On a fast track to becoming a fashion tycoon, 17 year-old Willie Greene is the Founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of WeTheUrban, one of the largest growing fashion blogs on Tumblr. This online publication is dedicated to being a "one-stop daily news source for internet fashion savvy enthusiasts", encompassing all things culture, including fashion, music, photography and art to design. We got the chance to pick the wunderkind's brain, check out what he had to say...
In just two years, Willie has released four online issues that have featured celebrities like the Zombie Boy, Kreayshawn, Mac Miller, and much more. These online issues are just the beginning for Willie. His future plans include collaborations with artists and designers and even a record label.
Operating out of North Carolina, Willie has been called the Anna Wintour of our generation. With each issue of WeTheUrban, Willie's personal involvement are overwhelmingly evident seen through his editorial outlines and his "Letter From The Editor." At only 17, age ain't nothing but a number. Willie is extremely passionate about his magazine and might even be able to teach Interview 's new staffer Naomi Campbell a thing or two.
You're publication began September 2009. Where and how did you get your start?
Well it all started with my good friend Aly Silverio of Jawbreaking Jewelry. She had been designing and selling her own handmade jewelry for a while and the success of her company inspired me to create a business of my own. I started out with Wordpress and Blogger, but there was no creative comparison to Tumblr. For a little over a year WeTheUrban was just an ever-growing Tumblr blog, but in January of 2011 I decided that the only way to really grow WeTheUrban was to turn it into a publication. I've always loved magazines and a challenge, so it was the perfect fit. I wanted to create something different from any other magazine I had seen. Something specifically tailored to what I personally would like to pick up and read if I was a magazine lover searching for a new read. Fast forward to now, WeTheUrban Magazine has had over 5 million page views and over half a million readers within it's first four issues! Crazy.
You've developed an eclectic taste for fashion, music, and art where did your inspiration come from? Magazines? Websites? Fashion Icons?
99% of my inspiration comes right from my Tumblr dashboard and fashion editorials. Most of the time I'll see an editorial imagine and love the way the models hair is positioned or I'll get inspired by the most miniscule aspect of a photo and build off of that to create my own editorial concepts. That happens a lot when I watch Youtube videos as well. There must be thousands of inspiration images I've saved and screen capped on my computer!
What publications are your "go to" reads?
Definitely in love with i-D, Nylon, and V Magazine.
Can you explain a little bit about the team behind We The Urban? I'm assuming you're still school, so how do operate on such a large scale?
Oh boy, this has probably been the hardest aspect in keeping WeTheUrban afloat. The first issue of the publication, I wrote every single article myself, conducted every interview, and coordinated with the graphic designer non-stop 24/7 through email and text to get it all done. I've since hired a small handful of writers and I still work with the same designer, but that's all about to change this year. Within the next few months WeTheUrban should have a new elite staff of contributors and it's first Fashion Editor. Aside from that, I handle every inch of WTU - including every blog post you see on the site. It's a lot, but when you love what you do it doesn't even feel like work.
What's your overarching goal for We The Urban? Do you plan on staying an online publication or would you branch out to print?
I want to be the Nicki Minaj of magazines. Collaborating and curating with everything and everyone! My two ultimate dreams would be to collaborate on a limited edition pair of sunglasses with the Italian brand SUPER! (already have the concepts in mind) and to collaborate on a crew neck and t-shirt line with Opening Ceremony (I've got that concept down as well). I also see a shop in the near future and possibly even a record label. The sky is the limit! We actually just got picked up by a distributor, so this next issue will indeed be printed! WeTheUrban is still definitely going to have more digital options as I'm working on an App and a few other things to keep this digital zine interesting.
What's your overarching goal for yourself? Should we be expecting to see a fashion line in the future?
That would be to just wake up 10 years from now loving what I'm doing. As long as I'm creating, I'm happy. As for a fashion line, i'll never say never!
If you could model your career after anyone, who would it be?
Karl Lagerfeld for sure. He's a successful visionary that gets to do what he loves in more facets than just one and he does it very damn well.
Do you have any plans for NYC Spring Fashion Week?
By that time I should be freshly moved into the city, so I'm hoping to attend some more shows/events and enjoy the hustle and bustle that is FASHION! I'm planning to head to London for LFW this year as well.
What's your biggest pet peeve?
Lack of integrity.
Being an editor probably doesn't warrant any free time; however, in the event you do, how do you spend it?
I'm still a teenager haha! I love going shopping, going to parties, the movies, etc. But believe it or not, I do love working! If I'm not constantly doing something to better my brand, I feel like I'm wasting valuable time.
You've been called the Anna Wintour of our generation, do you have any advice for people trying to break in to this industry?
Don't be lazy and don't be easily discouraged. This industry can be vicious, so be confident and always keep your head up. This industry is very small as well - don't get caught up in it for the wrong reasons. If your true passion is fashion and you're just starting out, remember that Rome wasn't built in a day and always do your research.