As the designer stands down after 17 years, he explains how he turned an ailing raincoat maker – with a reputation for ‘chav check’ – into one of the world’s biggest luxury brands
In fashion, serious players tend to adopt outlandish characters. Karl Lagerfeld is the mischievous time traveller, with his powdered 18th-century pompadour and solid gold Apple watch. Alexander McQueenplayed the tattooed bad boy. Anna Wintour, with her titanium bob and poker face, is the sphinx of the front row. But Christopher Bailey is the most unsettling fashion luminary I have dealt with. Bailey, who leaves Burberry this month after 17 years, is the most successful British fashion designer of his generation, with a trophy cabinet full of industry awards, an MBE and a salary big enough to make business page headlines.
Bailey’s shtick is that he is normal. Bailey is nice. Not nice as in lethally charming, or nice as in seductively conspiratorial, just nice as in nice. It is hard to explain how disarming this is, when you are used to operatic ego. The week before his final Burberry catwalk show, I arrive at Thomas’s cafe inside the Burberry store in London’s Regent Street 15 minutes before I am due to meet him, but he is already there, tucked in a corner banquette. He spots me, puts away his phone and jumps up to greet me with a Tiggerish bounce. “How are you? Lovely to see you! Have you had a busy day? Did you have lunch? Would you like anything to eat?” Bailey’s wholesomely sandy-haired looks give him an air, even at 46, of having just stepped out of an advert for cornflakes, or Lego, or cocoa. He is unremarkably dressed in a neatly buttoned denim shirt and dark trousers, his only accessory a plain gold wedding band.
What Bailey has achieved, however, is not normal at all. He transformed an antiquated coat maker into one of the world’s top luxury brands. He gave Burberry such momentum that it had a halo effect on the rest of British fashion, making London fashion week a draw again. He is the only non-founding designer to have made himself so fundamental to a leading brand as to be awarded control of the boardroom as well as the design studio, as Bailey was for three years until last summer. But then, while on holiday in Italy with his husband, the actor Simon Woods, and their daughters (Iris, three, and Nell, two), he decided to leave Burberry. It was “one of the most difficult decisions I have made, but also one of the easiest”. The design studio has been handed over to his successor, Riccardo Tisci, but until the end of this year Bailey remains attached to Burberry in an advisory role, giving him a few months’ breathing space until he takes on whatever is next. Woods – Daddy to their little girls, while Bailey is Dad – is delighted.
At its best, fashion involves a kind of synaesthesia: put on a truly great party dress, and confidence and excitement seep into your skin like a happy pill melting on your tongue. A perfect cashmere sweater envelops you in comfort and nostalgia as evocatively as perfume. This effect has always been fundamental to the seductive power of iconic fashion brands, but at Burberry, Bailey realised that 21st-century technology would allow him to take this to the masses for the first time. Advertising posters dispensed squirts of Burberry fragrance when a wrist was placed beneath a sensor. With livestreamed catwalk shows and Spotify playlists, Bailey used the internet to bring the experience of high-end shopping to an audience watching on their phones. This was fashion’s Industrial Revolution.
Bailey was born in Yorkshire, near Halifax, son of a joiner and a Marks & Spencer window dresser. At 29, he had designed for Donna Karan in New York and spent five years as Tom Ford’s right hand at Gucci when he was approached by Rose Marie Bravo, the American businesswoman who had recently taken charge at Burberry and embarked on a revamp, hiring Kate Moss for an ad campaign. Both Bailey and Bravo tell the story of their meeting, in a hotel bar in Milan in late 2000, as if it were a first date. “I walked in and there was this glorious woman, smiling, fizzing with energy… she completely seduced me,” Bailey says. Bravo has described it as “like divine intervention”. They talked for hours about what they could make Burberry into.
“There wasn’t any other brand for us to emulate,” Bailey says. “We are not a traditional luxury company with a history of making shoes or bags for the aristocracy. We make coats. It’s quite practical.” In the 1870s, a draper called Thomas Burberry noticed how the crude lanolin coating on shepherds’ smocks kept out rain while being cooler and lighter than traditional waterproofs, and experimented with treatments for Egyptian cotton until he came up with gaberdine, a breathable fabric that kept rain out. He patented it, and soon after received a commission from the British army to make “trenchcoats” for officers. But by the time Bravo and Bailey arrived on the scene, Burberry had declined into “a check design heading towards oblivion… overdependent on tourists, licensees and the grey market”, Bravo said in 2002.
Rainwear may be utilitarian, but rain is poetic, and Bailey made Burberry stand for both. There are 46 trenchcoats in the current collection, from the honey-coloured, belted gaberdine classic to a laminated silver lace that, while waterproof, would look more at home on a red carpet than trudging a footpath. “I used to cycle a lot as a kid, along Haworth moor, near where the Brontës lived,” Bailey says. “When it’s sunny, it’s beautiful, but when it’s misty and rainy, it’s almost more magical. I love proper weather.” In 2012, the show finale was a cloudburst that sent rain streaming down on the Perspex marquee covering the catwalk and audience. In 2014, a show in Shanghai ended with Cara Delevingne taking flight, Mary Poppins-style, with a magic umbrella. The company HQ in Pimlico, central London, which Bailey helped design, is built around a glass atrium made to amplify the noise made by raindrops. Why settle for identifying your brand with anything as analogue as a logo when you can appropriate the weather? What, after all, could be more British?
