Sunday, 17 August 2008
How to get started as a fashion journalist/editor
This comment came from 'Meagan' after Discotheque Confusion posted an interview with Navaz:
"As a regular reader of Discotheque Confusion, and a hopeful future editor, I was very excited to read your post. I'm 16, and living in Toronto. I currently volunteer at a local newspaper, blog, write for The Fashion Spot, and am applying to Ryerson University's journalism program (one of the best in North America, and the best in Canada). I was wondering if you could help me out with some questions I have?"
Meagan: I know you talked about this briefly in the interview, but what matters more, when it really comes down to it: Creative directing abilites, or writing skills? I haven't taken any art courses, but I certainly have an eye for styling, but I'm unable to design myself. However, my writing skills are very strong - but are they that relevant? I feel like without the art school cred, I'll go nowhere!
Navaz: Hi Meagan! Personally, I wouldn't get hung up on 'art school cred'. Experience is all when it comes to breaking into this industry and as you've no doubt heard, at the beginning it's who you know, not what you know, although skill and knowledge come into play once you're through that door. Is your blog nicely laid out? Brush up on your Photoshop skills to show off your talents. Even making a physical scrapbook can show that you have 'the eye', otherwise what do people go on? Having said that, your letter/email of introduction is your calling card and for that you need writing skills. The great thing about being a good writer is that you can use that skill to write an engaging first email to whoever you want to work for. That gives you the edge over the person who writes a bog standard email/letter (please don't forget to Spellcheck it).
I've realised over the years that the creative part of styling can actually be learnt although I'd never have thought so. But I've seen people who didn't have much of a clue learn to be creative almost by soaking up their surroundings. This isn't relevant to you as you're already creative but don't rest on those laurels as others can sneak up behind you! Also, until you've actually worked in a fashion closet you don't know if you'd really like the job of a stylist. You may in fact decide to be a fashion writer instead. A fashion writer still works on a magazine/newspaper but is based in the office all day researching and writing instead of schlepping suitcases around and attending PR showrooms. It sounds like you're doing everything right. Volunteering and blogging show passion, while The Fashion Spot is useful for making contacts. You're only 16, I think you've made a great start!
Meagan: Do you know of any other online resources that I could write for? I'm unconcerned with being paid, I just want to get published more!
Navaz: Fashion156.com is a UK online publication worth investigating but it's better to find local ones as you can get more involved. Try some underground Canadian magazines, they're sure to have websites that will need contributors.
Meagan: FASHION Magazine, one of the biggest fashion magazines in Canada, offers an unpaid internship program, with one term in the summer. Would it be wise to participate/apply for it, for next summer, before I go off to University? Do you have any other advice to offer as to how to impress someone at a big fashion magazine, and how to stand out from other applicants?
Navaz: It would definitely make sense to apply to Fashion Magazine. I always think it's worth calling up and speaking to a real live person before you email. That way you can ask all your questions and in your email you can mention the fact that you spoke to them. This makes you more memorable, plus it's human nature to want to reply to someone that sends you a personal email. I think it's worth calling now to ask when is the best time to apply for next summer. Timing can be crucial as some editors like to book people way in advance whereas others like to wait til nearer the time. If you know their preference you can apply accordingly. Don't forget to call a couple of days later to check the application was received. If you refer to a specific reason why you like their magazine ('I always read your 'spy' section'/ 'I love the denim feature you wrote in the current issue' etc) it shows you genuinely like that magazine as opposed to giving an 'I just need a job' vibe. Don't be afraid to suck up a bit, just don't sound fake!
Meagan: How important is a knowledge of the fashion industry? I've heard of Devil Wears Prada situations where people with no passion for fashion get dream positions in the industry... I mean, obviously a passion for the field helps, but is it that important? I'm not sure if this is a dumb question or not...
Navaz: At 16 I don't think you'll be expected to know all the jargon and industry stuff straight off but you'll be expected to listen and learn and pick things up quickly. Fashion people are impatient and haven't got time to babysit interns so pay attention to whatever you're doing. That is the best way to learn. There are well-connected types who get great fashion jobs because they're somebody's daughter or whatever but there's no point worrying about that. Show your passion and work hard, that's all you need to do.
Meagan: How could I better my knowledge of fashion? For my age, I'd consider myself extremely informed of the industry, history and current trends (not to toot my own horn or anything....) But I'd love to really feel more confident in my knowledge of the industry.
Navaz: Read blogs like a Fashionista and Jezebel. Also check out the Style.com blog regularly. These are full of industry gossip and are a great way to pick up knowledge while keeping it fun. The Business of Fashion blog is good if you want to know more about the business side because it's written in a very engaging and non-fusty way and talks about fashion and the industry all over the world.
Meagan: How do you make important connections with industry professionals at a young age?
Navaz: I suggest calling a few senior fashion assistants or junior fashion editors and asking if you can have fifteen minutes of their time for a chat. Out of ten people you approach, you might get a yes from one of them. In your chat you can ask them how they got their job, what advice they have for you and crucially, if they know anyone else you can see. You then see that person and go through the routine again. Each time you'll make a further contact. It's then up to you to keep in touch with them!
Meagan: Any help you could offer would mean the world to me! I've heard every single sort of 'million girls would die for this' cliche when it comes to the fashion industry, but I am really willing to work myself to the bone for my dream!
Navaz: You've got a great attitude. If you can be prepared for a few obstacles and moments of self-doubt along the way then you're already on the road to success. Best of luck!