“Fashion is what you buy, style is what you do with it” this is a phrase many fashionistas adhere to as they aim to define what makes them trendy, hip and unique. But for 25-year-old Alka Makwana, effortless chic is just the natural order of things. She’s a style expert for Just Fab UK, and founder of go-to fashion blog alkaofficial.com, which currently boasts over 25,000 followers.
But Alka’s talents don’t end there, she is also a TV presenter and has interviewed stars such as Will Smith, Denzel Washington and Kim and Khloe Kardashian. With such credentials, there’s no denying that Alka is set to fast become an industry favourite.
Alka talks to Nay about her career journey, and offers some helpful advice for those wanting to work in the media or fashion industry.
Alka, tell me about yourself.
I’m 25. I’m TV presenter and a style expert.
What were your passions growing up?
When I was around 7, I started off as a dancer for an Asian channel called Zee TV. Seeing the TV the cameras made me curious. It seemed exciting and fun. The fact that every day would be different appealed to me. I wondered: “How do I get into this industry? What do I do?” When I was 14, and the time came to choose work experience at school, I asked my teacher how to get into the TV industry. She said that I needed to start with internships. So, I spent my summers emailing editors and interning at every magazine I could. It was really fun. I later went on to study media and journalism at university.
The course covered print journalism, online journalism, TV and radio. The variety that the course offered gave me more knowledge of the different areas I could go into. I graduated with a first class honours. Later, I applied for an internship at Vogue.
Wow! Tell me what happened.
I really didn’t expect anything from them. I emailed over my CV only a week before I started working there. I got a reply, saying they were looking to take someone on, and if I minded going to a meeting the next week? I was shocked, as that doesn’t happen often. I didn’t have set my expectations high because, come on, it’s Vogue! I met with the assistant editor and spoke to her about all the internships I’d done before, she seemed impressed and asked me if could start the following week. I was so lucky to get the position!
For my first day, I wore a pencil skirt, a blouse and some heels (I had my flats in my bag!) I think I was a bit overdressed, but I seemed to fit in. The next day I dressed a bit more casual and kept it stylish. Vogue wasn’t anything like The Devil Wears Prada. Everyone was lovely and wore normal clothes! After Vogue, I became a fashion writer for Superstar Magazine. Three months later, I became the editor. Again, it that something I didn’t really expect, I was just working my butt off.
How did the position come up?
The editor was leaving and the director of the magazine said I was doing really well and asked if I wanted to take the position. Of course, I did.
Was it hard work?
I was working working 24/7. Because it’s an online website, I had to create galleries and posts everyday.
So what did you do next?
I went on a presenting course with one of my friends and I really enjoyed it. The course leader and I became friends and kept in touch. He was a presenter for an Asian channel as well as an actor and director. He asked me to interview him on the red carpet for one of his premieres. His director from his TV show spotted me and said he'd love for me to audition for a presenting role at Sony TV. Two weeks later he called saying I’d got the position. I became a freelance presenter for the station. Every Friday at 7pm, I had my own half an hour TV show called Snapshot. It was about fashion, entertainment and included celebrity interviews. I also presented hour-long specials. It was really good, but I still wanted more.
How did you make the transition from Superstar Magazine to Sony to what you’re doing now?
I loved writing and I loved presenting. But it was a busy time because I was doing two things at once. I needed to drop something. I asked myself the questions: “Where do I go? What do I do? What’s my passion?” I wanted to continue presenting and I loved fashion. Superstar Mag and I mutually separated as I realised it was time to move on. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity from Superstar Mag as it gave me a real insight and platform into seeing how the entertainment business works. I later launched my website alkaofficial.com. It’s all about enabling people to look and feel fabulous with whatever budget they have. I tell the ladies about the latest trends in fashion and how to style and put outfits together in a way where you don’t have to spend money. I help people get the latest celebrity look on a budget by searching out alternatives. I also cover men’s style, as not many people know about it. Many guys dress to impress the girls, so I think it’s better for style advice come a girl sometimes!
