In my opinion, Jena Gambaccini is one of the biggest fashion and style bloggers in all of Chicago. This lady has it all together when it comes to brand sponsorships, blog content, and consistency with what she does with her blog. It truly is an honor to have her as this weeks Renowned Woman of Chicago, and to have her on my blog in general!
The Epicurean: Hey Jena! Thanks for taking the time to join me today. Can you tell us who you are? Where you are from? What you do for a living?
Jena: Who am I? Well let’s see. My name is Jena Gambaccini, and I write the blog ChiCityFashion. Besides being a fashion enthusiast, I live to eat (like 90% of my conversations are about food) and I’m also way too obsessed with my dogs and dogs in general. I’m from Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago, and ChiCityFashion is my full-time job.
The Epicurean: You live to eat: I love it! I know exactly what you mean. So tell us a bit about your blog and how ChiCityFashion got its start?
Jena: I’ve had ChiCityFashion since December 2009. I started it in my senior year of college, when I was bored and just feeling uninspired in the middle-of-nowhere-Ohio. After discovering such a fashion presence on social media and sharing some style tips and such on Twitter, I decided to turn it into something more (where I could write more than 140 characters) and that’s how ChiCityFashion began.
The Epicurean: That’s fantastic! So you are kind of a local gal! Do you think that being from the northern suburbs has influenced your sense of fashion and style at all?
Jena: I think just being from the Midwest in general has influenced my style. I really take the weather into consideration when getting dressed for any occasion, which isn’t easy when Chicago is so unpredictable. I think it’s important to have some sort of practicality to your outfit, which people don’t realize is absolutely possible without compromising style.
The Epicurean: Tell me about it! Crazy Chicago weather! Now clearly, you are one of the biggest fashion bloggers in Chicago, if not the country! Did that kind of sneak up on you? Or did you see it coming?
Jena: I didn’t tell anyone I had a blog the first three months I had it because I thought it was a weird and embarrassing thing to do. I didn’t tell my parents, my roommates, not even my boyfriend (who is still my boyfriend to this day). I was basically forced to admit it once I got invited to a show at Fashion Week in February 2010 and I had to explain why I was going to New York for the weekend. If it weren’t for that, who knows if I would have ever told anyone?! But with that said, I absolutely didn’t see it coming. I didn’t even want anyone to know it was me for so long! It’s hard to put yourself out there but when people actually read what you write and enjoy the content, it makes it all well worth it.
The Epicurean: And what would you say has been the biggest contributing factors to the success of your blog?
Jena: I’ve just always been very honest and authentic. I also write how I speak, which I don’t think makes me the best writer, but at least one people can understand and relate to. I want my posts to be like a conversation, rather than me telling people what to do/wear. And I think people appreciate that.
The Epicurean: I pretty much write the same way within the confines of my blog. What do you find is the biggest difficulties when it comes to blogging about fashion?
Jena: Going along with the authenticity thing again, once you start being paid to wear things, write things, sponsor a brand, etc. it becomes more difficult to find that balance of making money to live but also not to “sell out”. I only take on partnerships when I think it makes sense with my brand because I would never want my readers to not believe what I write. You can’t accept every opportunity you’re offered in this industry. My number one priority is maintaining my credibility so my readers continue to enjoy what I create, and I would never want to jeopardize that. Another big difficulty is just producing unique content. When I started, I didn’t know of any Chicago bloggers and I knew of very few fashion bloggers in general (but they were all personal style bloggers, which I am not) so coming up with content that wasn’t already out there was pretty easy. Now, everyone is a blogger so there’s a lot more duplicate content out there so finding a way to make it my own is how I try to overcome that difficulty.
The Epicurean: It’s hard to believe that there was a time when there were very few fashion bloggers in Chicago! Wow. What about difficulties with fashion in general? What do you find those are for you?
Jena: I feel like I have a lot to say about this but I’ll try to keep it brief. The reason I love fashion is because it makes me a more confident person when I’m wearing something that feels like me and expresses my personality. Plus, I appreciate the talent and the hard work these designers put into their collections. I don’t think a lot of people realize how important that is to the core of fashion. With all that’s out there now with fast fashion, bloggers, fashion news websites, the circus that is fashion week, etc. I think we’ve lost sight of that – and I hope we can get back to the true meaning of fashion. People need to realize you don’t have to shop all the time and wear every trend to be stylish. Remember, fashion is what you’re presented with and style is what you make of it. They’re two totally different things and we sometimes have a hard time differentiating the two.
The Epicurean: That is a fantastic observation and explanation of the differences between fashion and style. Amazing. Who are some of your favorite designers and fashion houses?
Jena: My favorite brand is Proenza Schouler. Everything that Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez do I think is just genius. I feel like their clothes are everything I’d ever want to wear, and I don’t feel that way about any other designer. Some other brands I admire include Peter Pilotto, Ashish, Givenchy, Josh Goot, Christopher Kane, Prabal Gurung, and Balenciaga.
The Epicurean: What is the best experience you’ve had so far as a result of ChiCityFashion?
Jena: I went to a few shows at London Fashion Week last year and they were incredible experiences. I have been to New York Fashion Week several times but the London fashion week scene is much more cool and relaxed, which I really enjoyed. I went to Topshop and Burberry, and with both being such iconic British brands (and I’m sort of obsessed with British designers), I felt so honored being there.
Jena: It’s really all about the details and fit for men. A lot of guys cringe at the word “fitted” because they think of “tight” clothes, and it’s not about that at all. Guys can wear anything, and as long as it fits them well, and they’ll look like a million bucks. I’d tell guys to find a good tailor and run with it. Makes all the difference!
Thanks again so much Jena for participating in the series! Make sure to check out Jena’s blog, ChiCityFashion, to read more about her approach to fashion and style.