As the former Executive Fashion Director @ British Vogue turned Founder of GlamCam, I'm here to talk fashion and tech – Calgary AvansinoFeatured

Hi Elphas! I’m Calgary Avansino, CEO and Co-founder of GlamCam – where we’re redefining social commerce in the beauty ecosystem - think of us as “Twitch for Beauty” Before starting Glamcam, I was Executive Fashion Director & Digital Projects Director @ British Vogue, as well as a Health & Wellbeing Columnist for The Sunday Times in London. I’m also the author of “Keep It Real" and mom to three awesome kids! I’m here to answer any of your questions about building a startup, the intersection of fashion/beauty and technology, building a digital brand, my time at Vogue, balancing motherhood and career, or anything else!
Thank you so much for joining us, Calgary!Calgary may not have time to answer every question, so upvote the ones you'd most like her to answer.
I'm curious -- as someone who is in fashion and tech, is there a go-to work outfit/brand that you turn to in order to look put-together but also comfy at a moment's notice?
This is a really interesting question because obviously fashion is a very important part of my life. It's how I and many people express themselves and show their creativity. So moving to the tech world where I wouldn't say that fashion or that creative spirit is really high on many people's lists, I absolutely was not going to let it go down on my list. I think fashion and expression is good for the soul. So when I started working in tech, I decided I wasn't going to start dressing any differently. My sister works in finance and at the very beginning, I thought about borrowing her suits to wear when I'd go to pitch or go to meet VCs. And then I thought, no, I'm just going to be myself. I'm going to wear what I want. I'm going to dress how I feel most confident and empowered. I think it's really important to stick to that. Although I'm sure sometimes people raise their eyebrows when I come in with three different prints on and a headband and whatever else I have going on that day but who cares! I have so many British designers and American young designers that I love it's hard to narrow it down. But I will say I am all about a DRESS! The ease of a bright, colorful dress, or a printed dress. You don't have to make the decision about skirt and top and, and which blazer goes with it when you're really in a rush and you haven't planned out what you're going to wear or you don't have a moment. I have three kids, so in the morning if I don't get up early enough to give myself that little bit of extra time to get dressed and do my makeup, then it's a dress on quickly, a little Mascara and bright lipstick. Then I feel empowered to take on the day and always, always fun shoes. I think even if you're wearing a plain black dress, every day wear some shoes that make you feel great and sparkly and give you that little extra kick. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't know about the comfy element. You feel most comfortable when you feel good about yourself and what you're wearing, so wear what makes your heart sing.
Calgary, thank you so much for the detailed reply! Your thoughts echo mine — as someone in medicine, I’m expected to dress a certain way, but I definitely prefer dresses and accessories that to some may appear over-the-top (i.e. two different prints and huge earrings and a red moto jacket) but to me feel natural and empowering. 🌹
The brief description of your product that I found is really on point. I've stop buying so many beauty products b/c they've all been attempts at finding the go to item that works for me. I love seeing new stories of women and the different career paths they've gone through.
This is really interesting. This something we focus on a lot. We think about what motivates you to buy a product, what makes you authentically believe that someone is telling you something that's going to work for you. I think we put a lot of importance on that sort of tribal element of discovery, and how we want to connect with other women that have the same ethnicity, age, demographic, work, lifestyle, and how we like to look, and how we like to use makeup and play with makeup. We want to learn those things from other people who share the same interests or the same ethos as we do. If you're super into vegan makeup and passionate about vegan makeup, you only want to learn from other people who are passionate about that. If you have certain skin issue, if you have Rosacea, you want to learn from people who have rosacea and what truly worked for them. So I think that's the real power in what we're trying to create. It's little micro communities around things that you care about, that you believe in, that you've experienced, and how that can help people, steer them in the right decisions about what to buy. I think we're moving away from heavy influencer add based transaction because people are wanting more authenticity. We need to feel like we're connecting peer to peer with people where we really understand where they're coming from and also believe in what they're telling us. That's the future of how people want to shop. I know it's how I want to shop. And most of the women that I talk to want to feel a connection to another woman and want to share the information that they have and help each other feel more empowered, and creative and beautiful every day.
