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Media Beat

How Elle‘s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)


In his over 20 years in the fashion business, Elle creative director Joe Zee has worked for such titles as Details and Allure and styled advertising campaigns for companies like Gap and DKNY. And, in our Media Beat interview, the Toronto native and star of Sundance Channel’s All On the Line with Joe Zee was very clear about how he got to the top.

One: he worked for people he could learn from, namely legendary fashion stylist and editor Polly Mellen. (“She taught me what it was like to have a passion for something.”)

And, two, he worked his butt off. “I won’t put stock in people who tell me they wanna work in fashion, because they wanna be glamorous. They wanna be famous. They wanna be well known,” he said. “If you wanna be those things, wrong business.”

Part 1: Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for Sundance Channel
Part 2: Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does

How Elle’s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)


In his over 20 years in the fashion business, Elle creative director Joe Zee has worked for such titles as Details and Allure and styled advertising campaigns for companies like Gap and DKNY. And, in our Media Beat interview, the Toronto native and star of Sundance Channel’s All On the Line with Joe Zee was very clear about how he got to the top.

One: he worked for people he could learn from, namely legendary fashion stylist and editor Polly Mellen. (“She taught me what it was like to have a passion for something.”)

And, two, he worked his butt off. “I won’t put stock in people who tell me they wanna work in fashion, because they wanna be glamorous. They wanna be famous. They wanna be well known,” he said. “If you wanna be those things, wrong business.”

Part 1: Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for Sundance Channel
Part 2: Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does

Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does


As creative director for Elle, Joe Zee describes his as an “interesting, sort of nebulous title.”

“I work with all the visuals from cover to cover, so when you read the magazine, whether it’s the model, the celebrity, the styling, the fashion, the photography, all those things come into my play,” Zee explained in our Media Beat interview. “It’s really sort of helping to define a visual signature for the magazine.”

And @mrjoezee gets pummeled with questions daily from women trying to mimic the seemingly effortless style of their favorite celebs. The number one question he gets? No, not that white pants after Labor Day thing — seriously, are we still discussing that?

“I think the biggest question I get all the time is people want my job. How do I do what you do?” said Zee. “I love my job, and it definitely is glamorous after all these years. But there was a lot of years of no glamour to get to that point.”

Part 1: Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for Sundance Channel
Part 3: How Elle‘s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)

Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does


As creative director for Elle, Joe Zee describes his as an “interesting, sort of nebulous title.”

“I work with all the visuals from cover to cover, so when you read the magazine, whether it’s the model, the celebrity, the styling, the fashion, the photography, all those things come into my play,” Zee explained in our Media Beat interview. “It’s really sort of helping to define a visual signature for the magazine.”

And @mrjoezee gets pummeled with questions daily from women trying to mimic the seemingly effortless style of their favorite celebs. The number one question he gets? No, not that white pants after Labor Day thing — seriously, are we still discussing that?

“I think the biggest question I get all the time is people want my job. How do I do what you do?” said Zee. “I love my job, and it definitely is glamorous after all these years. But there was a lot of years of no glamour to get to that point.”

Part 1: Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for Sundance Channel
Part 3: How Elle‘s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)

Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for Sundance Channel


In All on the Line with Joe Zee, Elle creative director Joe Zee helps struggling fashion designers save their businesses. And, although reality shows come a dime a dozen these days, Zee says the decision to step in front of the camera for Sundance Channel was not taken lightly.

“I loved the idea of being able to do this, but it was important to me that it be authentic. It was important to me that it be original, and that it would be genuine, and that I could actually come in there and help people,” Zee said in our Media Beat interview.

And he says that the many sides of his personality you see in the show are the real deal.

“The reality is we do what we do, because I am authentic in that position. I don’t do it because of the cameras. I don’t do it for any heightened drama. I do it because I really believe in it. If I’m mad at you, I’m really mad at you and, if I’m really excited about you, I’m really excited about you. And those moments exist with or without what’s going on. So, I think my reality TV experience is the fact that I can be myself.”

Part 2: Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does
Part 3: How Elle‘s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)

Elle‘s Joe Zee Puts It All on the Line for L.A. Fashion

For two seasons of Sundance Channel‘s All on the Line with Joe Zee, Elle creative director Joe Zee was part mentor, part professor and part psychologist for struggling fashion designers. But, for Season 3, Zee said it was time to shake things up a bit.

