To members of the fashion tribe who regularly attend the Donna Karan and DKNY shows during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Aliza Licht is an instantly recognizable and formidable presence. She knows who you are -- and who you are not. Striking, with auburn hair and signature red lips, outfitted in high-fashion black with the prerequisite headset, Licht keeps order and gives orders at the shows. "You'll have to leave," she'll tell a gate-crasher. "Get back," she commands photographers who wander away from the photo pit. They do.
So it's an apparent contradiction that the 38-year-old, who grew up in North Woodmere, has more than 420,000 Twitter followers @DKNY where, as DKNY PR Girl, she gives the world a virtual front-row seat to life at one of America's top fashion houses.
Her followers exceed the number of Macy's, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's combined, and that of most other designers, brands and stores that have adopted Twitter along with other social media platforms as critical marketing tools.
As the brand's online voice, Licht churns out a steady stream of proclamations -- 140 characters at a time -- that brilliantly balance the glamour and grunt work that make up her professional life. She's well armed for the task, working on two phones -- an iPhone and a BlackBerry ("I'm bi-phone") -- and two computers, often all at the same time.
She regales her followers with news of celebrities donning Donna or, on the flip side, mishaps such as Academy Awards dress-bearing packages that have lost their way. Her sassy live tweets of TV shows such as "Revenge" and "Gossip Girl" are relished. During the Olympics, Licht tweeted, "OMG. Backwards 3 1/2 somersaults from 3 meters high. I would rather wear sweatpants and crocs to Lincoln Center during #NYFW."
Pre-fashion week includes the posting of bogus (and hilarious) requests for coveted tickets to the fashion shows --
#showrequests -- and dieting tips. "No non-purpose bread or candy/sugar. If I want a turkey sandwich I can have it, b/c it's purposeful. But bread basket isn't."
Licht began tweeting in May 2009 as DKNY PR Girl, a fictional character living the cool city life. "She was all these things that I am not," says Licht, who is married and the mother of two young children. "After week one of tweeting, I realized how conversational it was and that I was going to have to respond." So she became herself, "a real person, and that worked," though she kept her identity veiled for two years.
Last October, "I decided to come out of the closet," she says, which she did via a video released on YouTube revealing Licht as the senior vice president of global public relations for Donna Karan International.
Truth told, being a social media maven was not in Licht's original plans. "I was a really good student, and I loved science," says Licht who attended Lawrence High School. "I thought I wanted to be a plastic surgeon," she says. But a grueling internship and, yes, bad clothes, turned her off. "I looked really fat in scrubs." After college, she interned at Harper's Bazaar and worked as accessories assistant at Marie Claire. She joined Donna Karan in August, 1998.
The benefits of Licht's huge reach on Twitter go beyond good marketing. "I've made friends in the space. I'm part of a community," says Licht who, through Twitter, hired her assistant and two interns. She's earned accolades -- most recently she won (by a landslide) the reader's choice "Best Twitter Personality" poll on website Stylebistro.
Her success has bred a slew of imitators.
"Yes, there have been people who have taken the PR Girl theme, but it's so much about that person. What my tweeting has done is shown that you don't have to be scared to put a lot of personality out there if it's good for your brand."
Authenticity seems to be her calling card.
"I come from a real place," says Licht. "This is my job I'm talking about, and it's not always glamorous and fun. And everything I tweet is from the gut. If I don't feel it, I don't tweet it."
Followers @tomandlorenzo: 71,774
Who they are: Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, both 46, are a couple from Philadelphia who got their start in social media in 2006 with a riotous blog critiquing Project Runway. In 2008, they began to tweet. Marquez worked in fashion, Fitzgerald in advertising and film, so their take is informed and polished with a wicked dose of funny.
From Fashion Week: "We want our readers to feel that their best gay friend . . . is texting them from Fashion Week," says Fitzgerald, who projects they'll cover some 90 shows. "There's a sense of immediacy," says Marquez. "The whole world wants to be there, and we're telling them what's happening while it's happening."
The mean factor: The two are known for their acerbic wit. Marquez says, "I'm sure we've gone overboard, but, we would never say anything about anyone that we wouldn't say to their face. Like, when we met Christian Siriano, we called him 'Princess Puffysleeves." Fitzgerald interjects, "I don't think he liked it that much."
Followers @choupettesdiary: 15,413
Who she is: Choupette Lagerfeld, the pampered kitty of designer Karl Lagerfeld. She reportedly knows how to use an iPad, refuses to eat on the floor and has two personal maids. According to our email interview with her, she only has been tweeting for a few months, "but it feels like ages," she says. "Time is measured differently in the feline world."
From Fashion Week: "I am a feline with a strong voice; one that cannot be silenced." Actually, she doesn't go to shows, but says, "Once I am of age, Daddy" (that would be Lagerfeld) "has promised to allow my attendance. I do fear that once that day comes, though, I will detract attention away from the models." She'll be the first to admit, it's all about her.
Why you should follow her: Pure fun. And she says of fashion, "I was born with intuitive knowledge which I choose to pass down to humans." Maybe you'll learn something.
Followers @bergdorfs: 126,979
Who she is: As social media manager, Cannon Tekstar Hodge, 30, is the voice of this venerable store, which is celebrating its 111th anniversary this year. Hodge started tweeting in January 2010 and often takes one for the fashion team, road testing trends such as heel-less shoes or a cartoonish, neoprene dress straight off the Marc Jacobs runway. Her twitter voice is "informed and casual," she says. Hodge wants to be "a friend you trust to give you advice."
From Fashion Week: "Instant access to everything that happens and how Bergdorf Goodman fits in with the week," she says. She follows the insanely chic Linda Fargo, the store's senior vice president of fashion, reporting on her takes, goes backstage and reports on beauty behind the scenes, "all day, every day, from when I wake up until I sleep."
What separates her from the pack: Believe it or not, customer service. She has, via Twitter, held shoes for customers and made reservations at the store's restaurant.