MAKE THE LINES WORK FOR YOU
FASHION IS AN INSPIRING AND ENDLESS REALM OF CREATIVE POSSIBILITIES. MAKE SURE THE ROUTE YOU CHOOSE AND THE WORDS YOU WRITE REFLECT THIS.
Images and reality
Fashion journalism—what’s the image that comes to mind? Sitting front row at fashion week, interviewing famous designers, attending champagne-fuelled brand launch events whilst nibbling pretty pastel macaroons, after-show parties and corporate gifting and cupboards full of clothes and cosmetics? Reality can be somewhat different. Fashion is a fast-paced industry based on discovery and expectation of the new and the quick discarding of what is ‘old’. This creates pressure—pressure to meet deadlines, the burden of discovering something new or reporting on what everyone else is reporting as new. Fashion journalism can be like a game of Chinese whispers, and finding your own voice within that echo chamber can be a challenging (and sometimes impossible) process. It is impossible because fashion media (especially print media) depends on advertising, and advertisers must not be upset.
The big issues
Then there is the question of fashion’s role in the economy, society and the environment. Fashion is not only one of the world’s largest employers, but also one of the biggest culprits of environmental pollution globally. So, when a young aspiring fashion writer is thinking of what career path to take, one of the most fundamental questions might be ‘how will you use your role and power within the industry for positive change?’ We will never escape the fact that fashion (and fashion writing) is about inciting desire, but exactly what it creates a demand for can be invested with values of social responsibility and considerations of environmental impacts. These will become definitive issues for the industry in the future, as global warming worsens.
This can vary very widely but expect to earn around Rs 30,000 as a young fashion reporter and upwards of a lakh as a beauty or fashion features editor. But you probably won’t get there until your early thirties. The chief editor of a fashion magazine may earn upwards of 5 lakhs per month, but those positions are few and far between. Then come the perks. Freebies include travelling for events, brand gifting, or even spa breaks if your remit includes luxury experiences. You may gain access to exclusive spaces and events, but fashion will rarely reward you with a sufficient salary to pay your way through this exclusive elite world.
The education required
A fashion journalism degree is an important route for many fashion writers, but it is not the only one to take. Given the complexity of fashion as a cultural, social and economic phenomenon it would be wise to begin with a degree in philosophy, english literature, art history or environmental conservation. Then a masters in fashion journalism would provide a unique set of skills and specialised knowledge to develop your expertise as a fashion writer. Imagine how studying art history could influence your perspective as a beauty editor, for example, or how a grounding in environmental conversation could add depth to your role as a fashion journalist. This will also broaden the kinds of publications you can work for. You may choose to write about fashion from a business perspective for an economic newspaper or from an art history perspective as a freelancer for cultural magazines. Take as many opportunities to write for different platforms which will help you build your voice and profile.
PHYLLIDA JAY FASHION SCHOLAR AND WRITER, UK