By Dominic Curran
Name: Aimee Cho
Occupation: Writer & Editor at The New Jock
Hometown: Warren, NJ
Current Neighborhood: Financial District
School: Brown University
It was a busy morning at Cafe Select in Soho, where Aimee Cho and I met. It was also pouring with rain, but despite the weather, she arrived as fashionably as was to be expected. A former Vogue writer and the owner of Gryphon NY, she is now the co-founder of The New Jock, an online publication that takes a look at characters in fitness today, Aimee has been connected to the fashion world in some way or another throughout her career. However, she didn’t set out with this career through line in mind; she studied Religion at Brown University and began her pursuit into writing and fashion only after school, taking a job at Vogue as a personal assistant to the iconic Anna Wintour.
Now, after the career at Vogue, Gryphon, and working on her current fashion line 1.61, and The New Jock, we asked Aimee for a little help in pursuing such a varied, and successful career.
Starting off with Brown: you studied religion. How did that come about?
“I think that college education has a tendency to be very indulgent in terms of exploring curiosities that I didn’t think I’d have time to explore in any other period of my life. I spent most of my high school career being very focused on getting into college. As the child of immigrants, you know, that was the goal. It was almost like there was nothing beyond that college entrance- it was just get into an Ivy League school, and then… what?
I had a little bit of a crisis of identity in my freshman year of college, wondering, what do I do now? I’d achieved this goal that had been set for me, but now I was lost. So I started taking as many different kinds of classes as I could. I took an Econ class, a Religion class, I took a history class, just to try to get out of my comfort zone. But religion is just so fascinating. It touches on so many aspects of life, in terms of culture or lifestyle or history, and war, and art… it just felt like a way to learn about the world—and to learn about people—that tapped into something that I didn’t personally understand. I myself am an atheist so it was just this fascinating discovery of this immense thing that has made the world go ‘round.
And how did you make the transition into journalism?
I wasn’t really doing journalism before college, or during. I just wanted to be a writer. Writing was always something that I did; I always kept journals when I was younger and I always imagined that whatever job I had would have some aspect of writing to it. So, when I left college I just applied to every publishing house that I knew of, cold calling, sending my resume to any common app that I could find. And actually through a family friend, I met Cindi Leive who is now Editor in Chief of Glamour, who was at Self, and she was very helpful in referring me to Conde Nast who finally agreed to interview me.
I was so young, just getting out of college, and didn’t really have any clips aside from high school. So I started as a personal assistant to the Editor in Chief [at Vogue], just as an entry point. Which was an amazing experience. I always loved fashion, but never really considered pursuing fashion as a career, and that was probably the most amazing education that I ever had. To have a front row seat to the inner workings of one of the most successful people I’ve ever personally come into contact with for two and a half years, was amazing. I learned so much about how to be a businesswoman, to be a good manager, to be decisive, and a lot about fashion, which is what led me into my next career which was at Gryphon.
I have to ask. The Devil Wears Prada. Was it really like that? How did you stay balanced, and stay calm, in such a stressful position?
It was stressful. A very fast paced environment, everybody you come into contact with there is at the highest point in their career, so they have very high expectations, and you’re expected to meet them. But the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ didn’t come out until I’d already been working for Anna for quite a bit, maybe like a year into working there. I never had that preconception that people now who apply for that job, after the film, have. She was a human to me, as opposed to an idea. But the job itself is sink or swim. Even though they don’t put you in a position to sink or swim, which is a position I’ve been in in other jobs. If you do succeed, there are so many benefits, and people stay there for years afterwards. And there’s a group of people who all came out of that, who I’ve had the opportunity to work with and collaborate with, like a nice alumni network of supportive friends.
How did you get into Gryphon?
I definitely fell into that. I like to think of it as the hubris of the naive, you know after working in what I believed was fashion for six years I thought, oh yeah I can do that. And I didn’t think of it as fashion design because Gryphon was a very specific set of parameters- it was the trench coat, which is that classic archetype of fashion, that I was just kind of manipulating in different ways. So I didn’t think of it as fashion design, it was just like styling, the manipulation of an idea. And it was the hardest thing I’ve done. To go from the side of fashion I was in, into the garment industry, I had no clue how any of that went at all. I thought I did, but it’s just a completely different business than what I’d been working in, and everything I’d learnt about fashion was just turned on its head. I was like, oh, I shouldn’t really be considering who was going to be photographing this, I should be thinking of what store is going to want this, and which one of their customers is actually going to be purchasing it at the end of the day? To think about that design as a commodity, instead of a design, was a big shift to me. It sounds obvious- clothing is a commodity, a big business, but I hadn’t thought of it that way until I opened a business.
Looking at Gryphon, it seemed like you experienced a good amount of success with some of your clientele. Was there ever a point where you thought, I’ve done it?
