Representing the creative future

Advice for young creatives from Susannah Frankel and Alexander Fury

The Editor in Chief and Fashion Features Director of AnOther Magazine talk frankly about the fashion industry, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication

Alexander Fury, Fashion Features Director at AnOther found time on a drizzly Thursday afternoon to sit down, albeit virtually, with his editor-in-chief, Susannah Frankel, as part of a series of free educational talks hosted by the editors behind Dazed, AnOther, and Nowness called ‘Making It Up As We Go Along’. The talks are part of Dazed Academy, an educational initiative aimed at assisting young people to break into the creative industries, be it through workshops, talks, collaborative projects, or exhibitions with the intention of democratising entry into creative jobs.

We attended the “20 Years of Making A Magazine” talk, documented all the key points, and had the opportunity to pose some additional questions to Susannah Frankel and Alexander Fury about the industry, young talent, and its future.

ON STARTING A CAREER IN FASHION

Fury and Frankel started off by discussing their own journeys through the fashion journalism world. Frankel, not knowing fashion could be studied at university, completed an English degree before starting at Blitz Magazine and staying until its closure. She then worked as fashion editor at the Guardian, and then The Independent, a position that would later be filled by Fury.

Alexander Fury, having initially envisioned himself as a designer, graduated from the fashion history and theory course at Central Saint Martins in 2006, and has since held positions at the New York Times, ShowStudio, Financial Times, and Love Magazine.

“Honestly, right now is a very difficult time to get into fashion media. Many offices are closed, and internships and employment opportunities are even scarcer than usual.” – Alexander Fury

When asked the advice she has for young people starting their professional journey, Susannah Frankel didn’t hesitate: “Don’t compromise. Read, watch, listen to everything,” she declared, with Alexander Fury spilling the tough truth about the currently deserted magazine offices: “Honestly, right now is a very difficult time to get into fashion media. Many offices are closed, and internships and employment opportunities are even scarcer than usual. I think my recommendation is to be resilient and open to opportunities – which seems basic, but honestly unexpected avenues can lead to work.”

In case you desire to secure an internship at AnOther magazine, now entering its third decade the advice is: wait, and if you have a true enthusiasm and love for fashion then there is a place for you. Frankel admits that “knowledge, accuracy, individuality and the ability to think quickly,” are the most vital traits in an aspiring AnOther Magazine writer. Fury is on the same page, looking for respect and adoration for fashion; “a good turn of phrase. Proficient use of spell check – although I’m guilty of not following that recommendation myself. I think the most important element is passion and love for your craft – that means both writing and fashion,” he suggests.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH 

Discussing formative fashion literature, Fury described the importance of acknowledging fashion as an interconnected medium, and among the work of Émile Zola, spoke on how the Bible is a fundamental fashion book; by setting a basis for a moral understanding of clothing, it exists as a lens through which dress is viewed and read. A good fashion education requires more than the blinkered study of fashion. It demands a wider culture that it serves and is informed by.

The duo mused on the differences writers must be conscious of when working for different magazine titles. As Alexander noted, the beauty of writing for a newspaper for example is that it’s ‘evangelical’. Your role as a fashion editor in a newspaper, where the majority of readers view fashion as mindlessly frivolous, is to fight for designers. There exists a stuffy skepticism about fashion, especially within the liberal papers, among both staff and readers, and Frankel suspects the Guardian wanted her to be reactionary in her work. Rather, she fell in love with fashion and the written word.

“When the interviewee is bombarded with admiration, it makes them feel comfortable talking about what they do.” – Susannah Frankel

Frankel and Fury also offered their advice on interviews, with Frankel acknowledging the power in only interviewing those you look up to, and whose work you care about. “When the interviewee is bombarded with admiration,” Frankel notes, “it makes them feel comfortable talking about what they do.” This perhaps predictably can lead to moments of panic, such as when Frankel sat down with the notoriously private Rei Kawakubo, flustered, and asked what she was thinking of when designing the collection. Kawakubo drew a circle and left.

“The circle is now in the collection of the Met,” adds Fury.  Alexander is a lexicon of fashion knowledge, past and present. He explained this is also pivotal in conducting interviews with designers, to know how a garment is constructed, and to understand the technical processes associated with making clothes. Understanding the references, their historical and contemporary significance allows for a more fulfilling conversation and a richer final piece.

“The CEO-ification of fashion is making creativity stagnate.” – Alexander Fury

ON THE FASHION SYSTEM

“I love the fashion system and feel that its resilience and ability to change has been palpable over the past twelve months,” Frankel explains, admiring the industry’s ability to respond to the changes of our times. “If you think about the way designers have adapted to showing on a digital platform maintaining their integrity and identity… It is incredible. As is the shift towards a local physical audience and a global digital one. The fact that the biannual ready-to-wear season is a little all over the place right now isn’t the easiest thing to keep up with but all change is good and keeps you on your toes.” When asked about what the industry could change for the better, Alexander Fury clearly replied: Its mentality. “The CEO-ification of fashion is making creativity stagnate. While financial success is important, ultimately it’s not the reason designers create clothes – nor is it what motivates people to buy them. I’m not sure if that can ever change now, we’ve probably gone too far down the road. But I think less focus on fashion as “product” and on designers as “brands” would make fashion more exciting and joyful,” Fury explained further.

“Without young, fresh voices, fashion would fail. Not for the better” – Susannah Frankel

ON THE CHALLENGES OF TODAY

The reality of navigating a career in fashion is very different from what it was 10 years ago, making the journey towards employability a path full of obstacles for today’s generation. For Susannah Frankel, the key is hidden in community and perseverance. “There are more fashion creatives at the moment than there ever have been but there is also more space for them across all platforms. It is very difficult to meet people for now but that will change and, in the end, meeting people is the way to break through. Fashion is about friendship, communication, and teams: never underestimate the value of being part of a team. Mainly, don’t give up. I love that Samuel Beckett quote: ‘Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Fail again. Fail Better.’ Be brave because it is the best job in the world and fashion is, and always has been, reliant on youth. Without young, fresh voices, fashion would fail. Not for the better,” she advises and Fury seems to agree, acknowledging the challenges that come hand in hand with Covid-19 and Brexit: “young creatives need to be strong, assured, and focused to navigate those difficulties. Over the past decade, I have been consistently impressed by how those kinds of ideas are built into the ethos of a younger generation – alongside an incredible belief in not only the need for change but an ability to bring it about. It’s energising, and optimistic.”

1 Granary

Magazine Issue 6

With unprecedented honesty and depth, 1 Granary Issue 6 dives into the work and lives of fashion designers today. As a response to the construction of desire and personality cults that govern our industry, the magazine steps away from the conventional profiles and editorials, focussing instead on raw work and anonymous, unfiltered testimonies. For the first time ever, readers are given a truthful insight into the process, dreams, fears, hardships, and struggles of today’s creatives.

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