What made you switch your career from working for a big publication like British Vogue to starting your own? What was that transition like and what was the biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
I was ready for something new that really challenged me. I had worked at British Vogue for 16 years and I really believe the only way to grow and improve ourselves professionally and personally is to really step out of our comfort zone and do something that scares us, that's different, that really pushes us. I absolutely am finding that in my new job that there are lots of things that I didn't know how to do, that I am having to learn every single day. It might be terrifying at times because it pushes me in ways that you I'm not accustomed to being pushed. But that's where growth happens and that's where we become better overall as a working person and just as a person. I'm super excited about the challenges that are presented to me now that maybe weren't in a job that I had done for a while and that I felt really confident and comfortable in. It might make us feel uneasy but its not a bad thing to feel uncomfortable and pushed and challenged. I would say one of the hardest transitions for me was learning to makes changes quickly, being very agile and quickly responded to things that weren't working. I worked somewhere where the mentality was this is how things are done and this is really worked well for a long time and we should stick with it. And now I'm in an environment where if something's not working, something's not clicking, something's not creating the growth that we want, switch it up, try something new immediately. Don't wait. Don't trust that gut instinct and say, okay, this doesn't seem like it's going the right way, let's change it quickly. And that just doesn't happen in a larger environment because it can't, there's a lot of people, there's a lot of rules and regulations, and that's the beauty of working where you can swiftly change in lots of different directions with really exciting potential.
The other day, I was listening to this story told by Joan Juliet Buck, the first and last American editor of French Vogue:, and it was so fascinating. What's the most memorable moment from your time at British Vogue? I hope it didn't involve ghosts. :)
That's a tough one. There's lots of memorable moments, some that I can share here and some that I probably shouldn't :) I started as, Alexandra Shulman's, the editor's assistant when I was 24 years old. And I probably learned the most in that job of any job that I've ever had. I was navigating every element of the magazine with her. Everything from the editorial and the fashion to the photographers, to the advertising side, to dealing with the brands and the designers, and staff and just running the team. I learned so much from her about being a leader and how to balance everything. We put on these amazing Vogue Festivals every year where all the BEST and BIGGEST designers would come as speakers - it was phenomenal experience for people to come and really feel Vogue in real life. But backstage in the green room was obviously where all the fun happened. We had everyone from Valentino and Tom Ford to Stella McCartney and Naomi Campbell to name a few - all the greats of fashion and it was really fun to see them interacting in a very natural, authentic way. To see how nervous they were before going on stage and just that human element that people don't get to see with these big, amazing, talented people who are just people who struggle with the same things we all do before we are speaking publicly or sharing our stories. That is a wonderful memory to really see the human side of these talents who are so often put on a pedestal, and rightly so they're hugely talented, but they're also just people at heart who want to connect and also give a great performance for the people that are coming to see them.
I have two questions:1) What were the most effective channels/tactics that helped grow the user base of your app?​2) As a working mom, what would you say was your biggest challenge when you had your first child?​​
To quickly introduce myself, I'm the founder of ModaResa (, the 'Doctolib' for B2B fashion. We've been in private beta with Balmain and launched now officially with additional brands.My question is linked to your time at British Vogue - we're currently digging into the lack of efficiencies on the press side in fashion. As an ex fashion director, was the scheduling of your fashion weeks as archaic as they are for buyers? What challenges and inefficiencies did you particularly encounter during that position?
