What Bosses Wear On The Internet’s Frontier
A young editor explains how to dress for success in an industry with no rules.
At only 22 years old, Rita Popova is the ￼editor-in-chief of one of Russia’s buzziest pop culture websites, Look At Me. Focused on technology and “the frontier between our online life and our offline life,” Popova wants Look At Me to be a destination for readers to make sense of a changing world, from driverless cars to digital etiquette. On a given day, Popova can either be running off to exhibitions, managing her team of ten, or interviewing Russia’s biggest tech-heads. Over Skype from her office, she talked about what she wears while she’s doing it all, and what dressing like a boss means to her.
RITA POPOVA: When I was hired, I was told that our publishers had a dress code, but I’m lucky because that dress code never actually worked. Since I’ve had this job—and it’s my first—I’ve never really had a day when I’ve had to just dress strictly following rules. As I’ve changed personally because of my job, my tastes have also changed. Plus, when I started going to the office every day, I got significantly more money to spend on clothes. So I invested in a few decent pairs of shoes, glasses, and some other stuff to look more put-together if I need to.
Russian office style depends on the place you’re working and what you’re doing. If you’re a freelancer or work in a creative industry, maybe you don’t pay much attention to it—it’s your personal style and comfort that matters. People pay more attention to the quality of materials than fads. Getting dressed is not a matter of coolness anymore. You find stuff that you’re passionate about, and that’s what tells someone what person you are. The people I work with wear clothing that fits their personal taste, whether that’s geeky superhero shirts, people who like a more normcore Tumblr aesthetic, or people who are more sporty.
When I dress for work, I try to predict what I’ll be doing all day long. Will I attend some parties? Will I go to dinner with a friend? I can choose something more formal if I have a serious interview with guys in a huge IT company, or something more informal if I’m spending all day in the office. Always, I want to be comfortable. Moscow is a big city, and the transport is a little bit complicated. If I have multiple interviews around the city, there’s a big chance I’m getting into traffic. I’ll have to walk; the weather might change a few times. I guess this is why most Moscow girls wear sneakers: they’re fashionable and they look great, but you can also run around in them.
I want to be comfortable not only in terms of walking long distances but also just being around people. I don’t want to distract them with what I’m wearing, so I have a wardrobe full of easy and understandable things like trousers and dresses. I mostly wear dresses because they’re so convenient and you don’t need a lot of time to manage the whole ensemble. I’ll maybe wear a jacket because dresses do not always have pockets and I have a huge iPhone, which I’m tired of carrying around. I have a pink Kanken backpack and could live on its contents for months. I always have some food in there, some water, another pair of glasses, and my French textbooks because I’m learning French. Accessories-wise, I wear a single gold chain—that’s the one thing I have in common with Drake, a simple gold chain. For beauty, I have two modes: either no makeup at all—only sunscreen and you’re ready to go—or I follow the lead of our beauty editor, who advises to express yourself with makeup, like black for lips. I don’t do that often, but I wish more people in Moscow tried to express themselves with wilder makeup and weirder shapes.
I’m always spilling stuff on myself and getting dirty, so I usually wear black. I try to buy things in other colors, but they just hang there in my closet because they’re too bright. Sometimes I pass through Monki [an H&M offshoot] and think, “All this holographic stuff is so cool. I’m 22—I should wear this stuff.” So I have gold skirts and crop tops in my closet, but I know that’s not me.
I often shop while I travel, at stores like Other Stories. If I can, I find local designers. We do have a lot of great concept stores here, like KM20. If I need a basic T-shirt, I’ll go to Uniqlo. Every girl in Moscow knows that if you need a basic white T-shirt, you never buy it in a women’s department because all the best stuff is in the men’s department.
Look At Me covers technology and modern life. It’s sort of sad, but I think fashion and technology are not really tied up well together these days. In the past few years, some fashion has been wired with tech—there are clothes that glow in the dark or tweet with you. But I don’t really want my sweater to tweet. I can tweet myself. I guess this is why fashion is not really interesting for people today. There are a lot of other things going on: robots, AI, private spaceships. The style icons for young modern people who work in startups are Steve Jobs, who just wore a black turtleneck and New Balances, and Mark Zuckerberg, who just wears a gray T-shirt and jeans. Maybe they understand that personal style is your own private affair.