Bailey had been at Burberry less than two years when a paparazzi photograph of actor Danniella Westbrook in a Burberry check outfit and handbag, pushing her daughter in a Burberry check buggy, whipped up a tabloid frenzy about “chavs” driving the brand downmarket. Bailey remembers it as “a strange moment. On a personal level, I felt very uncomfortable with all the media aggression towards this one person. But also, I am just not snobby. I grew up in a working-class family. I went to quite a tough school.”
Bailey has tried to smooth the edges of the brand’s somewhat fractious relationship with class – he is fond of pointing out that the trenchcoat has been worn by everyone from Sid Vicious to Princess Margaret – but the tale of the “chav check” cast a long shadow. In his early Burberry collections, he worked hard to frame Burberry as a high-class outfit: a serene colour palette, an unflashy aesthetic, shows soundtracked by soulful singer-songwriters. This new Burberry projected an RP kind of Britishness, with moodboards peopled by the nation’s artistic greats, ad campaigns with sharp-cheekboned young aristocrats. Famous names – Freud, Delevingne, Beckham – recurred. More recently, a more democratic vision has emerged, celebrating working-class culture. Last September, by which time he knew he was leaving, though the audience didn’t, his catwalk show was accompanied by an exhibition of British documentary photography, from Ken Russell’s portraits of postwar London kids, posing and smoking in bombsites, to Martin Parr’s images of rainy picnics and jostling in the queue for the buffet.
Bailey’s own love of art began with the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near his home, and a Lowry in the hall. “In the house where I grew up, the telephone was at the bottom of the stairs, and where we sat to talk, my parents had a Lowry print – I mean, like a photocopied print. That is such a vivid memory, looking at that for hours while I was on the phone to my friends. I had an amazing upbringing, because of the values my mum and dad instilled and the beautiful place we lived, but it wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination fancy.”
When Bailey was a student in London, his father wanted to buy his mother a watch she had seen in a magazine for Christmas. “He saved up for it, sent me a cheque, and I cashed it and went to the store in Bond Street with a big wedge of cash in my pocket. I’d never bought anything from that kind of shop before; none of us had. We were all excited. But they were so rude to me, intimidating and snooty. They made me feel belittled to the point where it was a really awful experience. It was an ‘entry price point’ watch, but of course we didn’t know that. It was a lot of money to us. And when I called my dad, I had to lie to him, to pretend it had been this magical experience, because that was part of what we all thought we were buying. My dad worked really hard for that money, and that was a really important moment for my family.” He stops, and smiles. “But my mum loved her watch, anyway.”
As well as class, Bailey’s Burberry has been about gender. In a time when feminism, gender roles, equality and gender fluidity have been front of mind in newsreels and popular culture, the premier British fashion brand has been one whose iconic piece – the trenchcoat – is unisex. “That was one of the things that attracted me to Burberry in the first place,” Bailey says. “In 2001, when I was trying to work out what Burberry was about, I wrote a list and put both ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ down. That is part of the magic of the trenchcoat. The only real difference is which way it crosses.” (By sartorial tradition, a man’s double-breasted jacket or coat fastens left over right and a woman’s right over left.) “My team and I have talked many times about doing away with that and having it just one way. But we are all so familiar with the motion, even if we aren’t conscious of it. The trenchcoat is unisex, but it talks about gender, if you know what I mean.”
If he crafted a Burberry that was about Britishness, class and gender, it was also, inevitably, about Christopher Bailey. “I came to this job straight from five years with Tom [Ford] at Gucci, which was a very nomadic life. For three or four years, I didn’t have a home. I mean, literally. I just lived in hotels.” Pining for home, he found Burberry, whose trenchcoats were made in Yorkshire, and made the brand into his own love letter to home. “I suppose, in a way, I made Burberry up to suit myself. I am from Yorkshire, I grew up cycling in the rain. Someone else might have seen this brand quite differently. Maybe I’m just, you know, a massive egomaniac.” He looks quite taken with this idea.
If he hadn’t been fashion’s first 21st-century visionary, Bailey could have made a great spy. He notices everything, remembers everything: he can place our waitress’s accent, remembers the names of my children. His everyman persona extends to a habit of disappearing himself from his own sentences, answering questions about what he thinks or feels with answers about what “lots of people” think or feel. The effect is somehow humble and distancing at the same time. He is always warm, but never intimate: he has a habit, when he makes a point, of reaching out as if to clasp my arm, but he never makes contact. When the waitress brings my pot of tea, she puts down a wooden egg timer, explaining the darjeeling will be brewed when the sands have emptied. It is a very Burberry touch: cosy, nostalgic. Bailey, who masterminded every detail of this most English of tearooms, is drinking a strong cappuccino.