There's so much to talk about here. I can talk to you offline too if you want to go into more detail, but I think that you're absolutely right. It's been done a certain way for a very long time. There are some new businesses and apps that are trying to disrupt the buying schedule a bit and allow that to be done with more digital content, which I think will be super helpful and also broaden the exposure that young brands can have, because buyers cannot go and see every single showroom in Paris or Milan or New York or London. It's just impossible.And on the press side I always laughed when people said, "oh, it's so glamorous going to all the fashion shows". And absolutely it is, I'm not denying that. It's amazing to go and witness all the talent and the creativity, but it's not like a celebrity who's getting their hair and makeup done and going to two shows a day. You're going to 10 shows a day and trying to fit in showroom appointments, so you can see young designers, seeing actual designers that you want to meet one on one. It's a very, very intense grueling schedule that doesn't allow for a lot of wiggle room. And I think the ones who lose out are really the young designers who don't yet have the funding or the backing to have a catwalk show or even have a proper big showroom. I think that's something that needs to be addressed. It's also very expensive for the magazines to send people to shows. As budgets get tighter, I think that that's inevitably an issue. If you don't have a full team going out who can tackle lots of different elements of the show schedule, things are missed. So yes, more of it needs to be virtual, more of it needs to be accessible to everyone. I think that will benefit both the big designers and smaller designers who don't yet really have a stake. I think the other interesting thing is that designers are making huge commercial collections alongside the show collections that they're creating. At the shows you're being inspired. You're seeing their story and the drama that they're trying to create and that's very important. But from a press side, it's also important to know what people are actually going to be buying. We need to know if the skirt looks like this on the runway, but it's actually going to look some other way when it hits Neiman Marcus or Barney's. There are few companies I've met with that are working on this who want to make it more egalitarian, so that more people around the world have access to the amazing talents that are showing in force in the main four fashion cities.
Hi Calgary! I used to work in magazines, too -- I was at Cosmopolitan US. Curious to know your thoughts about being a founder with a media/editorial background. How have you used it to your advantage? Was it challenging to transition into the CEO of a tech company? I'd love to do the same one day.
I have a natural beauty haircare startup ( in which I am in 10 stores in Manhattan, NY and in Queens NY. We donate a part of our proceeds to to help conserve nature for future generations. We are also getting into glass bottles to help conserve nature. Do you have any suggestions how to scale up in the beauty world?
As a wellness/beauty journalist and consultant to women entrepreneurs, I'd be delighted to know: what's been the most challenging (and/or rewarding!) lesson you've learned while navigating the industry and do you have any advice to current journalists?Additionally, as SF becomes a booming fashion-tech hub, how are you fostering inclusion within your start-up and within spaces in the Bay that have traditionally disregarded the non-wealthy/white.
Hi Calgary! My name is Emi and I am the founder of iME Cosmetics, a race and gender inclusive Korean made beauty brand. Interestingly enough I was on the set of Korean Vogue when I got the idea for my company! I am interested in product development. What was the first iteration of Glamcam? Did you do a MVP and what was the response?
Hi Calgary, my name is Mai Elamin and I'm a UI/UX undergraduate student. I'm currently working on a project on invisible borders in regards to unconscious bias towards black in or entering the tech industry. I would really appreciate the chance to hear your views. You can see what I have done so far here:
I used to work for Vogue too (but in Taiwan), and was fortunate enough to meet the digital team when I was there for global conference back in 2013/2014:)
I'm becoming the public 'face of the brand' of the company I cofounded. Do you have tips, examples or reliable resources of best practices for developing that role? I've usually been a behind the scenes, GSD type.
Have you considered adding virtual makeup try-on AR to your app as an additional way for your users to play? My name is Atima, and I'm a beauty tech entrepreneur in NYC that's built digital skin-tone-matching technology and makeup try-on augmented reality. I'd love to chat about it!
Hi Atima! This is something I'm interested in at the moment! Would love to chat about it - I run Soda Says, a lifestyle brand for new tech innovations. We launched Smart beauty recently and are seeing a lot of interesting products in this space. Also around AR makeup for gamers. Based in NYC if you want to meet up to chat??
Hi everyone! Office hours are now over. Calgary was kind enough to help us with an experiment this week with video replies. We'd love to know what you think of this format. Thanks!