Doria Santlofer
Free Work

BEST Treat: NYC #1s List


Doria and I have been friends since Lucky Magazine was in print. Then wild childs of the City and now slightly-less-wild hippies who watch Grace & Frankie (very true-to-life of our friendship roles), I’ve always been inspired by her old soul way of navigating flashy trends and life hurdles alike.

In our sophomore Friends of BEST, I pick her brain on whats hott right now, but also on what makes a free job worth it? In a time where paid creative work is often (read: most of the time) dictated by what the client likes, taking or collaborating on (unpaid) projects is where we find our sweet spot. Doria tells all in this Q&A: equal parts informative and fun-to-read. Let’s listen. Alison

You’re cute. When did you “get into fashion”?

You’re cute, too! My grandfather was a dressmaker in New York during the 1950s and 60s and my grandmother was very into clothes and fashion. I played dress up with her for so much of my childhood - she’s tiny and has a size 5 shoe so when I was a kid, we were around the same size. My mother wasn’t really into fashion, but she loved antiques. She collected Victorian jewelry and pottery. For her it was about the hunt, searching flea markets for a specific turquoise McCoy vase and working with jewelry dealers to find Victorian pieces. I love shopping for vintage and finding something special.


So, what exactly do you do here?

I follow the trends each season and closely watch what’s new in the market. For editorial shoots, I’ll conceptualize fashion concepts from the beginning with the magazine and photographer, then I pull (borrow) samples from showrooms and brands. For advertising shoots, it varies on the client, but often I’ll put together wardrobe moodboards to give a sense of the overall vibe and then I shop or rent clothing for the shoot.


Christy Turlington: photo by Carissa Gallo


What is your current coveted piece?*


And This. 


Who has been your favorite person to dress?

I love working with non models, or “real people” as we sometimes say. There’s a fantasy element to a photoshoot and I find that people are the most engaged when they get to play a different version of themselves via fashion. Dressing the writer Chris Kraus for Violet Book last year is one of my favorites - she trusted me to tell a story with the clothes and she genuinely had fun embodying a character for the pictures.


We have noticed you are very good at conversing with talent and clients alike. What’s your secret for staying in a good mood and coming up with small talk?

I love the social vibe on shoots and I truly enjoy collaborating. I’m interested in people so I tend to ask a lot of questions and like to hear people’s stories - I’ve met some of my best friends on set. I try to stay in a good mood by getting enough sleep before a shoot day and remembering that ultimately we are making pictures intended to inspire people. I actually don’t think I’m great at small talk and I’ll usually try to connect with someone on more personal level. If all else fails, you can always chat about the catering.


When you’re not “on set,” describe your perfect off day.

Well, usually if I’m not on set, I’m prepping a job, which can mean running around to appointments or working on moodboards and requests at my computer. I’m freelance so every minute counts. But my perfect non-work day would probably involve a long walk, a yoga class, seeing art and dinner with friends. And the Turkish Russian bathhouse! Sweat cures all.


Where do you get inspiration? Is it all visual?

Movies, music, books, art, food, friends. I guess those are all fairly standard issue. I do really love walking - walking around New York you see so much cool style and architecture and weirdness. Walking also clears my head and helps me relax. I love LA, but I’m such a diehard pedestrian that NY will always win.




Are all the jobs you do paid?

Most of the independent magazines don’t pay, you do them to build your portfolio and create work that gets you advertising work. I also always try to have personal projects that I’m working that aren’t for magazines or clients - I am in the midst of one now that I’m really excited about. It keeps you busy in slower work times and it’s really just so important as a creative person to make something that isn’t dictated by anyone else.


What are the qualities of a good pro-bono job?

Good exposure or an important message, interesting talent, a strong creative team, and of course some creative freedom. When you’re doing something for your book it should be to shoot something or someone you’re genuinely interested in. Or it should be because you want to try something new creatively and experiment.


Give an example of something great that has come from saying yes to working for free.

Most of my advertising clients hire me because they see my personal work or editorial shoots and that’s how I make my income.  I’ve also met people on unpaid editorial jobs who have become longtime collaborators.


Saying no to jobs is hard, even when they are unpaid. How do you let them down easy if simply can’t take it?

I’m pretty selective about what editorial I work on. Unpaid work is still work because not only does it take lots of time and creative energy, but it’s how you get hired for the paid gigs, which is, in turn, how you pay rent. I only say yes to unpaid projects when I can check at least two of the below boxes:

  1. The talent is interesting and someone I’d like to style.

  2. The photographer or creative team is someone I am loyal to, trust and work with regularly.

  3. The project will lead to paid opportunities because of good exposure.

  4. The concept allows for creativity and will push my work in a new way.

  5. I believe in the story we’re telling or the message it stands for.


Photo by Karolyn Pho


What does your agent say?

My agent is a very cool person who understands that saying no to projects is completely acceptable and that doing something well is more important than working every single day and being spread too thin.


And, finally, when will we be able to stop wearing pants?

I find this question impossible to answer because I’ll never stop wearing pants. Pants are my thing.


Briefly describe who you are and what you do and why you like BEST:

I’ll start with the second part of that question first: I love BEST because it contains multitudes and doesn’t conform to being just one thing. On any given day I am a stylist, researcher, collaborator, schlepper, writer, reader, friend. In the past I’ve been envious of people who seem so focused on one thing, but the truth is that I love to dabble, to get inspired by something and be immersed in it for a period of time and then allow myself to learn about something else. It makes it harder for people to label or classify you, but I hope that like BEST, my curiosity about aesthetics and stories will add some creativity to the world.


You made it! Here’s a treat from Doria—
an NYC #1s list made just for BEST.


Arlene Gottfried at Daniel Cooney Fine Art

Wild Wild Country

She Said by Everything Is Recorded
I’m also having a revival this week of Songs from Liquid Days by Philip Glass from 1986, the whole album is perfect.

Spring Shoe / Bag?
Maryam Nassir Zadeh Corazon sandal / Baggu gingham tote

Breakfast Item
Banana smoothie and a cup of tea. But in a fantasy world I’d eat a warm, buttery croissant every morning.

I’m reading Outline by Rachel Cusk

Currently doing a deep dive into 1990s and 2000s Nancy Jo Sales.
Also just read this amazing Dunne piece from a 1984 Vanity Fair about his daughter’s murder trial.
Maybe I am subconsciously trying to live in another time.

generally obsessed, The Daily w/ Barbaro, Here’s the Thing w/ Alec,
Longform, and my guilty pleasure, Who? Weekly

My Moleskin notebook, soft-cover & ruled, ideally in red.
I always steal pens—right now I have a great one from Odeon.

Mode of Transpo
Walking! I need my steps.

Flow classes at Modo Yoga

Pai Rosehip Oil

Amber oil from Whole Foods

Cheese and crackers

Time Waster
Instagram stories and online vintage shopping

Carry On (lol)
A New Yorker and my headphones


Every month BEST interviews a cool person they know doing a good job at Life.
Learn something you didn’t know about someone you might have heard of. Plus treat.

Cover photos by Christine Han and Carissa Gallo