Last Friday (May 15) saw the University of Sunderland Fashion Journalism students descend on the capital for talks with some of the fashion industries’ leading interviewers, feature writers and stylists.
The panel comprised of Fabulous Magazine’s stylist, Tracey Lea Sayer, Lousie Gannon, freelance celebrity interviewer and Jessica Bumpus, fashion features editor from British Vogue.
Starting off the afternoon of talks was Tracey detailing her career from applying to Newcastle University to do fashion design, with what she describes as a “rubbish portfolio” and being turned down. She then took some time out to become a freelance stylist to create a catalogue of work, worthy of applying at St Martins a few years later. In this time period she says she, “spent a lot of time in the fashion cupboards, packing boxes, folding clothes and putting things in order” for the likes of Vivienne Westwood and Hilary Alexander, who later held a job for her while she studied Fashion Communications.
Now after working at the likes of The Telegraph, Evening Standard and Happy magazine, Tracey is fashion director at Fabulous magazine, part of The Sun on Sundays, where she has been for the last seven years. Her job is a mixture of studio shoots and on location, which she says allows her to go to places she would never go to on her holidays.
For the future stylists among us, her advice is to shoot street style and absorb what is being worn on the streets. Study the composition of the clothing and play about with it. Always stand back, look, and pin to make the clothing the best it can look. When working on a shoot with a team aim to get it right from the beginning, and don’t be afraid to mash things up and clash things.
Advice from Jessica Bumpus, Vogue’s fashion features editor online had a similar start to her career, by spending time in fashion cupboards of Brides magazine, Vogue and The Telegraph. She says for future interns not just at Vogue, to make yourself look busy, put shoes and clothes in order when they come in for shoots, make tea and coffee and be sensitive when tensions are high due to deadlines.
Her job is a mixture of trying to keep the new technology of the online world, mixed with the classic Vogue brand image. Splicing breaking news with image heavy galleries of premieres and fashion shows, as well as long reads such as her most popular post about how fashion shows are becoming more about their Instagram worthy status, than the clothes.
Bumpus’ advice to the future of feature writing: “it’s the quotes you remember, they are the one you should use in your piece. Ask yourself what’s the hook/angle and what is the reason for the interview or piece.”
Louise Gannon echoed the thoughts of Bumpus, and added when interviewing it’s a multi-tasking job, “you’re constantly Rolerdexing for things to say, while listening to what they have to say, making the interviewee feel comfortable and relaxed, as that’s when the conversation flows and becomes natural”. Louis added, “gaging body language is the key to asking the harder questions, unless time is short then cut straight to the chase.”
Gannon’s career has been illustrious with interviewing One Direction in Australia, actor Jack Nicholson and the then Cheryl Cole about loosing herself and coming back from “the brink” for Elle magazine last year. Louise says fashion and celebrity “are the eggs and bacon of the fashion world, they just work”. When she’s on a shoot which she says are “intimidating because everyone is so focused”, she always introduces herself after the creative team, so they can start their work and she can interview during the hair and make-up or in-between sets.
The one thing that this trio of women all agreed on is that it’s in the details. When you’re styling a shoot ask yourself, what would catch the reader’s eye when it’s on the page. Or could it be the unique angle or quote from the celebrity/main focus of the feature, that the reader has never heard before that would make you stop and pay attention.
To the future of journalism above all else “be pathological about what you do … none of us feel like we’re the best at our jobs. It’s because we’re really tough on ourselves, we work really hard, and always go that extra mile”, concludes Gannon.