There is only one point during our two conversations when any spiky edges come into view. We are talking about how Bailey’s own upbringing contrasts with his daughters’ lives, since he earns “a lot of money – as the world knows”, he says, turning pink. Shortly after he became the first gun-for-hire designer to combine the CEO role with design duties in 2014, a salary package that was estimated at almost £15m provoked one of the biggest shareholder revolts in British business history. After a series of bruising boardroom encounters, Bailey handed back the CEO role last July, appointing Marco Gobbetti from Céline. With hindsight, was taking on both roles a mistake? He looks down at his hands, which are suddenly busy brushing crumbs from the tablecloth. (There are no crumbs. The artisan cookie on the saucer of Bailey’s cappuccino is untouched.) “Look, it was never something I aspired to do. It was not on my radar. I still believe I – we – made the right decision for that moment.”
The business world, he feels, was not prepared to believe a designer could be a CEO. “Tom understands business, a brand, how to motivate people, and I learned a lot from him. But for lots of people, the idea of a designer is this person throwing chiffon into the air and seeing how it falls.” Anyway, the dual role didn’t work out. “And if I had known how much it would end up taking me away from the things I really love to do, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
The next time I see him, it is the Saturday night of London fashion week, after his final show, and he is taking a bow in front of Naomi Campbell, Chelsea Clintonand 1,200 others, stars of the British fashion industry who have come to say goodbye to the Burberry-Bailey era. Farewell catwalk shows tend towards mawkish overindulgence of ego – designers walking the aisle flanked by adoring supermodels, the front row reaching out to touch hands as if for a papal blessing, carnations on every seat to be thrown in gaudy heartbreak – but the focus of this show is a new rainbow version of the Burberry check, which Bailey has designed in order to have this collection stand for LGBTQ rights. The visual symbolism is of the Burberry check, lightning rod for class division and social prejudice, recast as a badge of tolerance. Backed by donations to charities, this goes beyond the fuzzy kind of lip service to equality and diversity commonplace in fashion right now to something more tangible.
After the show, Bailey is mobbed by well-wishers – Kate Moss has to elbow her way through the throng – until he disappears to have dinner with his husband and his parents, who have travelled to London for the show along with his closest friend since schooldays, a psychiatric nurse who still lives in Yorkshire. His daughters stayed home and watched the show on livestream. (“Look! It’s Dad!” Iris called out to the babysitter when Bailey took his bow.)
Three days later, Bailey comes down from his sixth-floor office to fetch me for a cup of tea. We are at Burberry’s London headquarters now, rather than the store. The top button of his shirt is unbuttoned this time, and he is wearing suede desert boots instead of polished shoes. He makes a point of being the one to hold the lift door open for everyone else as we rise to a sixth-floor meeting room full of enormous bouquets that arrived on the day of the show. An assistant brings builders’ tea for me, mint tea for Bailey.
“I didn’t want to do a greatest hits,” he says when I ask about the last collection. “I knew early on that I wanted this last show to have a positive message, a real one. It might be seen as commercially sensitive, but the area of LGBTQ rights is personal to me, and I’m really happy we did it.” Sunday morning was lovely, he says – “We had a nice walk, before my parents went home” – but since then he has been feeling pensive. “It will take some adjusting to figure out what my identity is outside of… this,” he says, sweeping an arm around the room, the flowers, the meeting table, the assistant stationed outside. “And I literally hadn’t given it any thought until Sunday. When it hits me is when I think about my team. Seventeen years is a long time to work with people. They have been there with me through incredible sadness [Bailey’s previous partner, Geert Cloet, a fellow fashion designer, died of a brain tumour in 2005 at the age of 36] and then finding happiness. They were at my wedding, they know my children. And I have been through the same with them. And that’s what it comes down to in the end, isn’t it? People.”
What Bailey wants next is “some balance in my life”. The family have recently moved from Kensington to north London to be close to Hampstead Heath while the girls are growing up. He is looking forward to having more time for family life. “Simon is so much cleverer than I am. He is an extraordinary man and an incredible father. I am learning how to do lots of things from him.” As to 2019, he claims innocence. “I don’t have a plan, I really don’t. I am excited by doing something new, but that could be something big, or something small. You can bop me one on the head if it turns out later that I’m not telling the truth right now.” It might be a more tangential move than to another design studio. (Angela Ahrendts, with whom Bailey worked closely at Burberry from 2006 to 2014, left to join Apple, and Bailey’s interest in technology is well known.) “I will say that I wouldn’t have left this job that I love just to go and do the same thing somewhere else. That would feel strange, because this was a bit special.”
THE sun is shining and we’ve got that Friday feeling, which can only mean one thing…it’s time for your fashion fix!
This week, Fabulous Shopping Editor and celeb stylist Nana Achaempong (Instagram: @styledbynana) is giving you all the goss on this week’s most lust-worthy fashion…
This week George at Asda invited me to gorgeous Coworth Park hotel and spa to check out the George S/S ’18 homeware collection.
