The nature of London dictates the style of fashion you are selecting. It directly influences the characters you work with and the angle your editorial is pitched at. Yes, fashion magazines and websites are made for the global stage, but each title would be foolish not to deeply embed in its DNA the essence of the city it is based within. There’s also a really introverted, London-centric view. I’m a Northerner, and my accent was frequently taken the mick out of. People would do a mock-rough Northern accent when speaking to me. They’d imply that I was uncultured just because of where I was from, more times than I could count. People would pick up the handset of a phone and mock me, saying “Good afternoon” instead of “Good ahh-fternoon”. They’d laugh at me, squealing “Does it spaaaaahrkle?”, doing a really extreme Northern accent, which I know I don’t have. I was often told I was lucky to be there. “How well you’ve done, you’ve come so far.” “Good for you coming all this way!” Such an introspective worldview.
The way I’ve seen interns being treated in the industry is really horrendous. These are people who come in and work for expenses, if that, and they’re guilted into working outside of working hours. Even for full-time, junior staff – overtime isn’t paid, but I’ve had editors who have said to me “I like you because you work long hours”. But you’ll never see numeration for it. To keep your job you work long hours, and the interns have to work them, too, although they’re not even being paid well for the day hours! It’s ridiculous. It’s a fear-factory culture where you’re told that you’re lucky to even have this job; hundreds of girls can take on your job if you don’t bleed for it. We’re turning armies of interns into this slavish workforce, and it’s a self-perpetuating cycle, where negative people learn bad management and worse attitudes. You then have an office full of people who are resentful, but are there because they desperately want to be part of this industry, and work for this idea of a glamorous publication, and want the kudos of the job.
The most outrageous freebie I ever saw someone receive was an haute couture wedding dress. It must’ve been worth tens of thousands. Also holidays, very expensive watches, and handbags worth £15k. Whether digital or print, I don’t believe that there is a genuine space left that isn’t affected by money, or the influence of free shit.
When I was 21, I was interning at a major glossy magazine in central London. I’d been there for three months, as the PA to an associate editor. As part of one of my tasks one morning, aside from sorting out the mail, I was asked to take some laundry to the dry cleaners for her, and take her shoes to the cobbler. The shoes just happened to be some rather expensive Louboutins. She had mentioned exactly which cobbler to go to, and exactly who to ask for. At the cobbler, this guy knew who she was and told me he knew what to do, and took the shoes away. When they returned, a long five minutes later, he had sanded off the signature red from underneath the shoe, and replaced the leather sole with a plastic black stuck-on sole. I felt like this was going to end my career before it had even properly started; even though it wasn’t my fault, I knew it was a pretty big crime to commit. When I got back, I started to offer an explanation, but the editor wasn’t having it. She took one look at the shoes and threw them, across the desk, at me. Not a single person in the office said or did anything; hardly anyone even raised an eyebrow. I went to the toilet to cry for a good 45 minutes, then came back to get on with it.
There have been a few other low-points since then, of course. I was filming a documentary for a TV show and the producers suggested that I lose a few stone in order to look better on camera for the next series. “It would just be good if you...”, drawing a slim silhouette into the air and pinching his hands together in a size-skimming gesticulation. I was a size 12.
It’s also horrible when interviews aren’t as organic as they should be. Dita Von Teese is a good example – whenever I’ve interviewed her, my questions had to be vetted beforehand. I wasn’t allowed to mention Marilyn Manson (I was told I would be “banned” from printing anything about her if that happened, which of course they can’t do); I was only really allowed to produce something that might as well have been a press release. It’s not really journalism at all.
If you want to survive in this industry, I would say don’t change in order to survive the bitchiness. If you can end your career with the same essence of individuality that you started with, then you've done incredibly well. Work in the industry because you don’t want to be like the majority of the people in it. Work in the industry if you want to hold a space where you aren’t a twat. If you have something to say and want to influence the industry, it’s perfect for you. It can be like a mean school playground, but it doesn’t need to be. You can absolutely add value to fashion without behaving like the rest of them.