If you love fashion and want to move in the circles inhabited by fashion designers, travel to exotic and fun places in the name of work and get to play with clothes that other people can only look at in magazines, then you should be thinking about a career in fashion journalism.
Having what it takes
So what do you need to be a fashion journalist? A love of fashion and design, and a desire to be challenged and stimulated in a creative way is vital. But you must also be determined, highly focused on your objective, and patient, because it takes time to build up a solid reputation in the fashion industry. Just like every other job out there, when starting out you are going to be at the bottom of the ladder, but do not look on this as a disadvantage and envy those people who are making big money when you are struggling on your pay packet. This is the time when you need to keep your eyes and ears open to learn everything you can.
It will help your career if you have a relevant qualification, such as a degree in journalism or English, or even a field that is related to fashion. This will prove that you have the technical abilities to do the job of journalism, are able to write coherently and fluently, are computer literate (but then, who is not computer literate these days?), are able to communicate your ideas in a logical and engaging manner, and perhaps most importantly in this modern era, are comfortable with and have an in-depth understanding of the online world in terms of blogging and social media platforms.
Once you have a relevant qualification, you need to get some work experience under your belt. This is often the route most experienced fashion journalists took, and for getting a feel for the job there is nothing better. Work experience will also help to clarify in your mind whether a career in fashion journalism is really for you, as you will learn how the industry operates and how a magazine company really works. When applying for work experience, always ensure your passion for fashion comes across in your cover letter.
If, however, you do not have a relevant qualification, then you may need to choose a less traditional route to beginning your career, especially if you want to set up as a freelance journalist like Alison O’Riordan, who trained to become a journalist and covers a wide range of topics from fashion and sport to crime and politics in her writing, and who has that most necessary of journalistic attributes – inquisitiveness and a desire to investigate things. If you do decide to go freelance, then the most valuable thing you can do is to build up your professional network and make contacts. Increasingly, the modern business world works on the premise that it is not just what you know, it is who you know, and this is especially true in such a small world as the fashion industry. It is pretty incestuous, with everyone knowing everyone else, and the more people you can make contact with as a person and not just as a social media handle, the better. You should make the first move in such networking, contacting key retailers and even fashion colleges to ask to be included on their list for when there are press days and invitations to end-of-term shows.
Do not be blinded by the glamour of the fashion industry and miss out on smaller opportunities. Remember that it is the smaller, less eye-catching jobs that will pay your monthly bills and introduce you to people who may be able to help your career. The glamour will always be there, waiting for you, so just be patient.
You should also be working to extend your knowledge of fashion and its workings. This does not mean just keeping up with current trends, but having a working knowledge of the history of fashion, such as knowing about the careers of past designers and understanding where their iconic designs came from. Such knowledge will enable you to put the modern fashion world into context and make your features more engaging reads.
There is plenty of scope to enter the fashion world as a journalist, providing you are prepared to put in the hours and the legwork, network endlessly and learn all you can about its history, its present and its future.