The question was, what to wear to such a fancy spot on what was going to be the hottest day of the year so far… I decided on this Topshop dress, which I have since discovered is a complete sell-out!
Polka dots are a huge S/S ’18 trend and were spotted on the catwalks of Valentino, MM6 Maison Margiela and Self Portrait to name just a few.
The dress in question has been spotted – excuse the pun – on many influencers and celebrities, which led to it flying off the shelves nationwide.
And the super-affordable £49 price tag helps too!
But don’t fear, there are plenty of other fantastic polka dot dresses on the high street you can still get your hands on that will be ideal for pretty much any occasion – weddings, the races, brunch with the girls or, in my case, a fancy spa hotel!
Never one to miss a trick, Zara have embraced the polka dot trend
- Tan polka dot dress, £25.99 from Zara
H&M’s polka dot dress is perfect for a warm summer evening
- White polka dot dress, £49.99 from H&M
- Black polka dot dress, £29 from Topshop
Celeb Crush: BEYONCE. QUEEN B. BEY.
Now while I’m sure your Instagram feed was overloaded with Coachella pics last weekend, it would be a crime not to mention the insane performance that Beyoncé delivered in the desert.
What wasn’t there to love about her 100+ strong dancers and marching band, hubby Jay-Z, sister Solange and my faves Kelly and Michelle, who came on stage for a mini Destiny’s Child reunion?
Everyone’s outfits were designed by Balmain and looked epic!
Nearly a week later, I’m still obsessing over everything about Bey’s performance.
My so-called fashion life…
On a bit of a whim/New Year New Me moment, in January I signed up for the Hackney half marathon on May 20.
I’ve been documenting my training on Insta Stories and talking about it pretty much non-stop to anyone kind enough to listen.
With the race date fast approaching, I was beyond excited when ASOS asked me to attend a 3K fun run to celebrate the new Nike flyknit racer trainers.
Held at the most Instagram-worthy cafe in east London, Palm Vaults, guests were not only treated to a brand-new pair of Nike trainers for the run, but we also had matcha tea on tap, plus avo on toast and vegan banana bread for breakfast – yum!
After a really inspiring talk from the ASOS and Nike panel, we headed off for our 3k run. The trainers are super-comfy and look great (millenial pink, anyone?), plus it was so much fun running in a group that I’ve decided to join a running club.
Having stylish workout gear is a great motivator for actually getting in some exercise – that or you can just look chic doing the weekly shop.
So here are some of my favourite brands to work out in.
- Leggings, £60 from Bjorn Borg
- Sports bra, £22 from ASOS 4505
Hot off the press…
If you haven’t heard the new H&M collaboration news, you must have been off Instagram for a week.
But I’m here to fill you in! At the annual Moschino Coachella Party, the high street store announced their new designer collab would be with none other than, you guessed it, Moschino!
Jeremy Scott presented model pal Gigi Hadid, dressed in a small preview of what we can expect.
It doesn’t launch until November 8 (sob!) but mark it in your diaries now!
Thought the $5.8 billion global wearable technology market was all about wristbands? Wrong.
Pauline Van Dongen is one of Europe’s leaders in the field and says the future is about so much more than your smartwatch.
Apple fans may be “stuck in a device paradigm”, but cutting-edge innovators are all about the potential of smart clothes, the designer explains.
“The next transition is to embed technology into textiles, like we do in our studio, and to look at the materials from a material and aesthetic point of view, not only from a functional perspective.”
Big brands are climbing on board
In Europe, fashion houses like Britain’s CuteCircuit and Berlin’s ElektroCouture have forged ahead of this curve. Now, big tech businesses have started taking note too (in recent years Google has made a smart jacket with Levi’s, while Samsung designed its own NFC suit).
And it’s Pauline Van Dongen’s studio in the Netherlandsthat’s breaking boundaries for some of the world’s most prominent brands.
It has worked with everyone from the $28.9 billionelectronics giant Philips to fast-growing non-latex condom company Skyn, a line that belongs to the $600 million Lifestyles Healthcare—and many publically undisclosed brands too.
Van Dongen projects typically cost from €2,000 to €100,000 (around $2,500–$123,000), with many often being run at the studio at the same time.
“By creating these projects, we generate a lot of value, whether that’s actual products partners can sell, insights into new materials and processes, or PR value,” says the designer.
As you might expect, some of Van Dongen’s many groundbreaking designs have sprung from partnerships with existing fashion innovators.
For example, last year, the studio worked with Italdenim, a sustainable jeans pioneer founded in 1974 in Arconate, a small village near Milan.
“I particularly wanted to work with denim fabric because it’s a material that everyone can identify with – everyone has a piece of denim in their wardrobe,” Van Dongen says of the collaboration.
Motivated by a desire to make technology “more human” and “mindful”, the studio developed Issho: a jacket that uses senses if you’re constantly reaching for your phone, and gives a physical response back to the wearer.
