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Want to be a fashion journalist?

Sonal D'Silva | April 19, 2006

The late Diana Vreeland, while still the editor of fashion bible Vogue, said: 'What is fashion without literature?' 

Fashion and writing go together and, when done right, can be both informative and exciting. So, what does it take to be a serious fashion journalist? What is the relationship between fashion and the media? We spoke to four experts in the field of fashion and here are their guidelines.

Robb Young, Financial Times

There are quite a few neglected perspectives in fashion writing that go beyond the celebrity and entertainment element. Without examining these perspectives, your writing about fashion will just be fluff.

~ For instance, the history and anthropology of a place is very important to fashion. Look at the political, social, economic side and see how it impacts a look, style, colour, etc.

~ It is often worth it to start (looking at trends) from the street up. A trend doesn't have to start from a designer and collection; it can start from the people. So make sure to develop a good rapport with street fashion.

~ Dig beyond the hype and glamour. Explore the commerce of fashion as well. For instance, when exploring stores, don't just talk to the designer who displays there. Talk to the COO of the store, the CEO, distributor and customers shopping there. It will give you a wider viewpoint and bring a valuable business perspective to your piece.

~ While doing research, it might be worth it to explore citizen media, like fashion blogs for example. Read what they have to say and, if it is worthwhile, integrate their views into your research. The one thing to remember about citizen media is that it is very quick with information. With tools like digital cameras and mobile phones at their disposal, they are quick to update on news and trends. If you are a print journalist, it is important that you keep up.

Laird Borrelli, senior fashion editor, Style.com

~ Use more than just the press release while writing a fashion article. Go in-depth, get as much first-hand information as you can. Quality and accuracy of information is very important.

~ If you're working with an online style site, keep two elements in mind -- stickiness of the site and interactivity. Stickiness refers to how much the site keeps readers coming back. Interactivity is also important -- people have always liked to push a button and be involved, whether it's the remote control or the click of the mouse, to direct where they want to go next.

Sathya Saran, editor, DNA Me

~ In any society, culture and fashion are related, so you have to be able to see the impact the two have on each other. Develop an understanding of cultural theory and fashion.

~ Train yourself to be a thorough and efficient researcher. A good fashion journalist has to be able to comment and critique knowledgably on the fashion scene, trends, designers, etc. For this, you must have a solid background and be able to look up information.

~ Sharpen your visual and communication skills.

~ Develop an understanding of global business from a design and historical perspective. You have to understand how the designer and his or her work connects around the world.

~ Have an open mind. As a commentator, you cannot be biased about a designer or his/ her work. Understand that designing is a creative process, so there will be fluctuations in a designer's work. Also, judge each collection on its own and not based on past work by the designer. A really good designer can sometimes have a bad collection and you have to be objective enough to recognise that.

~ Dedication and motivation is crucial for any kind of journalism but, as a fashion journalist, you need 10 times the commitment. It is extremely cutthroat and you have to prove you are worthy enough to be the one designers will provide information and access to.

~ Keep up with current trends in world and local fashion.

~ Know your designer and his/ her design philosophy.

~ Walk the shops. Analyse how they are reaching out to different brackets of the population with their clothes.

~ Fantasy and aspiration is what the fashion world is built on. The element of make-believe is what drives it and your readers want to believe that they find themselves somewhere in those beautiful clothes and images. It is your job, therefore, to help develop a personal style for the reader and to translate the designer's dreams and make them relatable to the reader.

Vinod Nair, Fashion Editor, Hindustan Times  

~ Spend time at fashion institutes, learn your basics and develop a solid background.

~ It is better to be afraid than overconfident in your approach. If you are afraid, you will repeatedly check your facts to make sure they are right.

~ When you attend a fashion show, talk to the designer. Get his/ her interpretation of his collection and quote him/ her. Especially when starting out, you might not know all the terms necessary to describe an outfit or collection. Instead of being vague with your descriptions, it is better to get a direct quote from the designer who will use the correct terms.

Keep these pointers in mind and your career as a serious fashion journalist will simply soar.

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