The Fashion Editor at Large, Melanie Rickey, has worked for everyone from the Independent, Grazia, the Telegraph and Vogue to POP and Ponystep. Here she tells IdeasMag what she looks for in fashion, how to make it in journalism and why you have to make the tea…
How did you break into journalism?
I did a degree in Fashion Promotion at the London College of Fashion. I had started doing an English degree, but there was a death in my family and I’d missed a year of university, so I needed to do something more vocational.
So, I trained in journalism. I was always very interested in fashion – the history and sociology of it. I was picked up quite early on in my course by the Independent, where I was interning. I was very focused on getting onto a newspaper – I was a bit like a dog with a bone, really.
I was 21 or 22 when I joined the Independent and completed my degree while I was there. In the end I wrote about 500 pieces for them. It was the time that Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Stella McCartney were emerging.
Do you approach writing for print media and online media differently?
Absolutely. Writing online is much more immediate. You can say what you think: you don’t have to use the same tone you would in a newspaper or magazine.
What blogs would you recommend for someone who wants to get into fashion?
The New York Times and Vogue websites are great for fashion, as is the Daily Telegraph. There’s also a trade magazine called Women’s Wear Daily which is really good. On a personal note, I like Susanna Lau’s blog, Style Bubble. It’s very quirky.
What advice do you have for young, aspiring writers?
Work harder than everyone else. Don’t be standoffish. You’ve got to be talented and willing to make the tea.
The most important thing is the most basic: answer the six questions. If you can cover who, what, when, where, why and how in your story, then you’re doing your job.
Also, get quotes. Do your research and don’t rely on the internet. You can tell the difference between people who go to Wikipedia and those who know. Frankly, anyone can go on Wikipedia.
You’re far better having a solid education, with good GCSEs, A-levels and a degree in an arts or humanities subject, than studying fashion. I’d rather hire someone with an English, History or History of Art degree than someone who’s come from a fashion course, unless it’s an MA.
Are there any major no-nos when it comes to writing about fashion?
You have to be really well informed and understand context. Being thoughtful and educated and doing your research is really important – so many people think they can write about fashion. But they’re writing something out of Made in Chelsea – it’s all just shallow platitudes.
A lot of fashion magazines have to write things because of advertising and a lot of young bloggers write about things because they get freebies. You have to be able to sort what’s good from what’s not.
I felt fashion was elitist. It obfuscated what was a really wonderful world that anyone could get involved in. There was a certain, snooty tone of voice in fashion magazines and only rich girls got the internships. My big thing, working on newspapers, was making fashion interesting to everybody.
Fashion is a commercial business that has an artistic sentiment. It’s also a massive industry and employer – it’s not frivolous.
You can visit Melanie's blog at Fashion Editor at Large.
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