“The jacket talks to you by giving you a gentle stroke on your upper back, inviting you to be more in the present moment,” Van Dongen explains.
The studio has also worked with sustainable Dutch fashion retailer Blue Loop Originals to create a solar-powered windbreaker. It’s today worn by tour guides of Germany’s Wadden Sea Society to help them stay charged and better assist their visitors.
“It invites you to go outside and be in the sunshine to harness your own energy,” says Van Dongen.
Quite evidently, technology brands also have much to offer to the booming wearable textiles scene too. And it was Philips’ understanding of the world of electronics that supercharged Van Dongen’s Mesopic and Phototrope sportswear designs.
Disappointed by her own experience of running at night with a “ridiculous” light-up bracelet, the designer worked with Philips to come up with a savvier solution.
In its latest form, the studio’s light-up jerseys even include interactive controls to allows sports trainers to alter light colors and enable specific games and activities.
“Our tops integrate lighting from a functional perspective, but also as a new type of aesthetic, just like we’d use any other kind of material,” Van Dongen explains.
“It creates playfulness,” she adds.
With such a wide range of companies keen to explore wearables, choosing who to collaborate with can be a challenge, but the Pauline Van Dongen studio won’t be “misled” by money, says its founder.
And—as long as Van Dongen believes in the creative integrity of a project—no area is off-limits.
Indeed, the studio jumped at the opportunity to work with condom company Skyn, where it explored how the business’s latex-free materials could benefit athletes.
“Of course we wanted to avoid created a ‘condom suit’,” says Van Dongen. “That was one of the bigger challenges, not to make something that would look silly and make people laugh.”
The designer succeeded, instead creating an impressive outfit with aerodynamic flaps that open to give long jump athletes extra time in the air.
Partnerships that empower
Many more of Van Dongen’s projects are socially-motivated.
One collaboration with the Dutch wearable business Elitac saw the creation of the FysioPal top: a garment that not only records data around back posture, but uses small vibration motors to give haptic feedback to correct it.
Similarly, the studio’s Vigour cardigan—a collaboration with Technical University Eindhoven, Martijn ten Bhömer and Textile Museum Tilburg—is about empowering the elderly.
Made of soft Merino wool, it has sensors that help those with Alzheimer’s or Dementia convey their activity levels to healthcare workers.
“Our garments are already on our bodies, what’s a more intimate way to communicate that via skin?” Van Dongen asks.
The future of fashion
Today, if you’re dreaming of slipping into one of Van Dongen’s posture correcting cardigans, light-up tops, or solar-powered coats, you might struggle to track one down: at present, the studio largely relies on its partners to bring Van Dongen concepts to market.
But that could be about to change. And Van Dongen says her studio may set up its own sales channel “in the near future.”
To really move the market, however, far greater cross-industry collaboration is needed between designers, manufacturers, brands and technologists, says Van Dongen: “Otherwise we’re all stuck on our own little islands without building upon each of our expertise.”
Are you ready for futures wearables without a wristband in sight?
A costume exhibition at London’s Olympia shows interesting trends in the evolution of women’s fashions
The century of costume that is being exhibited by Miss Dawson, of Chelsea, at the Olympia Exhibition shows some extraordinary coincidences in the development of dress past and present.
Rather more than a hundred years ago, for instance, the male element predominated in feminine attire. Women wore tall hats, high collars, waistcoats, and skirts tight enough to suggest the trouser line. Almost exactly a hundred years later the coat and skirt, with its stiff-collared blouse and hard sailor hat, was compulsory for the young woman with any regard for fashion.
These revolutionary modes of the 18th century were followed by the classic styles of the Empire, and “line” became everything. Dresses of the period contained the smallest possible amount of stuff; round-toed shoes, tied on with ribbons, were a not unimportant item of attire. We also have only just discarded Empire fashions – more’s the pity, – and the sense of line which has distinguished the last five years seems in the fashion of the moment to have run amok.
Our round-toed shoes tied on with ribbons, on the other hand, have come in with the tango, a little later than rather than coincidental with Empire fashions. Again, the Empire fashions were followed by increasing fullness in the skirt, which corresponds with some exactness to the pannier tendency of to-day. This fullness gradually developed into the crinoline and gradually subsided into the bustle. It is curious to remember that women who did not conform to the bustle were regarded as eccentric, if not worse.
The present-day fashions seem to point for the moment to the bustle rather than to the crinoline. But so far dress development has followed with such extraordinary exactness the course of a hundred years ago that there seems no special reason to suppose that it will deviate now from its appointed course.
Where it may differ to a certain extent will be rather in the direction of variety. Formerly women wore crinolines practically all the time, whether in paying an afternoon call or in playing games on the lawn. To-day most women change their clothes two or three times a day at least, and their varied occupations and pleasures exact a corresponding variety in clothes.
Thus, while it seems likely that the crinoline will prevail even against the protests of the strong-minded, there is comfort in the thought that it is not likely to be worn on the links or in the office or in the gymnasium.