People say the fashion industry is materialistic and is just about “looking good”. What it’s really about?
I love fashion so much because everyone is different and has a special quality that makes them unique. Fashion is all about experimenting with different looks. You can re-create yourself just by wearing a different outfit. One day you can be sheek and glam, the next day you can be tomboy. Fashion is all about creativity.
You’re also a UK style expert for online boutique Just Fab UK. How did you bag that?
I love the brand and everything about it. I went to a Just Fab event and saw two style experts showing off the latest looks. Again, I thought to myself: “I’d really love to do that! Let me see how I can take this forward”.
I had a meeting with the PR team, told them what I had done in the past and that I wanted to become a style expert. Four weeks later I got an email saying they’d love for me to jump on board. I love my role. I do stylist picks of the month, which includes shoes, handbags and jewellery. Just Fab is a brilliant brand. It’s not super expensive and caters to everybody. You have to be relatable when working in fashion, that’s how you get an audience. If you wear Dior and Chanel every day, you’re only going to be relatable to the higher class and they’re the minority.
Speaking of being relatable, you were approached by Google to become an online stylist for Google Helpouts. Your list of credentials is never ending! Tell me about this role?
I’m having a ball. People can schedule an appointment with me to receive fashion advice. Whether it’s a heads up on what the latest trends are or what to wear and how to wear it. I recently took part in a conference call from London to Miami. Google asked me to provide my Google Helpout tips at the conference. I was one of two people in the whole world they chose in terms of fashion. It was amazing.
Do you ever get told no How do you face rejection?
“No” is a word I don’t use. All the successful people you see have had “no’s” and setbacks but they’ve kicked them to the curb and gone for their dreams. I don’t take no for an answer, I just keep going. It’s the only way to get where you want and do what you love. You have to not care what people think because you’re the one that’s doing it. Not them.
You work independently on so many things as well as building your own brand, how are you getting by as a young entrepreneur?
It is risky because everything comes down to me. If I don’t work, or get a freelancing project, then I get no income. It’s very pressurised in that sense but it’s not a 9-5, I can manage my own time and that gives me a bit more freedom. I still have restrictions though.
How do manage your workload? What tips and advice would you give to someone running a blog or website?
Time management is so important. Make sure you’re working on things that are super important first, and then focus on the rest. If you’re working for yourself and don’t have a diary, you’ll be lost. My diary is the best thing ever, I write down what I need to do by a certain time. I love lists, so at the end of each day I write for the following day and tick it off. I also have weekly targets. You need to be very target driven.
With fashion blogging on the rise, the industry is becoming more competitive. How would you advise people to stand out from the crowd?
Do something different. Don’t be like everyone else because there are 1 million other people doing the same things. You need to have a USP (Unique Selling Point). Why should people go to your website? What is it about you? I have something different to other style experts because I help people who may not necessarily have the money for looking fabulous. Someone might have £1000 or £10 whatever they have, I can work with it.
What’s the best thing about your work?
I love making people feel good, look good, and be happier. I recently did a Google Helpout session with a girl in Miami. She had a prom coming up and didn’t know what to wear. She said that nobody was giving her advice and that I was her last help. I gave her tips on what to wear, and how to wear it. She was really thankful and left me a really nice review saying: “Alka was really easy to speak to, super helpful and I’d recommend her to anybody”. If you’re a style expert and you’re not helping anybody with what you do, then it doesn’t make sense. It’s good to give back.
So what’s next for you?
I'm still a freelance presenter and a stylist. But I’m moving on from Asian TV to experiment in other areas. This year I’m focused on British mainstream media. There are lots of things coming up and it’s all very exciting. I can’t wait to share it with everyone soon!
Any advice for Out The Box readers currently in pursuit of their dream?
Never ever give up. Don’t let anything phase you. Every industry is tough, but don’t take no for an answer or let it keep you from your goal. If you have the determination, and the passion that I have for fashion, you will make it.
Find/Follow Alka at
Also, you can find Superstar Magazine at: http://www.superstarmagazine.com/