The Fashion Blogger
Susanna Lau is one of the industry’s most successful bloggers. She is a front-row regular and has become known for championing emerging brands across the world on her multiple Style Bubble platforms.
I started my blog around ten years ago, while working full-time in advertising. I didn’t study fashion, and never thought of myself as someone who could work
in the industry. The blog was a way to get involved, but I had no plans to change career.
I was lucky to be part of the ‘first generation’ of bloggers. The success of Style Bubble was a combination of timing – there weren’t that many fashion blogs around in 2006 – and the fact that anything innovative from the internet started getting a lot of press coverage. It’s much harder to make it as a blogger now.
A strong personal voice is non-negotiable. You have to carve out exactly what you’re about and evaluate how it stands up against what is already out there.
My diary is based on the fashion calendar.
I do the regular show season, but I also like to go to Tokyo twice a year.
The way in? I’m a massive advocate of self-learning. These days you can teach yourself anything online. Everything is accessible – you just need the motivation to educate yourself. I taught myself to write in HTML aged 13.Getty Images
The High Street Maven
Kate Phelan has been creative director of Topshop since 2011 and, after a brief hiatus, has worked at UK Vogue, currently as senior contributing fashion editor, for over 20 years.
"I failed my A-Levels, so I decided to do a diploma at Somerset College of Arts and Technology. I went on to apply to Central St Martins in 1986 for a fashion degree with an option to do a communication and promotion route.
I’d always wanted to be a fashion writer on a newspaper. I did a placement at The Mail On Sunday in my third year, but after I’d finished, I realised I hadn’t enjoyed it.
The penny dropped when I walked through the door at Vogue. Back then, there was no education on how magazines were put together or what a stylist was – but as soon as I discovered it, I was in love.
I ended up quitting St Martins to become a fashion assistant at Vogue. It was a big leap, but I knew the breaks in our industry were few and far between. It has been an incredible opportunity. If the job at Topshop hadn’t come up, I’d still be happy being there full-time.
I liken my role to being a police helicopter. I’m always trying to get an overview of the whole look and feel of the business. It’s easy to end up in a bubble, but it’s my job to keep the doors open, whether it’s thinking about our campaigns or the new designers we collaborate with.
The way in? First, you need to be honest with yourself. Are you prepared to work incredibly hard, and are you passionate? Keep your eyes open, look at what people are wearing and watching.
Tabitha Simmons launched her eponymous footwear line in 2009, adding to her roles as contributing editor at US Vogue
and stylist for brands including Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen.
I got into the industry through modelling. It only lasted about two years, but during that time I discovered styling. I had already finished my degree in TV and set design at Kingston University when I got an internship at Dazed & Confused magazine.
You have to put the time in. You can’t be all, ‘Where’s my eight-page story?’ after two weeks of interning. It wasn’t like I left college and became a fashion editor. After Dazed, I moved to New York to assist stylist Karl Templer and worked on so many different projects across advertising, shows and shoots.
I’m really organised, in terms of scheduling. From shoots to travel to having time with the clothes at Fashion Week, I make sure everything is diarised super-early in the season.
My role as a stylist is to collaborate. It’s so important to understand the DNA of the brand I’m working with so I can make the right calls.
The way in? Be grateful for everything, whether it’s your first internship or the next job. A great work ethic is so important, and the first rule of business is: treat other people the way you like to be treated. Never rest on your laurels. I always do the very best job I can.
The Innovative Producer
Laura Holmes runs a production company, Laura Holmes Production, that connects photographers, stylists and set designers to create the incredible images we see in fashion campaigns for brands including Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, JW Anderson and Victoria Beckham.
Fashion magazines were always the most exciting treat for me. I wanted to be a stylist, so I took an art foundation course at Kingston University and finished my BA at Central St Martins. I did work experience at The Independent, where [fashion editor] Susannah Frankel gave me tiny pieces to research and write.
