How to be: a fashion magazine editor

Welcome to our new series, in which the i-D family talk about the jobs that got us where we are.

by Jack Sunnucks
28 July 2021, 6:00am

Sneaking in to your first fashion show, working on a photoshoot or seeing your first byline -- it’s the payoff to hours spent returning samples or transcribing 4-hour drunken conversations that pass for interviews, during a fashion internship. Of course, you could also miss your first fashion show, lose clothing samples and get unceremoniously fired.

In this new series, we look at the jobs that got us and our collaborators where we are -- whether teetering near the top or still in a nascent phase of our careers. First up, our Global Editorial Director, Jack, shares the three jobs that set him on his path to being a writer and editor.

How do you become a fashion writer and editor? That was the question as I sat immersed in TheFashionSpot as a teenager, looking at grainy pictures of actual editors exiting shows, and reading low res scans of their articles. A little digging indicated that going to fashion school might be key, and so I applied to the Fashion Communication BA at Central St Martins. Swiftly after acceptance, however, my tutors informed me that most of the teaching would be done by us, the students; we would have to seek out knowledge, rather than be spoonfed it. Luckily for them, the issue of tuition fees had yet to be raised back in 2007.

So I set out to get a bunch of internships, and then actual jobs, while still studying -- to get some of the precious knowledge that only experience can give.

Fashion assistant

My first real internship was with 10 Magazine, the now 20-year-old style title founded by Sophia Neophitou. Before I entered 10’s doors, I thought I knew what working at a fashion magazine entailed – mainly wearing black, and possibly smoking. These were things I’d learnt at a work experience at Vogue Paris, which mainly involved the above, plus hulking samples across Paris in the boiling July weather. Which was great, obviously, but quickly disabused me of the notion that I was interested in working for a stylist. More on that later.

At 10, I was quickly asked to do some “blogging”, which I loved from the first moment I was instructed to write about something fashion-related (it might also have been Mariah Carey related). 10 had a tiny team of around 6, including me, and I quickly graduated to manhandling the aforementioned samples, copy editing the magazine, buying coffees and writing -- whatever I wanted as long as it was about fashion. I stayed at 10 for two years -- they eventually gave me my first job, for which I am grateful.

My biggest takeaway was that you should like the people you work with -- otherwise it’s misery going to work every single day. I would not have sat in a basement for that long if I hadn’t been inspired by the team and their commitment to pushing every idea as far as possible. I also loved working as part of a small team, with minimal hierarchy and a lot of pitching in.

Stylist’s assistant

In between working at 10, which I loved, I assisted various stylists, which I liked but was not very good at. I really wanted to work with clothes but it pretty quickly dawned on me that without an attention to detail or appetite for suffering, you’re just not going to make it.

It’s a really physical job; the hours are long, it’s stressful and you have to really, really care about every garment. I am not a particularly lazy person, but while I love writing, I cannot care about socks past 8pm. This is not to belittle the many stylists and fashion editors I work with. They have made a lot more money than me, have a maniacal eye for small things and also a flair for creative direction. They are so integral to the modern fashion industry. I just suck at it. I also thought that being a writer would be a fast track to being Editor in Chief -- now all EICs are stylists! So that was a misjudgement.

Fashion week in 2007. I remember cutting this photo out of a magazine. Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage.

Photographer’s assistant

The job I sucked most at was working for a photographer. There was a deep macho vibe in this particular job and a general air of masochism. I thought, for a minute, that I might be a great artist, but very quickly missed the team spirit of working at a magazine. The long hours sat by myself sorting through negatives quickly made me lonely and depressed. And I was just bad at holding lights. I once thought I’d lost a whole shoot’s worth of negatives by putting them on the wrong courier service and couldn’t sleep for a week.

By this point (I was 21), I had explored some of the areas of the industry that interested me and worked in a pub for 4 years — perhaps the most valuable experience of them all. I surmised, surprisingly correctly, that the thing that made me want to get up in the morning was collaboration -- whether that was doing an interview, attending a pitch meeting or scheduling a month’s worth of content.

I’ve been at i-D for three and a half years — first as Editorial Director for the US, and now Global Editorial Director. i-D has the print publication, sites in 8 languages, a host of social media accounts and pre-pandemic, events. One day I’ll be talking to our teams in the UK and US about editorial ideas, the next the Italian office will need commercial collaborations edited – and there’s the daily work of communicating throughout the company, as well as, occasionally, writing.

i-D is never boring. Neither was the journey here. If I had any advice, it would be to try as many jobs as possible to work out what you want to do. The earlier, the better — later on in your career it’s much more of a hard swerve to change lanes. It was only through failure and doing things I wasn’t so good at that I worked out what I wanted to do. In essence, don’t be scared to fail! And try everything.