In this regular series, Londoners speak freely and honestly about their occupations, under the cloak of anonymity
I'm an online fashion editor and digital consultant. Breaking into this industry was tough. I had no contacts, so I started completely from the bottom of the ladder. The book Writers' and Artists' Yearbook changed the game for me. It lists all of the publishing houses' contact details and has no-fluff guides to approaching different sectors of the media with book proposals, scripts, illustrations and requests for internships. I emailed my CV and a snappy covering letter out to every magazine. I didn't get a single response. I then re-sent the emails but with catchy, often unusual subject lines to capture the attention of the editors. It worked: I got three responses and two internships. The iron-clad door to the world of glossy mags opened.
Before I started working in the industry, I thought that every fashion editor would be like Patsy Stone from Absolutely Fabulous. How disappointed I was that they often had the attitude problem but didn't always dress the part.
When I started out, nearly a decade ago, the digital teams were looked down upon across many major publishing houses. They were seen as minions in comparison to these highly-qualified, “proper” journalists. That translated into fees as well. You weren’t very credible if you worked online; it wasn’t seen as a transitional skill-set, no equal weighting at all. The head of a major publishing house I was working at wouldn’t even mention the website during the annual review conference less than ten years ago. It didn’t even come onto the periphery. Then approximately eight years ago, digital was bolted on – it was, “Oh yes, and then the websites are doing very well, very good, we’re growing”. But then six or seven years ago suddenly something switched, and while print budgets were being stripped, HR departments started looking for digital employees.
In any one day on online, you’re doing a huge amount of different things – writing, editing, sourcing pictures, editing images, working on social media and website maintenance are just a few of them. I think the relationships are poor largely due to fear, but also a sense of propriety – a very conservative and elitist top-down perspective. There are a lot of people who got into fashion purely by networking and schmoozing, based on who they know, and a lot of them feared this new generation of talent coming in.
For instance, when I started working for a major magazine title’s online website, I went over to introduce myself to the equivalent of my role in the magazine – the fashion director – saying:
“Hello, I’m the version of you on the digital site, lovely to meet you!”
“The magazine’s website…”
“The one we both work for?”
This was three years ago. She looked at me like I was a piece of dirt. She blanked me and embarrassed me in front of an entire office of people. I told her where I was sitting if she ever needed anything, and while I was still talking she said “Very good” and walked off.
The digital world is so fast-paced that within one hour you can publish everything you've written that morning. It's instant gratification. There’s a lack of understanding how seriously integrated the digital world is into the fashion industry itself, in terms of commerce, retail and social media. It’s been an afterthought for far too long, and now companies are outsourcing social media, which to me is a destruction into the essence of what social media is. It’s not a bolt-on activity – it’s meant to be an integrated marketing activity; if your team aren’t doing it themselves, I don’t think you should be on social media.
Being a fashion editor is like having a golden ticket to all of the elite parties that everyone wants to be seen at, you get a snapshot of what everyone will be wanting to wear first and sugary treats are constantly sent to your desk as a form of PR bribery (it often works). Fickle? Yes. Fun? Certainly. But also, shopping for the nation in the form of a fashion feature means that you have an influence over what brands and stores get exposure, so you can support the smaller boutique labels whilst celebrating the positive aspects of fast fashion. I love that aspect of it.
About seven years ago, I was removed from a London Fashion Week Vivienne Westwood after-show party for getting too close to Kanye West. He got ushered into the side door, with loads of bodyguards round. Normally at Fashion Week, celebrities mingle in the crowd more than at other events, as they’re relatively exclusive events and the people there know not to harass them. So he stood out as soon as he came in because he was so guarded and flanked. He was sat in a makeshift, exclusive area, looking like a bit of a plonker, sat by himself with only bodyguards around him. Being an opportunist young journalist, I went over, wanting to ask him a few questions about Fashion Week. When I popped my head over the invisible barrier they had created, a bodyguard picked me up and moved me away. Twice.