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Top tips for working on a fashion magazine

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With our hunt to find fashion obsessives to create our 100th issue's fashion pages underway, Stylist's fashion director, Alexandra Fullerton, talks about what working in the fashion department of a magazine involves, and shares her advice for breaking into the industry.

"As Stylist’s fashion director, it’s my job to oversee everything style-related in the magazine, from styling and shooting cover stories to coming up with trend-led ideas for news pages. I need to be aware of every new label in existence so readers know exactly what they should be buying, when and from where. I attend the bi-annual fashion shows in London and Milan and constantly check out style blogs to see what trends are coming from the street.

On a day-to-day basis my job consists of office-based tasks and external appointments. Although I produce fashion pages from Stylist’s HQ I need to be out at press days (where we get a preview of the upcoming collections), meeting PRs, photographers and stylists. I also spend time researching and developing shoot concepts that I either style or commission out. It’s where I get to be totally creative and it’s my favourite part of the job.

Here are my top tips for anyone wanting to work for a fashion magazine...

1 - Get some experience

I’m always asked how I got my job. During my career I’ve spent a mix of time working full-time on magazines and being a freelance stylist working for magazines and also with major advertising clients including Stella McCartney and Marks & Spencer. If you want to work on a magazine there is only one route in and that’s through work experience. Spending time doing fashion returns in what is known as the ‘fashion cupboard’ is the best grounding for working on a magazine. You will get to build up a brilliant contacts book and work first-hand with amazing clothes.

2 - Do your homework

Fashion lives for the new – trends move faster than ever and the industry always champions the next big thing. But despite this quest for newness, it’s really important to know about the history of fashion – both that of the garments – and from a sociological point of view. So many designers reference past decades – both recent (such as Burberry’s aw2011 Sixties-inspired catwalk shows) and ancient (John Galliano’s fin de siècle obsession) so it’s important to understand the influences and technicalities if you want to have fashion authority. Fashion has a huge impact on our lifestyles and politics and you need to know why.

3 - Be inspired

Inspiration comes from the most obscure sources so don’t be bound by convention when you’re coming up with ideas. Fashion trends are a great place to start, but look further. Music and fashion are particularly related (I love the clothes that Iron Maiden fans wore in the 1980s) but the reflections of street lights on rainy pavements, super-caves and gritty 1960s cinema are some of my other favourite starting points. Don’t be bound by what you consume – sticking within the boundaries of what is fashionable will limit your vision. Pick up a copy of National Geographic or read a comic instead of a fashion magazine.

4 - Visualise

If you are considering a career in fashion the first thing that you should do is start to collate images that inspire you. I have folders full of tear sheets of shoots and images that I love. But as well as pages from magazines I also collect postcards and sheets of music – anything that will inspire a story. These visuals will be invaluable when you come to pitch fashion stories to future clients. Images will help to show exactly what you are planning on shooting, rather than words which can be rather subjective and lead to confusion.

5 - Be organised

I see a lot of people wanting to get into the industry who think that creativity is enough to forge ahead in magazines. Obviously coming up with an unlimited stream of original concepts for shoots and innovative ideas for shopping pages is a requirement but you also need to be incredibly organised, resourceful and good with figures. I spend a lot of time working on budgets, keeping track of what is happening over several issues of Stylist and managing commercial concerns. There is a lot of admin and paperwork and if I was disorganised my job would be impossible!"

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