Having risen through the ranks at Dazed, your career trajectory is more linear than most fashion journalists now. How has it benefited you to stay in the same place all the way through?
Dazed has been my education. I finished university, I handed in my dissertation, I took a week off and then I started interning. I was assisting Isabella Burley who’s the Editor-in-Chief of the print magazine now. I came into this place not really knowing what to expect. It was kind of a baptism of fire. I started right before a menswear fashion season and that was back in the day when we would cover hundreds of shows. I was thrown in at the deep end, but I really thrived on that. The fashion week stuff gave me a chance to prove that I was capable and that I had ideas and that I could write. After a couple of months, I was on a freelance contract to be a fashion features assistant.
When I started at Dazed, I was interested in fashion but fashion’s not my only interest. I’m interested in art and music and photography and film and all that stuff. I had to learn on the job. I remember sitting in meetings in those early days and Tim Noakes ‒ who was Editor-in-Chief at the time ‒ would be throwing out names and ideas and esoteric references and I would have no idea what those things were. I would write them down and then look them up later.
“Dazed has been my education. I finished university, I handed in my dissertation, I took a week off and then I started interning.”
Dazed is what you make of it. If you want to learn as much as possible and throw yourself in, then it will give you so much back in return. For me, the benefit of staying there has been that I have been able to grow, and I have been able to do new things and I continue to be excited by what we do. I’ve also watched the fashion industry change quite a lot over that time and been able to discuss it as it was happening, whether that was about diversity or cultural appropriation, or the way we use social media and the internet.
Being such a young editor in the industry, do you ever get imposter syndrome and how do you deal with it?
Not so much now, but there was definitely a time when I felt like people were going to find out I was a fraud. I think that’s something a lot of people deal with, especially women. When I started working, I would often be the youngest person in the room. There were times when people in the industry weren’t necessarily forthcoming or welcoming. I had imposter syndrome, especially when I moved into being an editor and having to make more of my own decisions. I had to learn to listen to my gut.
I was definitely insecure about how young I was but now I think it’s really funny that I was. What is the one thing that everyone in the fashion industry wants? To vampirically suck the blood of the young. But I was so insecure about how young I looked. That’s why I wore only black. Last year, I got really bored of my clothes. I think I wore black because I was trying to be taken more seriously – it has a certain gravitas and fashion status to it. Now I want to wear fun stuff.
“I had imposter syndrome, especially when I moved into being an editor and having to make more of my own decisions. I had to learn to listen to my gut.”
Working at a publication that focuses on youth culture, how do you strike the right balance between celebrating young creativity and fetishising it?
It’s difficult. As branded content has become so dominant, it can be easy to think that magazines just need a hot, young creative of the week to put in X brand and profit off their youth and coolness. But Dazed has always been about giving a platform to those people and telling stories that maybe won’t get told in other places, really celebrating young talent and creativity. It’s not a bunch of 40-year-olds in a room. Our team is really young. Dazed 100 is focused on the next generation of young talent. We’re doing that because we’re trying to raise people up. We’re trying to spot them and help them get further in their careers in any way that we can.
How do you balance brands’ expectations with critical analysis of fashion?
We’re an independent magazine so we have more space to push back against things than a lot of places. Ultimately, we’re a fashion magazine and we have adverts. You can’t bite the hand that feeds you too much because then you’ll starve. It’s about working out how to have those conversations in a way that is still productive. I’m very lucky and very thankful that when I’ve really said, ‘This isn’t cool, and I think we should write about it’, I’ve been supported. When something comes up, we discuss it and we work out whether to move forward on it. Being critical of brands, especially when they deserve criticism, is important.
“What is the one thing that everyone in the fashion industry wants? To vampirically suck the blood of the young.”
Do you have any advice for managing freelance work alongside a full-time job?
Be realistic about deadlines and be communicative with people. If something’s come up and your work is going to be late, just tell them it’s going to be late. Don’t disappear for five days. Say if you’re not going to be available for edits until tomorrow morning and I’ll be around until midday or whatever. We’re all human. I’m not going to expect that someone is available all the time.
Also, don’t overdo it. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to rest and recover and be inspired by things. The only way I get inspired and get those creative flashes of lightning is when I’ve given myself the time to go to an exhibition or read a book or write a journal entry and actually be creative because otherwise you get stuck on this constant hamster wheel.
“As branded content has become so dominant, it can be easy to think that magazines just need a hot, young creative of the week to put in X brand and profit off their youth and coolness.“
You recently started your newsletter, Off Brand. What motivated that?
After several years of writing journalistically, where there are certain rules you have to follow, I realised that I’d moved away from the writing that I used to do when I was young. When I was 15, I just wrote for fun. That kind of writing is more creative and it’s less about ticking boxes in terms of quotes or factual accuracy or having an article that has to start one place and take you somewhere else, resolve an argument and conclude. I hadn’t given myself the space to write as a creative outlet. I think writing the newsletter is benefitting me as a journalist because it’s helping me to think about my voice and to think about what kind of journalist I actually want to be.
How important do you think it is for writers to have a personal brand?
My immediate reaction to personal branding is just to be like wow, late capitalism has really got us with this one. It’s so interesting, culturally, the idea that every single person has to become a brand and monetise themselves or the idea that becoming a brand is key to monetising yourself. You just have to be aware of the fact that having a personal brand can actually be limiting. If you want to become an influencer or you really want how you look and how you dress to be central to your creative output, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
“Ultimately, we’re a fashion magazine and we have adverts. You can’t bite the hand that feeds you too much because then you’ll starve.”
As a writer, you have areas of expertise, which is a sort of personal brand, but the cultivation and the effort should go as much towards the work as it does towards the image. If all you have is the image, what happens if Instagram gets deleted or everyone moves on? I had a dream not that long ago that Instagram got deleted and I was actually fine about it. Hopefully, I have done enough work, and I have built up enough skills that I don’t feel like I do have to rely on the image. Not to say that people who you think might rely on the image like influencers don’t also have those skills and have that work and can’t then translate that into something else, but you should put as much time into what’s inside your head as you do into what you look like on Instagram.