'Create Insights' are monthly talks put on by the Create team to give young people a free insight into working in the creative industries. For July's session, we were lucky enough to have British Vogue online's news editor Lauren Milligan come to talk to us about careers in fashion journalism.
Lauren is a great example of how it's possible to end up in the career you want through alternative or non-traditional routes. She described how she had always been 'genuinely tragic' when it came to fashion, giving us an anecdote about her bedroom 'supermodel shrine', yet went to university to study English. Having worked in fashion retail during her degree, after graduating Lauren took an opportunity to become assistant manager at Armani in Glasgow. From there, she met the CEO of All Saints, who took a liking to her confident and enthusiastic attitude and invited her to head office. She was soon appointed web manager, where she says she learnt everything she could as fast as possible in order to perform her best in her new role. After the PR Manager left, she stepped into that role; again, learning on her feet. Eventually, she left her job to freelance, and one day accompanied a friend to the leaving party of the then-News editor at Vogue. Deciding to pitch for the job, she sent in her eclectic CV and writing samples, and landed herself the position she's now been working in for over five years.
Lauren spoke about the enthusiasm and dedication needed to make strides into the fashion industry. She touched on internships, generally seen as an essential step on the fashion career ladder - as important as these experiences are, many are unpaid, something which she acknowledged makes them impossible for some people if they aren't financially well off or their parents cannot support them. Instead of giving up if unable to afford to intern, aspiring fashion journalists should be writing in their own time, showing they can cater to different audiences, producing pieces and pitching them to magazines and learning whatever they can about the industry. Also important is appreciating differences in print and online work - on the Vogue website, pieces are shorter and snappier, whereas print is ideal for longer features. She noted that a fast turnaround is essential to web content, and the fact that she was the only candidate to return writing samples on the same day was one of the reasons she was hired for the Vogue role. Her honesty about the pay rate of the fashion industry was refreshing, too; as with most arts-related careers, most people won't be making a fortune, but loving your job can be much more satisfying than a hefty pay check.
Particularly interesting was her citation of the book 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg. In a room full of girls aspiring to work in the fashion industry, she made the point that girls and women are often less likely to speak up in the workplace due to differences in the societal expectations of men and women. For example, studies suggest that in men, ambition is often seen as a positive quality; but in women is seen as something more negative. Lauren encouraged us to speak for ourselves and advised us not to be afraid of 'looking silly' or being rejected; instead, to be confident in our abilities ("if you believe you can do it, other people will too") and if necessary, some 'slight blagging' sometimes helps! Lauren also kindly took the time to speak to each of us individually about our plans and career paths, which was a fantastic opportunity.
See Lauren's work at Vogue Online
Read an interview with Lauren here.
August's Create Insights will be held on Friday 22nd August at 18:30. Gavin Grindon and Catherine Flood, co-curators of the recently opened Disobedient Objects exhibition at the museum, will speak about the challenges of being a museum curator and what it's like to stage a major exhibition (more information here)
September's Create Insights will be held on Friday 19th September at 18:30, where we'll be hearing from one of the designers participating in the world-renowned London Design Festival, which is based at the Museum each year (more information here)
Words & image: Laura Blair