she had to essentially start all over, Bernstein enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology, located right in the Garment District and counting designers Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and Nanette Lepore as alumni.
3. And then she started skipping classes
At FIT, Bernstein began taking and posting photos of other students’ outfits, as well as her own. Her blog took off and she soon gained attention from retailers like Macy’s, Shopbop and Topshop. Soon, she was skipping classes to attend meetings with fashion brands and invigorate her content.
“I wanted to focus on my blog, but it was taking so much of my time,” says Bernstein. “If I really wanted to pursue it as a career, I was going to have to dedicate more time than I had the ability to because of school.”
But that would mean winning over her businessman father — whom she’d already had to convince to let her change schools.
So Bernstein donned a suit and made an appointment with him at his office to present her detailed proposal.
“I knew that if I wanted to be taken seriously, I had to present myself in a professional way,” she says.
He agreed to her plan of putting school on hold, and she never went back.
“I was feeling like I was ready to grow up; I was ready to start my career,” she says. “Starting my career so early has allowed me to become as successful as I [am].”
In 2017, at age 25, Bernstein made Forbes’ coveted 30 Under 30 list.
4. She got fleeced because of her naiveté
Bernstein launched her first shoe collection in 2015, but it almost didn’t happen.
“I trusted a business partner that I didn’t do my due diligence with,” Bernstein says.
She had partnered with a made-to-order shoe company. It was her first foray into designing, and it was a quick hit, with the first release selling out in a week. But the second and third runs had issues: The material quality declined and customers started complaining.
Her partner at the shoe company was cutting corners by moving production from Italy to China and wasn’t being upfront about the costs or sales information. She shut down her shoe line and never received further payment from the partner.
“I was really young and I didn’t know how to have contracts and agreements that really protected me,” she writes.
Now, she’s fully involved in the process of everything she puts her name on.
The one thing Bernstein didn’t want to talk about, however, were the 2018 accusations by fashion watchdogs Diet Prada that her jewelry line for Nordstrom looked too similar to work by other designers.
One of those designers, Foundrae, followed up in an Instagram post: “Tonight I feel crushed. Danielle came to my house over a year ago to see our jewelry and we let her borrow pieces several times. How is it not personal when you let a person into your home, let them wear your pieces, and then she knocks it off??”
At the time, Bernstein wrote in an Instagram Sotry: “I would never in a million years deliberately copy or attempt to knock off another brand’s work … My pieces are different from those saying I stole their designs. My goal has and always will be to bring quality product at an affordable price point to my followers and I will not be deterred by anyone.”
Still, Nordstrom did end up pulling the questionable pieces.
Today, Bernstein says that “all mistakes are learning ones.”
Her WeWoreWhat brand includes a denim line, swimwear, accessories and more, which she models and sells on her Instagram account, as well as at her own site and through retailers like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
She’s also the CEO of MOE, a workflow-tool platform for influencers.
“Everything I do is an educated decision. As much as [my choices] are a leap of faith there’s still a lot of reasoning behind them,” Bernstein says. “If I’m passionate enough about something, I know that I can succeed in it, because it means I’m going to try my hardest.”
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