I’d like to start off by clarifying that in my mind, I still haven’t “made it.” That’s not to diminish any of my accomplishments thus far—I’m just the kind of person who will turn 65 and think to myself “what’s next?” I tend to be pretty pessimistic. It’s one of my biggest flaws, but also one of my biggest strengths. My dad would be lying if he told you he wasn’t worried about how I would make a living working in fashion, and so would I.
Actually working in this industry seemed like this unattainable dream that developed from obsessing over magazines and clothing more than most children did. (Try convincing yourself you’re special because of that reason. It’s really hard.) When I was a kid, using that reasoning to start pursuing my dream job didn’t seem like the strongest foundation, but I did it anyway. Remember, I was—and still am—a huge pessimist.
So where does someone who has zero connections in the fashion world start? How do you break into the industry? Can you really make a living doing, wait, what exactly is it you want to do again? Oh, you aren’t even sure what sector of the industry you want to get into?! Awesome. Your future is looking GREAT. Meet the inner monologue of my mind from about ages 10 to 19.
Yeah, I’m a good time. I tell you all of this because chances are, you have felt or are currently feeling the same way, and I’m here to tell you that’s actually really normal and that I am a huge proponent of using those fears or doubts as motivation to achieve what you really want most in life. Because if you don’t prove all of your insecurities wrong, no one else will.
My road to becoming a fashion editor isn’t the most glamorous or the most exciting, but that’s what I love about it. I worked hard, took risks, and kept a clear focus. Ready to hear how I tackled my future in the fashion industry step by step? Because LinkedIn can really only say so much.
I Failed Chapel to Attend My Internships… for 3 Years in a Row
That sentence probably sounds super weird, so let me clarify. I went to college at Pepperdine University located in Malibu, California, where I majored in integrated marketing communications. The school was Church of Christ, meaning every Wednesday, we had to attend “convocation” or “chapel” at 9 a.m. Pepperdine organized its class schedules so that most students got Wednesdays off… minus convocation.
Me, the logical yet defiant human I am, saw this as potential quality time I could be at an internship. So naturally I stopped going and interned for a full day instead. Were my mom and dad pleased with this decision when I failed convocation from my sophomore year to my senior year of college? No. Do I recommend failing anything school-related ever? No. But did I get some cool internships because I could work for at least one full day a week in addition to the other time slots I committed to? Yes. (PS, I graduated, so it’s all good.)
Here is me and my dad at my college graduation. He greeted me with champagne and tears in his eyes. Whether or not the tears were because he was worried about my future is unclear, as I was still unemployed.
My first real editorial internship was at a small publication called Malibu Magazine. I interned here for one semester and learned a lot about the inner workings of a magazine. This publication wasn’t solely fashion-focused, but it had an emphasis on art and culture, and incorporated fashion when necessary for shoots and such. It was a great jumping-off point for me, and I made connections there that I still have to this day.
From there, I landed a PR internship at Marc Jacobs (thanks to a connection at Malibu Magazine), assisting the West Coast public relations manager. I was his first intern ever, and we worked in his little office in the back of the Marc Jacobs store on Melrose Place in Los Angeles. While I quickly learned I did not love working in public relations, I did still have the time of my life. I got to assist with large-scale events, helped style celebrities (I met Ezra Koenig and basically died), and did a lot of runs to the dry cleaners because FYI, being an intern is not all glamorous.
Before I even took the internship at Marc Jacobs, I had a hunch the PR life wasn’t for me, but at the same time, I was 18, had never worked in fashion before, and knew nothing. There are so many avenues one can take in this industry, and the only way to know which you’ll feel most at home in is to test them out. No, it won’t be a waste of time. It’s the only practical way to hone in on your skill-set and to figure out which career path will make you the happiest.
I Knew Someone Who Knew Someone Who Got Me the Email Address
Now that I had Marc Jacobs on my résumé, I was convinced I could take over the world. Just kidding—I was still just a college kid, but it did boost my confidence a bit. Fun fact about me: Whenever I start feeling confident about something, I keep it a huge secret until I can prove I have a tangible reason to be confident. So that’s exactly what I did. It had always been my dream to work in New York, and I started wondering if there was a possibility I could intern there for a summer.
I remembered that my eighth grade English teacher’s daughter worked in fashion. At the time, she had just transitioned out of being (then editor in chief of Teen Vogue) Amy Astley’s assistant. Long story short (too late), she connected me to her daughter, who connected me to someone at Marie Claire. I interviewed over the phone and got offered an accessories intern position at the publication in New York City.
This is Hearst Tower, the building where I interned while at Marie Claire in New York. I believe my Instagram caption for this photo was something dramatic about how much I would miss my time there.
Naturally, I kept this whole process a secret from my parents until I actually got offered the internship. You know, to protect my pride in case I didn’t get it. I then had to come up with a whole proposal, ultimately convincing my parents that paying for me to move to New York for the summer to work at an unpaid internship was a really good idea. One of my promises to them amid this discussion was that if they allowed me to do this, I would work my ass off. That if I did it right, this summer could change my career trajectory.
