Whether owning retail stores or designing statement necklaces, Duke alumni have cut a swath through the style world. We sought out some and asked a few questions tailored just for them.
Whitney Robinson ’08, Founder of Freshly Given, a company that turns scrap leather into purses
If you had to pick a Duke-related style icon, whom would you pick? My husband (E. Charles Robinson III ’08), because he has such a minimalist style and is pretty much confident in everything he has on.
What is your most memorable outfit? Believe it or not, I have a pair of high-waisted gold disco pants that scream the ’70s—definitely one of my favorite decades!
What fashion item do you own and treasure? I have a Kelly-green and sage checked suit circa the ’50s, when suits for women were well-constructed. My mother bought it for me years ago from Dolly’s Vintage (located in downtown Durham). I’ve only worn it once, but it’s an inspiring piece and a showstopper.
Ibtihaj Muhammad ’07, Founder of a modest clothing company, Louella
What’s your essential fashion item? A great bag never goes out of style.
What is your most memorable outfit? I love formal events where you get really dressed up. My most memorable outfit would definitely be an ornate lace gown I wore to a White House gala. I felt like a queen!
If you had to pick a Duke-related style item, what would you pick? My most treasured piece of Duke clothing is definitely my letterman (varsity) jacket. I love how timeless and versatile it is, and I can easily pair it with a white tee and boyfriend jeans.
Devika Srimal M.B.A. ’15, Founder of Kanabis, a non-leather shoe company
If you had to pick a Duke-related style icon, whom would you pick? Style to me is more about confidence, power, and comfort. By that measure, I would pick Andrea Hyde ’87, CEO of Draper James. She is successfully running a fashion-and-lifestyle brand, which is really inspiring for earlystage entrepreneurs like me.
What fashion item do you own and treasure? A pair of Kanabis wedges. I started the brand, and to wear something you create feels great. The delicate play of lace and straps on these wedges makes them an elegant day or evening wear, and white is one of my favorites!
Aslaug Magnusdottir LL.M. ’98, Cofounder of Moda Operandi, which allows users to preorder designer collections from the runway
What’s your essential fashion item? A great handbag is a fast and easy way to elevate any look. You can quickly add some evening glam with a sparkly clutch or edge to your work attire with a well-constructed daytime bag. My favorite bag is a black Birkin that was hand-painted by artist/designer John Brevard.
What is your most memorable outfit? My most memorable outfit was the one I wore to the Met Gala in 2013. Moda Operandi was the sponsor of the gala that year, and the theme was punk. I wore a black dress that was customdesigned by my friend Yvan Mispelaere, who at the time was creative director of Diane von Furstenberg and is now on Phoebe Philo’s team at Celine. The dress was hand-embroidered with hundreds of safety pins to fit into the punk theme. Another friend, Bianca Pratt, made my jewelry—most notably a hand bracelet with the word “bullocks” spelled out in black diamonds.
Shivam Punjya M.S. ’13, Founder of high-end fashion company Behno, where designers get health care and earn two-and-a-half times the minimum wage in India
What’s your essential fashion item? A crisp and clean white poplin shirt. Nothing makes me feel more alive than buttoning it up to my neck.
Who’s your style icon? Anyone who doesn’t have a style icon. They’re usually innovators and reactionaries, but embracing fashion on their own terms, in their own way, in their own world. And that’s beautiful.
What fashion item do you own and treasure? Fashion’s fleeting, but I treasure a few pieces that my maternal grandfather gave me from his closet— a mohair cardigan, YSL blazer from the ’80s, and his silk and wool-blend scarves. They all have his musky, floral scent woven into them. The scent never escapes, and I feel like he’s always next to me.
Heidi Zak ’00, Cofounder of ThirdLove, a lingerie company that uses technology for a better fit
Who’s your style icon? Kate Middleton. I prefer shopping for investment pieces, high-quality staples that will last—from a Burberry trench coat to the perfect LBD (little black dress).
What is your most memorable outfit? When ThirdLove announced our last fundraising round, I did a few live on-air TV segments. That day, I wore a Diane von Furstenberg dress, black tights, and black suede ankle boots, my idea of a power suit. The outfit made me feel comfortable and confident.
What fashion item do you own and treasure? I would have to say the diamond earrings my parents gave me, which I will eventually pass on to my own daughter. Besides my engagement ring, they’re the one piece of jewelry I value the most. They’re classic, go with everything and are baby-proof, which means, I can wear them every day of the work week and the weekend.
Randy Alonso ’06, Founder of Lost Boys Dry Goods, a denim store in Miami
If you had to pick a Duke-related style icon, whom would you pick? Umm, probably Shane Battier ’01. No one can make a charge more stylish than Shane, and there’s just something about Dukies in Miami Heat jerseys.
What is your most memorable outfit? You mean other than every outfit I wore to tailgate? My most memorable outfits are the ones that I cringe at now; that time I wore an Ed Hardy shirt, or the really pointy Italian shoes, or when I thought it was so cool to wear my polo with a popped collar…
What fashion item do you own and treasure? Hand-me-downs. As the youngest of four boys, I grew up unwillingly inheriting each of my older brothers’ outfits. At the time, I despised it and only wanted my own, fresh clothing. I eventually matured and realized the character, depth, and individuality that come with a secondhand garment. Now, my most cherished items are from my dad’s closet. Not only are they made with a rare level of quality and cannot be duplicated, but they also add a degree of nostalgia and remembrance that gives what I wear meaning and a story.
Elizabeth Fortunato ’06, Founder, with her sister Kathryn Fortunato ’06, of Lizzie Fortunato jewelry and handbag company
What’s your essential fashion item? The perfect tailored blazer. It’s a classic piece that goes with everything. It can be worn with jeans or over a cocktail dress. My favorite is the boyfriend blazer by The Row, but I also love J.Crew and Jenni Kayne for great blazers.
If you had to pick a Duke-related style icon, whom would you pick? Booth Moore ’94. The former fashion editor of the L.A. Times has interviewed everyone in fashion and appreciates a good accessory. She gravitates toward statement jewelry (which buys my favor) and has what I think to be flawless taste!
What fashion item do you own and treasure? A gold bracelet of my mom’s and an incredible horn and sterling-silver bracelet that belonged to my mom’s mom. The former I wear every day—it’s classic and chic and reminds me of my mom. The latter I rarely wear because it’s so special, but it’s really exotic and stunning and totally embodies the woman it belonged to.
More Fashionable Dukies: David Lauren ’93, executive vice president of advertising, marketing, and corporate communications at Ralph Lauren; Marisa Moss M.B.A. ’03, founder of Mine for Nine, a company that rents designer maternity clothes; Danielle James ’06, former buyer for Macy’s, founder of Model Citizen, a peer-to-peer social platform where women can shop each others’ closets.