We can’t remember when we first came across Channing’s social media, but we know we were struck by that smile, those fits, and her cool take on NYC via Channing in the City. A Fashion News Writer for Refinery29, Channing is living out her dreams and repping for Black girls and women in the process. Read our interview with her to hear her thoughts on fashion as social commentary, spaces for WOC in fashion and media, and how to always put your best foot forward through your personal style. You can keep up with her on Twitter & IG via @chan_inthecity.
Tell us a little bit about your background: Who are you and where are you headed?
I’m Channing Hargrove. I’m a fashion news writer based in New York. I work at Refinery29. I’m from Harrisburg, PA. I love fried chicken, champagne, fur, and Diana Ross’s movie Mahogany. I say my prayers on my knees every night and honestly, I can’t call it when it comes to where I’m headed. But know that it will be glamorous. Because like the Sheila E song, I want to lead the glamorous life.
How did you get your start in fashion writing and digital media? Who or what inspired you?
I went to college to study broadcast journalism. I thought I was going to be a news anchor but after my senior year, I interned at iHeart Media (it was Clear Channel back then), helping the web team update the radio station’s websites, which my first taste of writing for the Internet. Fast-forward six months later, I was jobless and fresh off of a breakup. I decided to start a blog, Channing in the City, which I used to get clips to start freelance writing in fashion for whoever would have me. Three years after I started the blog, I landed my first job in New York City as a digital fashion reporter. It’s crazy to think about my life now because I literally was envisioning it after that break-up all those years ago like he’s going to regret this because I’m about to be so popping!
A New York City transplant, talk to us about your decision to move to NYC to pursue your dreams. What have you since learned about the city and its style through your ‘5 Style Lessons’ Series?
That same boyfriend I was just talking about, he bought my first pair of Louboutins (I was sure to buy the second, though!) and he drew me a picture of my legs showing the soles of the shoes as part of the New York City skyline. It meant so much to me because I was so obsessed with Sex and the City at the time, and still am, but something about that picture changed everything. I’ve always wanted to live in New York City but I didn’t know that it was possible for someone like me. Further, once I got serious about the type of writing I wanted to do, I knew I wanted to be where the major players in media are and that’s here in New York City.
I’ll say though, through Five Style Lessons, I’ve learned that your borough, your work, your friends, your commute, all greatly influence your look. It’s really fascinating. That, and everyone is always lugging around a million different things and we’re all looking for the perfect bag to carry it all.
How do you define “personal style?” What can women do to infuse their personal style not only into their clothes/shoes/accessories but their work and way of life? Why is clearly understanding one’s personal style key?
To me, personal style is literally clothing used to define what’s in the inside, outside of your body. It expresses your mood, your thoughts, even your political agenda. Women can infuse their personal style by thinking about what they want to say. Do you only want to wear Black-owned brands and designers? Do you literally want to say who you are with a collection of pins on your jacket or handbag? The way look and present yourself can influence the way you move and are perceived in the world. I think about this article a lot, where a young boy used his style as an air horn for finding not only his place in the world but his tribe. That to me is the beauty of personal style.
Outside of its worth as a trillion dollar industry, why is fashion important in 2018 (and over the course of history)? What do the fashions of an age tell us about society at the time?
Speaking strictly as a Black woman, fashion is important because not only do we set the trends, but we can literally get the attention of huge retailer like H&M to cause a change in the industry. There were no Black women with a seat at their table, but because they want our money after that mess with the sweater, I bet there will be soon. It’s important to be strategic about who gets our dollars. Look at how Fenty Beauty had brands that ignored us racing to show, they, too offered deeper shades. It’s time to put our money where our mouths (tweets, Instagrams, and Snapchats, too) are.
I love fashion because it’s always provided a look at our society. Fashion has always been tied to what’s happening in culture and in some ways, is the best historian, as it provides the best social commentary.
What opportunities do you see for women/women of color/girls like you in digital media around fashion and beauty? How do you intend to positively influence this arena? What message would you give millennial women of color who are trying to break into the space?
All the opportunities! Create your own but also, it’s not unreasonable to demand a seat at the table at mainstream media properties, either. We lead the trends, have the most buying power, and that needs to be reflected. I am really proud to say I am working to create diverse fashion content at work Refinery29, showing other Black girls it is possible to be in the spaces we don’t always feel like we can get into. A word of advice though, I really, really try to answer most of the emails I get, but nothing is more aggravating than someone not doing their research before they reach out. Don’t waste an opportunity by having the person you want to respond thinking you’re lazy because you didn’t do your homework and always, always be nice to everyone! Being nice and writing thank you notes has gotten me everywhere in this industry.
What can we expect from you moving forward? How can we best be of support?
More fashion stories on Refinery29 and regular posts to Channing in the City — one personal essay and one peek inside the closet of a dope Black girl making waves in the fashion industry a week. Hold me to it! And please give me clicks and feedback. I want y’all to want to click what I write but also to feel seen in my words.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want to be known as someone who always supported and fought for Black women’s stories, as they relate to fashion, are told. I also want to set out to prove Black women are glamorous on another level, I still feel like we don’t get our just due there. But most of all, I want to be known as someone who was authentically living in her truth in a good fur who was quick to offer a compliment or a smile and maybe made you laugh.
Just for kicks:
ASATT or Lemonade? Depends on the day, but right now, the first half of Lemonade.
Wang or Balmain? Wang!
Ulta or Sephora? Sephora!