I completely forgot to post this for Wednesday. So sorry (or ‘soz’, as my daughter says). I’m crap. I think it was probably because I’m very deeply stuck into the germination of a novel and my hold on the real world is even more tenuous than normal.
I’m so glad I’m no longer editor-in-chief of an international fashion magazine. Back when I was a front row fixture at the European and New York designers shows (I was heading up British ELLE and it was an awfully long time ago now..) I found it fiercely stressful getting the magazine out, while being away from the office for four weeks at a time, twice a year, attending the shows that turn the wheel of fashion.
If I’d also had to have been picture perfect every second of those fashion weeks as well, I would have blown a gasket. In those days photographers only took pictures of the models on the runway and the odd celeb in row A, and there weren’t even many of those.
There was one chap – New York snapper, Bill Cunningham, so legendary they’ve just released a feature-length docco about him – who would grab pictures of the audience as they arrived, but that was it.
But while I didn’t have the pressure today’s editors have to look red carpet ready while turning up for work each day, I did have to look reasonable. The front row was always a big deal. Then there were all the crucial advertiser parties and lunches and dinners and breakfasts to attend.
Although the reason I’d been given the job was because I was quite good at coming up with ideas and finding the best writers and photographers to make them into something special, once I became an editor-in-chief I was rather surprised to find I was suddenly also the public face of the magazine as well. Brains weren’t enough any more. I also had to look the part – eek!
While I’ve always been obsessed with fashion and style – that’s why I wanted to edit a fashion magazine in the first place – it’s always been on quite an analytical level. I can tell you the exact structure of a Chanel jacket and date Dior launched the New Look (February 12th, 1947), but that didn’t mean I was expert in dressing myself for my very particular new role.
So what did I do? I asked for advice.
The person I asked was my Executive Fashion Editor, who was always perfectly dressed and groomed. Her job was to schmooze advertisers and PRs, so the talent to look right was a large part of what got her hired in the first place. And she’d been dressing to impress fashion industry insiders for years.
Her advice was brilliant. Invest in the best tailoring and don’t worry about being on season. If you stay away from anything to quirky, the good stuff lasts.
In particular, she told me to buy a ‘le smoking’ tuxedo jacket and never travel without it. You’ll always be prepared for a surprise invitation. I did exactly what she told me and that tux was my best friend for years. In fact, I still have it (although sadly, I didn’t look like this in it…).
That wise counsel served me well through my years of fashion show front rows, lunches with Yohji Yamamoto and dinner with Jean Paul Gaultier.
So if I’d ever been invited to an event that was going to be watched by a third of the world’s population and had a role in life that meant my outfit was bound to be intensely scrutinised, I would once again have sought advice from an expert.
If only Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie had done that.
Maggie Alderson’s new book Style Notes is out now (in Australia) published by Penguin.