I interned five days a week that summer for about three and a half months. It was the hardest summer of my life but also the absolute best. I have never worked so hard to prove that I was different and deserving of some sort of life in this world. In my mind, I had one summer to make connections, absorb as much information as possible, and stand out among a sea of other extremely deserving interns. No pressure, right? I wanted to prove that my parents sacrificing so much for me that summer was worth it, and I wanted to prove it to myself too.
I Clung to the People Who Took Time to Invest in Me
I was also so desperate to prove myself to my boss at Marie Claire, and why wouldn’t I be? I came in early, stayed late, was resourceful, and tried to be as reliable as possible. I used every opportunity I could to ask about her story, whether that meant taking her to lunch or staying late and chatting with her after hours.
My boss was this incredible resource I had right at my fingertips, and she was so willing to help me. Not taking advantage of that would have stripped me of invaluable advice I took with me into my first job and beyond. It’s easy to get intimidated by your employer, especially in an internship setting, but you’d be surprised by how much people want to help guide you, so let them guide you. Absolutely no one is above guidance.
True life: These were my intern friends, and we thought we were really cool. This was outside of 1OAK NYC (important side note for maximum embarrassment). The second girl on the left is now my roommate, and most of them are still my closest friends.
Before moving to the city that summer, I knew no one. Truly, not a single soul. I remember googling “what to do in New York for a whole summer by yourself.” Much to my surprise, I left with some of the greatest friends I could have asked for. Most of those friends now work in fashion, doing everything from PR at The Row to working for one of the biggest celebrity stylists, Erin Walsh, and we’re closer now than we were then.
I tell you this because connecting with people is something that I think can easily be overlooked in this industry, and I can tell you for a fact that I would be nowhere today if I didn’t take the time to build genuine relationships along the way. Not to scare you, but beyond your work ethic, your character follows you wherever you go, and if you screw something up in that department, you’ll have a hard time repairing your reputation.
I (Gently) Pushed to Turn My Internship Into My First Job
I returned from that summer on a total high, wondering what was next. Another I knew someone who knew someone situation unfolded, and I quickly started interning at The Zoe Report. I interned there for about a year and a half while in school, and for a short time after graduation. The mental jump from working for a print publication to working for a digital one was odd. At the time, I felt like I was taking a step backward, but it ended up being the best decision I could have made. By the end of my time at TZR, I had gone from an unpaid intern to a paid one to its editorial assistant right out of college.
Turning your internship into a job is awkward and unsettling, but confronting the situation at hand (i.e., you’re graduating and need money) is so necessary. Luckily I had an amazing boss and mentor, Nicky Deam, who I still look up to and value more than she probably realizes. I knew she cared about me and wanted to see me succeed, and instead of doubting that, I chose to trust it and discuss a future at the company with her. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Mainly because I felt like I was going to throw up the entire time due to nervousness, but with her on my side (remember my point about making genuine connections?), I was offered my very first job.
I Took One of Those Leaps of Faith Everyone Talks About
Pictured above is the lovely Who What Wear team. It’s not a true editor bonding experience if we don’t take millions of pics along the way.
“Sometimes you just need to take a leap of faith” is a sentence I hate hearing, but funnily enough, it’s exactly what I ended up doing. A job opportunity at Who What Wear was brought to my attention shortly after working at TZR, and after struggling with the decision to take on an entirely new job (I hate change), I made the jump. At 23 years old, I still felt like I had no idea what I was doing, therefore doubting every inkling of discernment I had in the matter. I was abnormally scared to start a new job, but yet again, taking the risk paid off. Transitioning into my role as associate editor at Who What Wear was the challenge and change I didn’t know I needed.
Selfie of me in NYC while trying to remember why I left sunny and warm Los Angeles.
Thanks to that scary shift, I’ve since been promoted to Who What Wear’s fashion editor, moved to New York to work out of our office here (because the number of dreams I want to chase in my lifetime are never-ending), and gained a work family I value immensely. Moving here has vastly expanded my network and exposed me to an aspect of the industry that wasn’t as readily available to me in L.A. I now get to attend fashion weeks, market appointments, and, oh, did I mention I’m insanely happy? Yeah, that too.
Proof that I’m definitely not a street style star, but I sure can frame a photo of Jenny Walton!
I Made Friends Who Keep Me Sane (and Other Practical Advice)
I don’t care what profession you’re working in—even when you’re obsessed with what you do (which I am!), you can get run down and feel overworked, and without the right support group around you, those feelings can eat you alive. My advice to you is to make friends who keep you grounded, friends who make you laugh when you’re unnecessarily stressed, and friends who motivate you to show up to work on those days when “you literally can’t.”
I’m constantly getting messages on Instagram, LinkedIn or emails from other people who are striving to hear a real story about how someone “made it” in this industry. I love these messages and actually envy most of you who have reached out to myself or others because networking is so much more readily available to you now thanks to social media. Take the risk and reach out to someone you admire, ask the questions you want to ask, and be bold in your pursuit of your dream career.
