Simona Totaro Interview: Fashion Icon By Way of Italy and LA
“Go in your room, find a bunch of pieces, style, and model them"
“Let’s play a game!” As a six year-old growing up in Lucera, Puglia, Italy, Simona Totaro was surrounded by fashion. Her parents both worked in the industry (the family business is Carolina Di Corso) and her mother would encourage her to play dress up. “Go in your room, find a bunch of pieces, style, and model them,” her mother instructed the child.
“Some people play the piano from the time they were children, but I was playing fashion, and I still am,” Simona Totaro says. Now a fashion blogger and brand manager with over 206,000 followers on her Instagram alone, Simona has worked with major brands such as Sephora, Zalando, and Calvin Klein. Now Simona is back and fourth between Italy and Los Angeles and loving every minute of it.
How long have you been working as an influencer and how did you start working with brands?
ST: I’ve been working as an influencer for about five years. I started as a social media manager for other brands and companies and then I decided to implement what I learned from working with them and start my own blog. I started promoting myself and my blog through Facebook, then my blog, and after that, Instagram.
What is it like living between Italy and Los Angeles?
ST: When I live LA, I’m basically on vacation because I don’t have a visa yet. I do all of my work in Italy and then I come to LA and let the paychecks roll in…
What is the difference between dressing to go out in Italy and dressing for Los Angeles?
ST: There really is a certain freedom in the US to be who you are and wear what you want. And that freedom is priceless. If you are free, you can try new things. Of course, when I get ready to go out, no matter where I am, I question my look. I think most people who take risks with fashion question their style. But if people look at me, I don’t care. Dressing to go out in Los Angeles is about mixing exactly what you like together and pulling it off because of confidence. Sometimes I try to do that in Italy, like wearing Kim Kardashian-style black cycling shorts with high heels and red lips in Milan and you’d be surprised how the people in the city of fashion laughed and judged me. But I was just wearing what I want! Italy’s fashion tends to be more conservative. In the US, people respect you for wearing and doing what you want. Of course, the psychology surrounding fashion in LA isn’t perfect. There are some stupid aspects. For example, the more expensive your handbag is, the more people like you in LA…
What do you like about clubbing in Los Angeles?
ST: The clubs in LA usually finish at 2, which I like because I’ll still be productive the next day. I used to live in front of 1Oak. I’ve been to Skybar, Highlight Room, Avenue, Warwick. I LOVE LA Music and hip-hop. In Italy, you can find pop and R&B, and even good house music. But the hip-hop DJs in Italy aren’t very good at mixing. They’re much better when it comes to house and electronic music. They mix Italian hip-hop with hip-hop from all over the world and I don’t like Italian hip-hop… *Laughs
What are you currently working on?
ST: At the moment I’m still working as a social media manager but I’m mostly working for myself. The key is focusing on making your own brand big. My last contract for my blog and social media was with Zalando. I’m going to be on their website representing Puma and Mango. It’s a good contract. It’s a big deal. Tomorrow I’m doing a flash mob with Sephora in Milan. I’ll be dancing in the middle of the Duomo di Milano, the Cathedral! I was recently at the Sephora in Milan promoting the new store. It just officially opened!
I’ve loved fashion and art since I was a kid. My loves are fashion, art, design, and social media. I plan on fusing all of those things together to make an incredible brand. The brand will start by collaborating with visual artists until I can paint my own art on clothes. My dream is to paint on denim and shirts. I am currently taking art classes but I’m still learning.
What did you study in school?
ST: I graduated in economics and business administration at a school in the middle of Italy, in Pescara. After I graduated, I went to Milan to take a two-year post-grad course in marketing and communication where I specialized in brand management. I started noticing that social media was a huge opportunity. In my country it wasn’t really an opportunity yet I started sending emails to companies in the US, working remotely from the computer—five or six years ago. Then I started my blog, sharing my photos. When I got around 10k followers, brands started contacting me. Two different jobs, in one I put my face and brain and creativity and the other it’s just my creativity and brain.
What are some of your favorite brands that you’ve collaborated with?
ST: I love all of the brands I work with. I never work with brands that I don’t like. But I’ve really enjoyed working with Sephora, Zalando, and Calvin Klein. I was chosen as the top Calvin Klein blogger in 2016. That’s how I won my first trip to New York City.
Obviously, you have an incredible sense of style. What fashion advice can you give our readers?
ST: My suggestion is always to buy quality material. Italians love beautiful materials and materials are so important when it comes to the basic—coats, jeans, pullovers. Don’t get me wrong; I like fast fashion. I like fast fashion because you can try a trend without spending the exorbitant amount of money on the designer piece that started that trend. Try the things you like in Zara, Mango or H&M and if you like the trendy piece, go buy the real thing. Every piece at Zara is a copy of an original design.
How did you learn so much about fashion?
ST: My mom’s family owns a fashion company so I was raised around fashion.
When I was six years old, my mother made me try on clothes. Every Sunday, she would say, “Go in your wardrobe, mix clothes, be a model, and show me.” I grew up with this game, this exercise. My mom taught me how to dress. Sometimes I would wear things that didn’t match and she would say, “Simona, you cannot wear those things together.” As a child, she gave me all of the tips. Some people play the piano from the time they were children, but I was playing fashion, and I still am. And now I’ve found my own way to express myself through fashion.