Hard work pays off. Just ask Ava Coleman.
The 23-year-old started off as an intern at SB Projects, the Los Angeles management company that works with artists such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Karlie Kloss, and five years later is now an artist manager at the firm. She currently manages Tori Kelly and K-pop star CL and was the mastermind behind the Justin Bieber Comedy Central roast.
Coleman, a native of Washington, D.C., who came to Los Angeles to study and obtain her bachelor’s in communications at the University of Southern California, started at SB Projects just before her sophomore year, interning there three days a week and putting in time remotely from school another two days. When she studied abroad in London for a semester, she didn’t stop, continuing to work in the company’s satellite office, returning Stateside to be hired by the firm full-time as she balanced USC night classes with a 9-to-6 day job.
The executive thinks function when she’s getting dressed, mixing Nineties nostalgia with a casual vibe good for the office or for when she’s hanging out with coworkers at Zinqué or Gracias Madre. The outfit she wore when meeting with WWD was a case in point: white leather Converse sneakers, Fenty Puma by Rihanna pants, a $10 vintage T-shirt paying homage to Washington, D.C., and a baseball style jacket. That was accented with an assembly of chunky silver jewelry, bracelets and large hoop earrings sourced from a mix of flea market finds and Melrose Avenue boutiques.
WWD: What’s the office style like?
Ava Coleman: The style’s very relaxed in this office. There aren’t many people that get super fancy, but everyone has a really distinct personal style. We’re lucky to not have an intense dress code or anything like that so we get to all do our own thing.
WWD: Do you have a go-to outfit you turn to for when you have an event or special meeting?
A.C.: I think for the most part, I have a very distinct uniform, which is just bigger, comfier pants, a nice shirt or a graphic T-shirt with a jacket. And then if I’m going to an awards show with one of my artists, I’ll try to do that but [in] black so that I’m staying out of the way and no one’s focused on me. If I’m going to a meeting at a label, I just try to maybe wear a nicer pair of shoes or something I wouldn’t normally have to the office.
WWD: So deconstruct the look you just described — baggy pants, nice top and jacket. What’s the thinking behind putting those pieces together?
A.C.: I am just really into being comfortable at work, which I’m sure you hear a lot. When I started here, I was very much into dresses and I wanted to look super fancy and super professional, but I was a lot younger then and now I’m just thinking, ‘What can I put on that will help me get the job done but will still look like myself?’ So the baggy pants are amazing if you’re sitting at your desk all day because you’re comfortable, but they’re also amazing if I’m running backstage trying to get to each corner of a venue as fast as I can. It’s good to not be constricted by what you’re wearing. The tops are usually just a way to show my personality so today I’m wearing a shirt that says Washington, D.C., because that’s where I’m from — I love wearing Hanson shirts and ’NSync shirts because that’s what I like and it’s a great conversation piece. Then the jacket — it’s pretty much freezing everywhere I go so in this office, in the studio, at venues. Those places are very cold.
WWD: Where do you draw inspiration from in terms of your personal style?
A.C.: My biggest style inspirations are: the rebel from “The Breakfast Club,” Jordan Catalano from “My So Called Life” and Angela Chase. Very Nineties. I wear a lot of plaid. I wear chokers. I do that whole thing. For some reason, that’s really what I’m into now. And then I love people like Rihanna who push the limits and do really crazy stuff that I can’t necessarily do, but I try to fit in some things from mainstream fashion.
WWD: When you compare what you wear to the office versus what you wear in your own free time, is there a distinct difference?
A.C.: There’s a huge overlap between what I wear at work and outside of work. I will essentially wear an outfit that I wore to work out and just put on maybe a different shoe or put more makeup on my face. I’m very casual when I go out now and I’m very casual at work so that works very well for me.
WWD: Where do you shop?
A.C.: For shopping, I’m a Melrose [Avenue] girl and always have been so I used to shop at the smaller stores but now I go to places like Assembly on Melrose to get nicer items. I really like Wasteland on Melrose also. That’s where I get a lot of graphic T-shirts and band Ts. The Great Frog, which is a jewelry store, all the jewelry that I wear everyday, for the most part, I’ve gotten there. It’s just really chunky silver scary skulls and stuff.
WWD: Do you shop at malls?
A.C.: When I first moved to L.A. I was always going to The Grove to shop, but now I don’t really go to malls at all. I like boutiques, one-off kinds of stores, or a row of stores. There’s something about being inside, it’s just a little bit stressful. My perception of malls is people really, really, really want to help you buy stuff and that stresses me out. I’m very opinionated on what I want to buy and I’m not always that receptive to ‘Oh, try these 10 things’ because I have a limited amount of time. I should probably be doing other things instead of shopping, so I’d like to get in there and just get exactly what I want and leave. I feel like smaller stores, from my experience, are much more relaxed. They can tell when you don’t want to be helped.
WWD: Do you do a lot of online shopping?
A.C.: I used to do a lot more. I’ll do sunglasses or things like that online, or things I actually have tried on in a store that I just didn’t buy. But I hate having to return things that I buy online. It’s very stressful for me for some reason to repackage it.
WWD: Are you someone who lays out your outfits the night before?
A.C.: I can’t do that. I wake up and I like to just go with the feeling that I have….I feel like that’s more fun and so unless I have a crazy early meeting or call, I’ll just figure it out when I wake up.
WWD: What was the last item you bought that you were really excited about?
A.C.: I have these joggers from Oak that I wear as much as possible. They’re just the most comfortable things that I own and this jacket — I don’t even know what the brand is. I saw it on Instagram and I just clicked the link ‘I need to buy this.’ It’s all black with one sleeve in yellow and it’s amazing.