I loved this message and asked Balqees if I could include it in the story. (Hi, Balqees!) I love how boldly she reached out and asked questions. Hopefully this essay answers most of them!
No one else cares as much about your career as you do. My dad told me that once, and it’s something I’ve taken to heart throughout the years. If you don’t go chasing after what you want, it’s not going to happen. Once you land the job (and I have faith that you will), push yourself even when you won’t get credit for it, be a kind employee and co-worker, and know your worth. Do these things and you’ll reap the benefits of a career that’s fulfilling and gives a meaning to the word “success” that no amount of money will be able to define.
The dress of the summer isn’t by a famous high street brand, nor is it popular because it has been worn by a chart-topping singer or famous actor. The dress everyone wants to get their hands on is by the London-based label Kitri after an influential blogger shared it with her 344,000 Instagram followers.
The £145 Gabriella dress – a green, belted shirt-style garment with a black and white flower print – has amassed ann 800-strong waiting list of 800 people after Charlotte Groeneveld posted a picture on Instagram mid-February as a part of a paid partnership between her and the one-year-old brand. When the dress became available to purchase on Kitri’s website a month later, almost 200 units sold out in 45 minutes. A new waiting list is now open.
“We’ve worked with influencers before, but I don’t think that we’ve ever garnered this much attention with a dress,” says Kitri’s founder, Haeni Kim. Being a digital-first business allows it to reduce any price mark-up through wholesaling to retailers and eliminate the cost of a standalone store. Kitri retails between £45 for a T-shirt and £225 for a dress.
The hype and subsequent sales of the Gabriella dress suggest that social-media influencers remain a major resource for brands to tap.
Kitri is not alone in tapping into the world of influencers to profitable effect. Matchesfashion.com says its partnership with Leandra Medine Cohen (who has 626,000 followers) on its Shop With initiative produced a notably strong seller after she instagramed a photo of herself wearing a Toga coat. The post received 75,000 likes. Elsewhere, Swedish brand Ganni attributes the sellout of its Banana T-shirt, which shifted 969 units within 10 weeks in 2016, to Instagram influencers such as Pernille Teisbaek (542,000 followers), Lucy Williams (322,000 followers) and Veronika Heilbrunner (158,000 followers) wearing it.
Crucially, says Groeneveld, the secret to its success as a strategy is that it must feel authentic to work.
“I’ve built a community of people who share similar style and like similar things, so in that sense it’s more likely that [my followers] agree with the things I believe we should buy, save, or toss, than from a random person they don’t have that relationship with. The personal relationship is all that matters and gives you all credibility.”
Figures vary for paid partnerships and exact remuneration remains under wraps, but last year a study found 33% of marketers now allocate upwards of $500,000 to influencer marketing and brand partnerships, according to the trend forecasting firm WGSN. Another 2017 study, this time by the Influencer Marketing Hub, found 57% of marketers also have a standalone influencer budget. which, according to Sarah Owen of WGSN, “speaks volumes to the projected relevance this area will continue seeing”.
She adds: “Forward-thinking brands are utilising micro-influencers for Instagram campaigns in order to promote their brand to a wider, yet more targeted audience.”
Kitri is responsive. Its strategy of producing limited quantities of its designs also allows the label to generate additional drops in an agile manner when interest, just like that seen after Groeneveld’s post, picks up, without the risk of leftover stock. Kitri’s 10-person team is “working hard” to restock the Gabriella dress by the end of April or beginning of May, says Kim.
“Influencers democratised aspiration,” says Owen. “Once considered a fleeting marketing tool, the influencer ecosystem has proved to be a longstanding, viable segment for brands seeking to convert likes to sales, all the while increasing brand recognition.”
With another royal wedding on the horizon, the British royal family is gearing up for when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say “I do.” They’ve chosen the wedding cake and sent out invites, and everything seems to be on schedule for the May 19 date. But where does Queen Elizabeth fit into it all?
Harry’s grandmother Queen Elizabeth has always had a close bond with him, so it’s no surprise that she plans to play an important role in his wedding. Royal expert and biographer Katie Nicholl, author of Harry: Life, Loss, and Love, let Entertainment Tonight know what’s likely going through the queen’s head right now.
“I’m told from my sources at Windsor Castle that [Queen Elizabeth] is being very, very accommodating,” Nicholl said. “She has said to the couple, ‘This is your wedding, this is your day. Plan it as you want it.’ [This] is very generous because, don’t forget, the queen is opening up her home.”
“Don’t forget she’s hugely close to her grandson. They have a very special relationship. She is thrilled to be seeing Harry settle down and finally marry,” Nicholl said. “She’s going to want to be a very important part of that day and indeed she will.”
Even so, don’t expect Queen Elizabeth to be part of everything.
“But I think when it comes to the evening reception and certainly the party, if the Spice Girls are performing then, I don’t think the queen’s going to be on the dance floor,” Nicholl said.
Fair enough, Queen Elizabeth. Fair enough.