Last week fashion editor Bernadette Morra and stylist Derick Chetty answered your fashion editing and styling career queries. To add a comment, click here and scroll past the discussion to the comments area. And join us again Thursday for the Naked Lunch chat.
I am graduating from journalism school next year, (bachelor journalism and psychology honours), and am wondering how I can prepare myself for a communications position at fashion firm. Devon in Barrie
Check out the one year post-graduate public relations programme at Humber College. Derick
What kind of experience would be useful for someone considering a job as a fashion editor/writer? Natalie
Freelance for your school newspaper. Appoint yourself the fashion editor. Get out there and write as much as you can, even if it's for free. Profile young designers who are hungry for exposure. Cover indie fashion shows and collectives. You will develop a voice and a point of view. You will also get a chance to practice editorial writing, which is very different from writing a thesis or essay. You may even meet a magazine or newspaper fashion editor that you can pitch a story to. Bernadette
I'm going into my second year at U of T, majoring in English. Would you say your education at U of T was useful for your work now, or do you wish you would have gone to Ryerson like you originally wanted? Natalie
I am a very fatalistic person and this is one of the reasons why. I wanted to work in media. My parents pushed me in another direction. But like a boomerang I wound up in media. So I can't say I would rather have gone to Ryerson because I probably would have still wound up sitting in this chair. As for whether U of T was useful? Of course it was, perhaps not to my job today, but any knowledge gained whether it is intellectual, spiritual or emotional can only be a good thing, no matter how painful or uncomfortable the learning process is. Bernadette
What university/college did you graduate from? What did you major in? How did you become a stylist? Apolicht
I graduated from Ryerson Polytechnical University and majored in Fashion Communication. I am very lucky to do both styling and fashion editing/writing. For a stylist, there isn't a school program to take where you can train. The best way to start is to find a stylist that you can assist. There are three kinds of stylists - fashion, movie/television and prop stylists. A fashion stylist works mostly for magazines styling fashion editorials or celebrity profiles. A strong fashion background is needed for this - knowledge of fashion/hair/makeup trends, where to find product and how to pick the right model for a particular story. If you're interested in this you should get an internship at one of the fashion magazines.
A movie/television/commercial stylist should have some sewing/alteration experience and a large amount of shopping skills - by this I mean, you need to know the city inside out. When the director yells he needs a purple paisley dressing gown - you need to know exactly where to go to get that immediately.
A prop stylist is one who is an expert at working with inanimate objects. You know those pics in The Bay's flyers where the bunch of ties are perfectly curled? It's an art. A different kind of prop stylist is one who would decorate a movie or television set. It's not just about finding the stuff to use, a lot of research is involved. How to get the look of a 1920's French cafe? They would consult numerous sources to get the look down pat.
Short answer - whichever you're interested in, find someone who does that and assist, soak up as much as you can. And be prepared to do it for free. As for how long it takes to get from a writer to fashion editor - it varies and it's certainly not a clear route. Derick
What kind of salary is there to be made in this industry? Clare
Fashion is not the area you want to work in if money is your prime motivation. But there are lots of perks. At the newspaper we are sent to cover fashion shows in Milan, Paris and New York. We are also invited to lots of events and launches. And there are lots of beauty samples that, if beauty writing is part of the job, we are allowed to try. Newspaper generally do not allow their staffs to accept gifts. However, magazines are a different story. They can also take the free trips offered by the fashion and beauty companies to such fabulous spots as the south of France, Swiss spas and the Paris couture.
Can you define what a fashion editor is and does? James
Essentially the role of the fashion editor is to decide what is reported on in the newspaper or magazine. We are absolutely bombarded with requests from people who want us to write about their products and services. The fashion editor must have a well-defined vision based on their readership and the overall thrust of their publication and use this vision to decide who should be covered and who should not. Magazine fashion editors must also balance pressure from advertisers who feel that they are entitled to coverage in the magazine. Bernadette
What kind of schooling is required to become a fashion editor? Clare
There is no one direct path to becoming a fashion editor. If you got all the fashion people from all the magazines and newspapers in this city together, they would each give you very different stories of how they arrived at their jobs. Some may have studied journalism, some came from different areas of writing, such as music, some found their way to magazine styling after graduating from fashion school. There is no one school you can go to to become a fashion editor. Bernadette
So how did you get your job?
After high school (Lawrence Park C.I.), I wanted to go to Ryerson for radio and television arts, but my parents wouldn't let me. They insisted I go to University of Toronto, where I got a B.A. in criminology and sociology. After that I did one year at Sheridan College in a media writing programme which no longer exists. It was a fantastic course for someone who loves to write, because it covered writing for film, TV, radio and print. I learned everything from writing a radio ad to a newpaper story to a feature film. Most valuable was that the programme broke me from an academic style of writing, into a more commercially viable editorial style.
After one year of Sheridan I was itching to get into the work force. I really wanted to be a music critic, but I started out getting a job editing closed captioned subtitles for TV. While working for a small, independant firm, I pitched some stories to the music writer at Canadian Press. He couldn't give me any freelance work, but he later was promoted to editor of a lifestyle division. He called me and asked me if I would like to freelance for him. There was only one problem. It wasn't about music. He said he wanted me to write fashion. It was like a lightbulb went off over my head. I had never considered fashion writing, but I had been a fashion junkie since I was old enough to buy my own magazines.
There weren't very many writers at the time who wanted to write "soft" news. So soon after I started writing for CP, The Star called me to freelance for them. Then Flare called me. I was hired full time at Flare, but an opening came here at The Star shortly after. I became fashion writer for The Star in 1988, and fashion editor in 1993.
My career snowballed very quickly because, as I said, there weren't very many writers wanting to do lifestyle writing at the time. That has changed drastically. But I believe there is always room for good people. Bernadette