(The Shopping List)

Influencer Valerie Zhang Is Taking Over Instagram One Post At A Time

Her videos are next-level cool.

Courtesy Of Valerie Zhang
Valerie Zhang
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Given her 197K Instagram followers and numerous brand partnerships, it’s almost hard to believe that just three years ago, influencer and creative director Valerie Zhang was a data scientist. But, like many others, the pandemic and stay-at-home orders sparked a newfound hobby for her: Sharing photos of her eclectic, in-your-face outfits on social media (she’s known as @valslooks on the ‘gram). She also quickly found a niche. “I started doing video editing when I was still a micro creator with only 2K followers,” the 27-year-old tells TZR. “There were no creators doing fancy effects like [I was],” Zhang, who currently resides in Jersey City, adds, referring to the playful 3D graphics and captivating transitions she uses.

Even more impressive? She’s self-taught. “I purchased a [Insta360°] camera and started to read all the instructions and Q&A on their page to shoot as many things as I could,” the Shenyang-born creative explains about the high-tech gadget, which, as the name implies, can get a 360° view of everything around you in one single photo or video. “I saw many sports videos using this type of camera, and I tried to apply the same angles to my fashion videos.” (You can get a taste of her attention-grabbing IG posts, below.)

Maison Kitsuné was one of the first luxury brands to take notice of Zhang’s exceptional editing skills. “I went to my first New York Fashion Week [with the label in Sept. 2021] when I was still around 15K followers.” Living in Princeton, New Jersey, at the time, Zhang arrived at the fashion week event dressed in the brand and ready to capture photos and videos, which she describes as one of her most unforgettable memories thus far. From there, things kind of snowballed. To date, Zhang has teamed up with beloved labels like Loewe, Away, Lacoste, and The North Face on branded posts on her feed.

Courtesy Of Valerie Zhang
Courtesy Of Valerie Zhang

And because Zhang was also getting countless requests to spearhead labels’ social media campaigns, she decided to launch her own multimedia agency, VX Media, in 2022. The executive creative director and co-founder of the New York-based company, Zhang built the business with her partner, a former software engineer whom she met while attending the University of Wisconsin. In this role, she helps brands produce and direct ads and projects. And with only two years under its belt, VX Media has made impressive strides. Case in point: Its client roster includes Dior Beauty, Puma, GANNI, and UGG, just to name a few.

Suffice it to say, Zhang knows her way around the fashion world. Scroll ahead to hear everything about her go-to stores in New York City and the closet essentials she swears by.

Where are your favorite places to shop in NYC?

Courtesy Of Valerie Zhang

“I love shopping at Dover Street Market because of all the options they offer. They have a lot of new collections, but you can also find more low-key pieces from previous seasons. I also love shopping in Williamsburg; the area has the perfect combination of vintage stores and boutiques with labels’ latest products, and when I get tired of shopping, I can stop and grab a matcha!”

What’s on your shopping list for summer?

“I’m really loving the JW Anderson Hedgehog Clutch! It’s not only a purse — it’s fashion and art, and I really appreciate that. I’m also loving the Hawaii Hello Kitty plush dolls! They are super cute and motivate me to get tan this summer.”

What are the wardrobe pieces you can’t live without?

Courtesy Of Valerie Zhang

“I’m a belt fanatic! The functions of a belt and how you style it are limitless. It can be a great statement accessory, even more than jewelry. A belt’s colors, size, and even material can bring out the personality in your outfit, too.”

What labels do you think are worth splurging on?

“I think a brand worth splurging on is Maison Margiela. During the Met Gala, every one of its outfits stood out! But also, its past collections are timeless — pieces from the designer tend to be wearable in any era. Another brand that’s easy to splurge on is Comme des Garçons. The versatility of its clothing is amazing, and because they tend to use shades like black and white, it’s so easy to wear. But with a touch of the Comme des Garçons logo, people can see that you still have a fashion sense even when it looks like you’re wearing a plain shirt.”

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? If so, what are you packing?

“I’ll be traveling to Paris a lot this summer, and I’m packing my yellow Sunnei bag. It’s super cute and functional; I can fit all my essentials in it while I’m away from home! In my bag, I’ll have my tinted sunscreen, which I’ve been loving for the warmer weather. And I always have multiple power banks and portable chargers for my phone.”

What’s the best piece of fashion advice you’ve received?

“My friend Jacob always says less is less, and more is more. This applies so much to my style and aesthetic! Nowadays, some people like to dress with the less is more [mindset], and that’s fine, but I feel like this way of styling doesn’t capture my creative thoughts when it comes to my outfit. Some thoughts can be from any point in my life — I may want to pair certain earrings with a look because of a childhood memory, or maybe I want to wear a specific color because it reminds me of someone. I feel my thoughts should always be explored and expressed.”