This fall, Marie Claire magazine held a nationwide search—Marie Claire's Front Row Challenge—for the smartest, most stylish and socially connected young woman currently gracing a college campus. The magazine would go on to pick four finalists—one of which is U.T.'s very own Diya Liu—from different universities to be flown to New York City for a fast-paced, two-day high-fashion bootcamp where they'd each begin to plan their own fall fashion show with the help of Marie Claire senior fashion editors. (As in, the same editors you see guest judging Project Runway and sitting on the front rows of every Fashion Week around the globe. No pressure!)
Tonight is Liu's show at The Mohawk. Interestingly, Lui is studying both Chemical Engineering and Biochemistry—not the Textiles and Apparel major you'd expect. She found her way to the fashion world via both her eye for style and through her personal blog, In Her Stilettos, which grew fierce legs all its own, and quickly became a favorite of young fashionistas everywhere. Since 2010, she's been featured as a "blogger to watch" on Teen Vogue, Glamour and Chictopia's websites and is somehow miraculously still on track to graduate on time from U.T. this December—with honors.
In anticipation of the event, we talked to Diya about her sources of inspiration, her advice for girls following in her footsteps and her expectations for tonight's event... and the future.
How do you think U.T. fashion measures up to the other participants (UPenn, Delaware, Alabama) in the Front Row College Challenge?
I don't want to jinx us, but we are the only campus that got signed models to walk and awarded professional hair and make-up teams to provide the finishing touches. So, I hope we leave a good impression upon the Marie Claire editors!
Where do you see yourself living after college? What city's style inspires you most and why?
I love Austin so I can definitely see myself continue to thrive here, but I also am tempted by San Francisco's energy. In terms of style, I'm most inspired by any city that isn't heavily influenced by the runway trends but more by urban culture. My current favorites include Stockholm, London, San Francisco and, of course, Austin. I would document Austin street style more often if I had more time to lug around my DSLR.
Who is your style role model?
"Role model" is a strong word, but I always love Patricia Field's and Lori Goldstein's work. In terms of personal style, I love Elena Perminova, Taylor Tomasi Hill and Joanna Hillman.
What tips would you give to girls your age trying to find their own style?
Pay attention to what fits well to your particular frame/figure. Have fun and don't over-think fashion. Don't dress for your critics but dress for yourself.
What trends have you been wearing this fall?
Jewel tones! The return of color in general after seasons of black, then white then various tones of beige. It's a well-known fact that my signature color is teal/turquoise, and I'm taking full advantage of the abundance of blues in stores this season. I also am loving polka dots, stripes and velvet.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, how do you recommend surviving Texas summer heat and still looking stylish?
Lots of sweat-proof sunblock, water, sunglasses and a healthy stash of denim cut-offs or sundresses. Sunburn is not attractive nor stylish.
Any favorite blogs that we should check out for style inspiration?
I read over 100 blogs and my favorites change all the time. Currently they are StreetFSN, Stockholm Street Style, Tommy Ton (Jak&Jil) for Style.com, Vanessa Jackman, Love Aesthetics, Song of Style, Late Afternoon and Atlantic Pacific. I also enjoy the old favorites that everyone knows and loves.
What else can we look forward to seeing you do in the style community?
I'm not sure. I'll definitely keep updating my blog and perhaps come out with a few collaborations with photographers. I've had to turn down quite a few past opportunities due to lack of time, but after my December graduation, I'll be open to all suggestions!