I feel like the garment industry has so many highs and lows, that for every success you have a massive failure, and it happens so fast it never occurs to you to celebrate the victories. My partner in 1.61, which is the line I’m in now, when something good happens we’re like “We have to celebrate this!” During Gryphon, it was such a steep learning curve, even when things happened that I was happy about there was always some crisis on the horizon that I had to deal with, or a fire I was trying to put out, that I never really reveled in that.
What led you to start The New Jock?
My partner, Stephanie, at the New Jock, worked with me at Vogue. I was in the process of closing Gryphon and starting my new line, 1.61, and Stephanie was in the process of closing her clothing line and we found that a lot of the time we spent together was exercising. In our 20’s, we’d get together to have dinner, and lots of wine, but in our 30’s we were doing boxing, and pilates, and going for runs. Stephanie found exercise before I did, she’s an avid runner and has run several marathons, I was more of a recreational gym goer. But as we started working out together more we discovered that that was the one hour of peace, away from business, being a business, owner, production cycles, any family stress. And at the same time we were noticing a trend with the fashion people that we knew, in that people were getting more fitness oriented. The more people knew that we were interested in fitness, they wanted to talk about their interest in fitness, and we were fascinated by that and the ways in which it had become so important to each person in their own ways. We just like the storytelling of it, and that it was something that hasn’t been told in beautiful ways. You know, there are stylized fitness shoots, and stylized athleisure shoots, and gritty, raw shoots. All of these are beautiful, but we wanted something in the middle; finding the beauty in the motion while still allowing people to feel attractive. The most important thing is expressing the emotion- what that activity means to these people. With the way media is now, with such a short attention span, we wanted to find out what was driving people.
The thing I hope people take away from the New Jock is the storytelling. We’ve chosen a very specific avenue of storytelling, but ultimately it’s about being inspired by a person’s journey. What we do is different from most of the fitness information out there- it’s not about losing weight, or having a better body. It’s about combining the physicality, and the emotional, and about what that means for each person. A lot of people are finding peace, and love, and release through physical output.
And what’s your favorite form of exercise?
I used to enjoy Flywheel, for the efficiency of it; it’s a 45 minute class and you come out of it exhausted and exhilarated. But after Flywheel, I discovered boxing. I started boxing at Mendez Boxing Gym, and that’s when the idea of the New Jock really clicked. The idea of combining sport, and athleticism, and learning a new skill, was a revelation. At my age, at 41, when do you actually learn a new skill, without it being born out of necessity. I had to learn being a mom out of necessity, but boxing was something I chose to learn, and it was exciting, to learn that my body could pick up something new. I’m a terrible boxer, but I see progress, and it’s really fun.
What do you think of the term, ‘networking’?
I feel like leaving Vogue helped avoid the ‘just networking’ crowd, people who aren’t looking for genuine connections. There’s a marked difference in how people act when they meet you for the first time and they go ‘you work at Vogue’, and then after you’ve left Vogue, when all of a sudden they might not find you as rewarding and interesting as before. So in terms of that, I think that helped divide the wheat from the chaff. But as with every industry in New York, so much of it depends on who you know, and how visible you are. I don’t necessarily mean that in a social media way, but in a personal way; if people like you, then they want to see you succeed.
How did what you learned at college play a part in shaping your career?
I don’t think the content of what I studied necessarily shaped my career, but I think Brown really shaped me as a person. The people who I met there, who are still my closest friends, and the way that school is run, they allow you a lot of freedom at a very young age. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing, and it wasn’t a great fit for me. I don’t think I succeeded at Brown. I felt successful with high school, and then in my post college career. But I feel like now there’s a lot of talk about failure, about how failure teaches you the most valuable life lessons. And for me, Brown was that, and I’m glad I was humbled at such a young age, and that just because I was young and smart and ambitious didn’t mean that I would automatically succeed. That helped me succeed.
What advice would you give to your 22-year old self?
I don’t think I would give advice to myself. You learn things for a reason and that shapes who you are. I’m very happy with who I am today. All those experiences I went through, from 22 to now, helped me to get to this place.
And what would you say the best piece of advice you ever received was?
Always show up. And be on time. I always try and be 5 minutes early, which is something I definitely learned from Anna Wintour.
What’s your worst roommate experience?
I’ve never had a bad roommate experience. In college, I had the usual random roommate selection, and I lucked out and had a great roommate. I then lived with my friends, and met my husband after college- he was my neighbor. And he’s been my roommate ever since. I’m very lucky to have always have lived with my best friends.
Have any of your roommates affected your career?
I met Cindi, the editor at Glamour, through my husband (who’s been my roommate for 20 odd years) so I guess you could say that counts.
Is there a theme you could use to identify your professional life?
That’s the same as the best advice I ever received. Keep your eyes open to any opportunity. Sometimes the best opportunities present themselves in not-so obvious ways. Vogue definitely taught me that—how to take advantage of opportunities in positive ways, like watching people thrive at what they do. I met my first business partner that way—just through conversations with people you meet in your career, and ideas being generated. That was an opportunity that came about through being open minded and presenting yourself in the best possible light.
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