A December afternoon with a lawyer turned fashion editor and garage rock drummer: talking tacos, Abraham Lincoln and dressing with integrity.
We met up with Canadian-born Preetma Singh near the downtown New York offices of NYLON, where she works as an editor, to talk about all things offbeat: her career path, her prep-grunge style, her holiday gifting philosophy, her favorite historical figure and how a lawyer came to work in fashion (and sport green hair).
The historical character Preetma most identifies with is Abraham Lincoln—not an obvious choice coming from a fashion editor, but we actually found some similarities. Hear us out: Lincoln hosted big barbecues to bring people together; Preetma loves having friends over and keeps her fridge overstocked. Lincoln practiced law; Preetma was a corporate lawyer. Lincoln’s nickname is “Honest”; Preetma’s favorite personality trait is integrity. Lincoln is known for his distinctive look; Preetma recently graced the cover of a book all about personal style, Refinery29’s Style Stalking. The other things we learned about Preetma—she drums in a punk band and moved outside of New York City—were less Lincoln-esque but totally interesting anyway.
Her interest in the unique has always influenced her style too. Childhood meant romping around a huge backyard in Toronto with her brother, often wearing crinoline or chunky boots. She describes the way she dresses as “weird but elegant, prep-grunge,” which shows: a structured dress in a wacky cartoon print one day, a boxy coat over a fuzzy sweater over a flannel the next.
Always on the go for her work at NYLON, it’s almost funny to imagine Preetma drafting contracts in a pair of smart suit pants. “When I got my first job at a big corporate law firm, I thought, ‘I can actually buy the clothes I want from designers I love! The legal world could be glamorous, but at the same time, I was so unhappy, always anxious and working through holidays.” As she quietly set aside savings and prepared to leave law altogether, a chance meeting with an editor-in-chief led to an internship at Refinery29. Later, an acquaintance tipped her off to an opening at Vogue (“I sent in my résumé thinking, there is no way”), and after a few weeks, she was hired. She hasn’t missed law firm life for a second. “Now, success means having the time and freedom to enjoy things I love.”
Her life reflects that. She plays drums in a band called Vomitface and spends her weekends taking in the suburban pleasures of Hoboken (“Malls! Food courts!”). “I needed a break from New York, and I wanted more space,” she says of her move to New Jersey. “I love days when I can just let things flow, and if I had a day free, I’d cook, read and hang in pajamas at home.”
Unsurprisingly, she takes a less expected approach to her relationships too. Instead of waiting for a special occasion, Preetma likes to give presents year-round, and one of her favorite parts of the holiday season is New Year’s brunch, a family tradition. But what she finds most exciting is picking the perfect unique gift. “One time, I planned a whole weekend centered around the music my boyfriend loves, with a surprise concert and an original pressing of an album,” she says. And the same style maxim she follows fits here too: “My goal is being authentic. Good taste is instinctual.”
At top, Preetma wears a Madewell Dugout Varsity Bomber Jacket. Here, she wears an Ex-Boyfriend Shirt in Shaw Plaid, Fanfold Maxiskirt, Nightglen Plaid Scarf and Vans® Sk8-Hi Slim Zip High-Top Sneakers in Crackled Suede. Above, she also wears a Checkmark Zip Coat.
Preetma shopped our Gift Well guide and shared all her picks here.
Photography by Angi Welsch.