A fashion writer is someone who writes journalism or copy relating to aspects of fashion and style.
Fashion writers create features and copy for a variety of media including fashion magazines, advertising and trade publications, newspapers and, increasingly, online forums such as blogs and online magazines.
Top professional fashion editors, as well as powerful freelance bloggers and writers, attend major fashion shows to identify and feature new trends each season. The trends they find and promote will filter through magazines and onto the high street, making some fashion writers powerful players in the marketplace, who broker deals between advertisers, designers, celebrities and editorial staff.
Other fashion writers stay more firmly within a traditional journalistic remit, pitching and writing articles on features of fashion news.
The working environment is dominated by women and gay men. Young fashion writers will often be expected to work long, demanding hours assisting editors – for some, this will include opening post, fetching coffee, and any other servile tasks that nobody else is willing to do.
On the upside, talent and hard work do not always go unrewarded, and some young writers can be helped on as protégés of their seniors.
Many clichés about the fashion industry are true: its bitchiness and cliques, its occasionally shallow attitudes, the judgements it makes based on physical appearance. But there are more positive clichés too: the beautiful people, international travel, parties and free clothes.
Finally and most importantly, an interest in the art and craft of clothes design, and in the flux of the current trends, is what stimulates and inspires many fashion writers, even those whose work focuses predominantly on sales and advertising.
The internet’s influence on fashion, from street style to online archives of cutting-edge haute-couture, has grown exponentially.
With this, some commentators say the fashion industry in general, and fashion writing in particular, have become more democratic and meritocratic, opening new possibilities for aspiring fashion writers to make their mark without having to find a route into the insular industry.
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Most successful fashion writers today will have done at least some work for free, whether in the form of unpaid internships or in the form of voluntary commissions.
At mid-level, a junior fashion writer employed by a mainstream publication can expect a salary from £20-30,000.
This figure is quite wide, as some publications, particularly those associated with luxury brands and those which make considerable money from advertising, are able to pay writers much more than some smaller magazines which deal with more content-driven, editorial or avant-garde material.
At the top end of the profession, fashion writers working for the biggest international magazines can command thousands of pounds for a single article.
Salaries are rarely exceptionally high, and the number of fashion writers who are paid over £100,000 p.a. as a flat rate from a magazine are next to none.
However, many high-end fashion writers work on a freelance basis selling single articles and styling or advising on fashion trends and stories, as well as acting as a consultant for brands and advertisers who need to be in the know.
- Pitching articles
- Arranging and conducting interviews
- Travelling to shows and shoots
- Planning, writing and editing features
- Acting as a liaison point between designers, editors and advertisers
Qualifications as such are not always necessary. The following, however, will be desirable additions to a fashion writer’s CV:
- A degree in fashion writing
- A diploma in writing or journalism
- Good contacts
- Written English of an extremely high written standard
- An interest in, and good understanding of, fashion and the fashion industry
- A good sense of style or aesthetic judgement
- Networking skills and sociability
- Ability to meet deadlines and work to a strict editorial remit
Fashion writing is not known for its strenuous working conditions, however, the industry can be difficult in that the job is stressful and expectations from editors can be unreasonably high.
Many fashion writers will be expected to travel and work some evenings and weekends.
No experience is considered requisite, other than an interest in and genuine engagement with fashion, and an ability to write.
However, the competitive nature of the role means that most commissions are now given to writers with an impressive portfolio of work for a number of different publications.
Aspiring fashion writers can start off by writing for blogs and small magazines, and by sending emails about prospective work or internships.
National newspapers such as The Times or The Guardian have extremely small fashion desks with only a handful of full-time staff.
National and international glossy magazines such as Vogue, Elle, InStyle or Marie Claire will employ more staff, but the majority of paid journalists working for these magazines do so on a short-term contract or freelance basis.
Many fashion writers will combine commercial work writing copy for advertising clients. In this context, PR and management agents facilitate employment for many fashion writers.
A career as a fashion writer often gets off to a slow-burning start, with writers transferring from student media to internships, to short-term contracts and occasional commissions from minor publications.
A permanent position on a magazine usually comes after a period of gaining experience in this way, when a writer has an extensive portfolio of work. Some fashion writers choose to remain independent and write freelance throughout their careers.
Successful fashion writers who can earn a living from their writing, and are able to pick and choose their commissions from major organs of the press, are often content in this position. However, some fashion writers go on to work as editors or commissioners themselves.
Others will work as stylists, and some senior fashion writers nowadays progress to act as muses for fashion designers and bloggers, or as consultants for major brands or for umbrella media groups or outlets.
Also known as…
- Fashion Journalist
- Fashion Editor
- Fashion Copy Writer
- Style Journalist/Editor/Writer
What’s it really like?
Beth Vincent, 25, is features editor for menswear website Oki-ni.com.
I have worked here at Oki-ni for about a year and a half now. Initially I joined the team as a copywriter, and as the company has grown my role has developed into my current position.
I have always had an interest in fashion, and after graduating with a BA in English Literature from the University of Sussex, I moved back to my hometown for the summer, where I worked for an independent women’s-wear retailer.
Earlier in the year I’d entered the Vogue Young Talent competition, and about three weeks into my shop job I received a letter telling me I’d been short-listed as a finalist.
Along with the other finalists, I was invited to attend a lunch at Vogue House where I met some of the writers and editors of the magazine. I was offered a month-long unpaid internship at Vogue, which I took up over the summer.
After the internship, I was offered a few freelance commissions. I really enjoyed working on these, and I decided to move to London in September of that year to pursue a career in fashion journalism.
Over the next year and a half, I worked for Wallpaper and InStyle magazines, and for the (now defunct) Londonpaper. I also assisted a menswear designer for 6 months. This offered some insights into how the fashion industry works, as well as being invaluable experience for meeting people and winning commissions.
The work I was doing was exciting, but little of it was well-paid, which made it necessary for me to take up some other paid work at the same time: various temp positions and bar jobs, but also hot-desk appointments, which involved working for different desks on newspapers and magazines. The temporary work was sometimes monotonous, but with hindsight I can see that it was useful for me to gain experience working in different areas of the media, and seeing how the international press operates at different levels.
When I left InStyle I was offered the post at Oki-ni. This position is copy-based and commercial, and so in some respects it is different from my previous posts at magazines, but in many respects these distinctions have broken down in the recent industry, with web-based media, and editorial-advertising crossovers becoming increasingly significant for fashion writers.
The most important part of my job is maintaining a consistent, intelligent, audience-appropriate tone for all copy associated with the site – whether it’s industry-specific marketing materials, globally received product emails or creative editorial features.
Amongst other things, daily tasks include writing up new products before they’re published on the site, producing marketing and email content and liaising with designers and PRs to arrange shoots and features.