This is the third post of my series of monthly posts where I speak with people in the creative industries and ask them questions about the things that "I Wish I Had Known" when I started out as a creative myself.
Today I speak with Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist, Copywriter and founder of The Fashion Debates, about what fashion journalism is all about:
1. I met you through the Fashion Debates but you are also a copywriter, a lecturer at London Metropolitan University and a fashion journalist. Who is Olivia Pinnock?
Oh I ask myself that all the time! I trained as a journalist and I do still really believe I’m a writer at heart but I’m very fortunate that I’m able to channel all of my skills and passions into many different areas.
2. What exactly is Fashion Journalism? Is it related to Fashion Critique?
Yes, all fashion critics are journalists, though not all journalists are critics! Fashion journalism is the reporting of news and trends related to what we wear. This can be interviewing designers, writing catwalk show reports, announcing changes to key staff in fashion companies, forecasting trends for the coming season, reporting sales figures for brands, and many more things! Fashion criticism is deeper analysis of these things. It could be putting a fashion collection into context and offering thought on whether it is a successful or unsuccessful. It could also explore why certain trends are popular right now, or what changes in the industry mean for business.
3. How do you become a Fashion Journalist? Is it a separate career from journalism?
There’s not one path to go down. I studied Journalism at university and built up a portfolio of fashion writing to specialise and I believe that my training in traditional journalism skills has been very helpful. However, some people study fashion journalism and other people don’t study at all, they just train themselves through experience. I didn’t know I wanted to work in fashion when I studied so it was the right route for me.
4. What is the role of the fashion journalist today in this day and age where a photo posted on social media is worth a thousand words?
Well we all know that what is posted on social media is not necessarily factual never mind good quality. While it can be even harder to stand out amongst all the noise on social media and the internet, I think we need top quality, trustworthy journalism in all fields more than ever.
5. With great writing comes great responsibility. Do you think that a fashion journalist should actually know about fabrics, pattern cutting, design, and the basics of the fashion industry to be able to do their job?
Absolutely! You would expect a political reporter to understand how government works, you would expect a war reporter to understand the history of the conflict, you would expect a football reporter to know the rules of the game, so you must educate yourself as a fashion journalist to understand every aspect of the industry and its history.
The module I teach at London Met is called Fashion Branding & Journalism but as part of our classes I give them quizzes on current fashion news, names of fabrics, shoe styles, important figures in the industry, etc. We also take a trip to a factory to see how clothes are made. I feel very strongly that this is something that is very important and yet often missing from fashion journalism education.
6. I know that you are also a copywriter. For the rest of us: what is copy?
It is any writing that is done for a brand, and therefore has a commercial purpose. It’s a very broad term that covers anything from product descriptions, to press releases, to advertising slogans, to e-newsletters and social media posts, to company information on a website or catalogue.
7. Is it right to think that sometimes the copy on the cover of magazines or in advertisement is trying to exploit our insecurities?
Of course it is. It’s not necessarily so obviously at the forefront of editors and advertising executives’ minds when they write them but it is a very long-standing technique in order to get people to buy things and it’s very effective. However, we are now much wiser to this and there is quite a backlash to the negative impact the constant bombardment of messages that tell us we are not good enough unless we buy things to solve all our problems has. This is very slowly heralding a new age of advertising and media.
8. How about fashion brands? How honest is their message? What can we do as consumers?
Well, that really depends on the brand! I think we should always be aware that any brand’s ultimate purpose is to sell and make a profit, but that doesn’t necessarily make them evil. Of course, sometimes they cross a line and we have an awful lot of power as consumers to boycott brands we disagree with and to hold the brand’s we do like to a higher standard when they miss the mark by using our voice. It’s important to think critically and always be aware of the motives behind the things you see, read, and watch, and while brands can have an amazing impact on raising awareness or money for certain issues, don’t expect them to be saints. Expect them to be companies who need to make money in order to survive.
9. What are the Fashion Debates and when and where do they take place?
The Fashion Debates is a series of panel discussion events in London which explore ethical issues facing the fashion industry. Our past topics have included sweatshop labour, environmental pollution, racism, the health of models, and unpaid internships and work. And there’s many more to come! You can find out when the next one is coming up on our Twitter and Instagram accounts, or on our Facebook page and there’s also a newsletter sign up form on our website.
10. How can people from outside London take part on the debates?
We stream all our debates live on Facebook, make sure you’ve ‘liked’ our page! And by sharing your ethical fashion style every Wednesday with our hashtag #OnWednesdaysWeWearEthical.
Amazing! Thank you so much Olivia for taking the time to answer my questions and for explaining with such care what Fashion Journalism is about. This is everything that "I Wish I Had Known"!