There, I read about fashion producers Gainsbury & Whiting, and I knew I had to work for them. I contacted them, enthusiastically, until they let me. I stayed for nearly six years, before leaving to go freelance. I set up my own company in 2010 when I needed a base and people to help me.
Being a producer is like a game of Top Trumps. I have to curate the perfect team to help an artist facilitate their ideas – ideas and imagery that shape the way consumers see things. I have researched breeds and growth patterns of daisies for a fragrance commercial; sourced purple recycled tyres as an alternative to soil for a fashion show; found a location that looked like the moon – in Spain – for a fashion lookbook.
The way in? Do as much work experience as you are able to, and stick at it. Be persistent and explore every opportunity.John Lindquist
The Publishing Powerhouse
Caroline Issa is fashion director of Tank (both a magazine and creative agency) and becauselondon.com. She also designs her own label in collaboration with Nordstrom and consults for brands across the globe.
I had a winding, non-linear road to my career. I did my undergraduate degree at Wharton School of business (University of Pennsylvania) in management consultancy. I moved to London to do corporate strategy for Boots, which wasn’t right for me. I’d met the founder of Tank, and they were looking for start-up business management, so I joined them.
I’m endlessly travelling, following fashion brands around the world. I’ve just got back from Korea and I’m straight off to Paris, then to Seattle and back to Paris. I’ve got trips to New York, Milan and the Philippines – all before the traditional fashion-month calendar. Fashion is a truly global business.
Gone are the days of one-job careers. I would never be in the position I am in today if the boundaries between specialisations hadn’t become increasingly blurred. I’m a business owner first and foremost – but my role also encompasses publishing, editorial content, advertising and creating products.
The way in? Be curious. Immerse yourself in the business and don’t be afraid to ask questions – before I left my consultancy job, I spent four months working weekends and most of my evenings with the Tank team, learning about the business.
The Creative Director
Ronnie Cooke Newhouse is creative director of HOUSE + HOLME – an image and advertising agency specialising in fashion. She served as creative director of Calvin Klein and Barneys New York in the ’90s, before moving to London and setting up her own agency Creative director means different things with different clients.
But what is consistent is that from beginning to end you are managing and leading the creative process. We work in a collaborative way with designers, photographers, hair, make-up, set designers, artists and film directors.
There is no road map. Every time I start, the circumstances are different. The thoughts are different. The collections are different. Usually, you start with a thought, an instinct, a feeling.
The way in? Absorb everything to do with fashion: photography, literature, art, architecture and design. The more you know about pop culture outside of fashion, the more you can bring to your job. Walk with humility and never be above making a cup of coffee.
The Style Director
After a long career as a fashion journalist, Paula Reed now splits her time between London and Munich in her role as fashion director for fashion e-tailer MyTheresa.com.
I didn’t know anyone in fashion when I arrived in London in the ’80s. I’d just graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, with a degree in French and German, and was desperate to get a job on a newspaper fashion desk. I knew I couldn’t get on unless I met people, so I decided to knock on Lynne Franks’ (the PR that Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina was based on) door. I spent a year with Lynne before moving to Jasper Conran and Rifat Özbek, then I got a job at The Independent as an assistant to the fashion editor.
My move from editorial into retail was a learning cliff, not a curve. I loved my job as fashion director for The Sunday Times Magazine and style director for Grazia, but when the opportunity to become fashion director at Harvey Nichols came up, I saw the potential. While it didn’t work out, that role was a gateway to my current position at MyTheresa.
The way in? Do work experience in as many fields as possible. It only takes the right person with the right combination of skills to create a new role that may never have existed the week before.
The Design Guru
Ann-Sofie Johansson is creative advisor at H&M. She oversees the design direction of H&M’s entire global fashion offering, including the Studio Collection, which is shown at Paris Fashion Week.
Twice a year, the fashion world goes to Première Vision in Paris. You see the new developments in fabrics, watch trend seminars, and look at the colour chart they present. What is shown there impacts the whole fashion industry.