“We had done seasons one and two in New York, and not that it’s tapped out, but it’s time to sort of really grow what the series can be about,” he explained in our Media Beat interview. “And I think West Coast fashion has really sort of evolved in terms of what the importance of it has been in the past few years. And also this is the world I live in. The celebrity culture in America is huge and only getting bigger, and what someone wears on the red carpet, on television, or in the media can ultimately change a struggling designer’s business.”

So, how much does Zee’s on-screen persona align with the real thing? All of it, he says.

“The reality is we do what we do, because I am authentic in that position. I don’t do it because of the cameras. I don’t do it for any heightened drama. I do it because I really believe in it.”

Part 2: Elle‘s Joe Zee Reveals Exactly What a Magazine Creative Director Does
Part 3: How Elle‘s Joe Zee Broke Into Fashion (and How You Can Too)

Translation’s Steve Stoute Talks Jay-Z and Branding the Brooklyn Nets

Alas, our Media Beat conversation with Translation founder/CEO Steve Stoute has drawn to a close. In our third and final installment, the executive reflects on his early days in the music industry, in which he got his start “where everybody gets their start…in the shower.” Of course, the one-on-one with Stoute wouldn’t be complete without touching on his 15-year relationship with Jay-Z, which includes not only Translation collaboration and music fests such as Made in America, but most recently the logo, ticket and in-game design for the Brooklyn Nets. Regarding working with New York’s newest sports franchise, Stoute says, “How many times in your lifetime are you gonna get a chance to work on a sports team moving into a city from the ground up,” adding, “I take [the Nets project] very seriously…to make sure it’s perfect.”

This and all MediabistroTV productions can also be viewed on our YouTube Channel.

Part I | Monday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Winning Bud Light: ‘A Sign That the Agency Had Grown Up’

Part II | Tuesday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Mary J. Blige, Popchips and Advertising Stereotypes

Translation’s Steve Stoute Talks Jay-Z and Branding the Brooklyn Nets

Alas, our Media Beat conversation with Translation founder/CEO Steve Stoute has drawn to a close. In our third and final installment, the executive reflects on his early days in the music industry, in which he got his start “where everybody gets their start…in the shower.” Of course, the one-on-one with Stoute wouldn’t be complete without touching on his 15-year relationship with Jay-Z, which includes not only Translation collaboration and music fests such as Made in America, but most recently the logo, ticket and in-game design for the Brooklyn Nets. Regarding working with New York’s newest sports franchise, Stoute says, “How many times in your lifetime are you gonna get a chance to work on a sports team moving into a city from the ground up,” adding, “I take [the Nets project] very seriously…to make sure it’s perfect.”

This and all MediabistroTV productions can also be viewed on our YouTube Channel.

Part I | Monday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Winning Bud Light: ‘A Sign That the Agency Had Grown Up’

Part II | Tuesday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Mary J. Blige, Popchips and Advertising Stereotypes

Steve Stoute Talks Mary J. Blige, Ashton Kutcher Controversies

And so, our conversation with Translation founder/CEO Steve Stoute continues. In Part II of our Media Beat interview with the advertising exec, the prevailing topic is stereotypes in marketing as Stoute touches on the controversial Mary J. Blige Burger King commercial (the fallout of which later “crushed” the singer) as well as Ashton Kutcher‘s Popchips ad that was subsequently pulled. Aside from stating that we’re all becoming a little too sensitive nowadays, Stoute suggests that perhaps next time, BK should have Mary J. “sell a salad.”

This and all MediabistroTV productions can also be viewed on our YouTube Channel. Be sure to check out Part III of our chat with Stoute tomorrow.

Part I | Monday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Winning Bud Light: ‘A Sign That the Agency Had Grown Up’

Translation Chief Steve Stoute Talks Mary J. Blige, Ashton Kutcher Controversies

And so, our conversation with Translation founder/CEO Steve Stoute continues. In Part II of our Media Beat interview with the advertising exec, the prevailing topic is stereotypes in marketing as Stoute touches on the controversial Mary J. Blige Burger King commercial (the fallout of which later “crushed” the singer) as well as Ashton Kutcher‘s Popchips ad that was subsequently pulled. Aside from saying that we’re all perhaps a little too sensitive nowadays, Stoute suggests that next time, BK should have Mary J. “sell a salad.”

This and all MediabistroTV productions can also be viewed on our YouTube Channel. Be sure to check out Part III of our chat with Stoute tomorrow.

Part I | Monday: Translation’s Steve Stoute on Winning Bud Light: ‘A Sign That the Agency Had Grown Up’

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