As designers, we all do our research in a similar way, and from the same sources, therefore coming to the same conclusions (which is how trends exist).
The design process starts with research for inspiration. We start at least a year ahead, but have the possibility to add things at short notice if something pops up.
Designer collaborations are a joint decision between our CEO, marketing, PR and design departments. It has to be someone we really admire as a designer and who feels contemporary. We run the H&M Design Award (designaward.hm.com) to encourage young designers.
I started out at H&M working on the sales floor. That was in 1987; I became a design assistant in 1990, and in 2008 was made head of design. Today, it’s not as possible to have my journey; to work as a designer
at H&M you need at least a three-year design education. However, shop-floor experience is really valuable to know the customer.
The way in? Be patient. It took some time before I went from design assistant to designer, but I knew it would happen eventually.Mattias Barda
The Tech Pioneer
Liz Bacelar founded Decoded Fashion to create events that connect fashion decision-makers with tech start-ups.
In May, she partnered with the British Fashion Council to host the first Fashion Futures Awards, and has worked with Calvin Klein, DKNY, Rebecca Minkoff and Nicholas Kirkwood.
I was always interested in technology because of my desire to know first. I began my career breaking news for CBS: I’d fly to the White House and to war zones, and after ten years in journalism, I was poached by LivePerson – a chat technology company whose CEO I’d done a profile piece on. Male tech developers kept showing me fashion apps they’d built for their wives. They were way off-mark, but I thought: what if we put fashion leaders and tech experts in one room?
I did a pilot event in 2011.
A hundred people came, but the only way to signal I was serious was to fill the Lincoln Centre. A member of the British government was in the audience. He said it would be great for me to launch in London. I agreed, “Yeah, eventually.” He replied: “No, next week.” Through him, I secured the funding for our launch. Today, we have meet-ups of 15,000 people in 12 countries.
The way in? I get requests from fashion CEOs all the time for new talent. They tell me, “Give me someone tech smart.” So, read the news, subscribe to tech news sites. Coding isn’t necessarily something everyone should do. I don’t code, but I can talk about it without fear.
The Global Retailer
Ruth Chapman is the co-founder and joint CEO of matchesfashion.com. From a small store in Wimbledon, the business has grown into one of the world’s most desirable shopping destinations.
I didn’t start out in fashion. I studied business, and when I finished college, I went straight into a video company – which was a new medium back then. Then I met Tom [Chapman, her husband and co-founder and CEO of matchesfashion.com]. He was opening a store in Wimbledon – and I started helping out, as he clearly didn’t have a clue about womenswear. I handed in my notice at my well-paid job, and went to work with him – that’s love for you.
I have a broad view of the business. Whether it’s working out our events calendar for the next six months, catching up with the retail and windows teams or planning Christmas across the whole business, you have to be able to switch from one thing to the next.
The way in?If you want to open a store, you have to have a distinct and original point of view. You also need to realise that if you don’t cope well with change, this isn’t the best job for you. We are constantly pressing the reset button.Rex Features
The Talent Scout
Lulu Kennedy MBE is founder and director of Fashion East, a pioneering non-profit initiative established to nurture emerging young designers. She also has her own fashion brand, Lulu & Co, and consults with a host of labels.
I fell into fashion by mistake. I’d been putting on raves and gigs in Naples, which I loved, but it was challenging, so I took a job part-time working in a gallery, where I met Ofer Zeloof, who had just bought the Old Truman Brewery [in London’s East End] and wanted to transform it into an arts and media quarter. I was meant to answer the phone and make coffee. That was 1996 – and I’m still here.
We started Fashion East in 2000 to support young fashion designers. A lot of my time is spent scouting and making agonising decisions about who to help.
The way in? Contrary to what people say, it’s not just about ‘the people you know’. I wasn’t just handed this project, I’ve got it because I put in the hours. I expect the same from my team.