Jobs in fashion publishing are often glamorous, since they include exposure to famous people and exciting events. However, journalism jobs in fashion (and journalism jobs in general) are difficult to find and pay little. Another drawback: many fashion journalists are expected to be as stylish as the subjects they cover. Insiders from Vogue say that the magazine's employees "look like they belong in the magazine." One disgruntled source contends that the company simply hires people who have "the Vogue look." While being attractive might not be part of their job descriptions, contacts admit that there is a definite pressure to look good.
Many entry-level employees in this field have English, journalism, or comparable degrees from top schools. Virtually any entry-level job at a fashion magazine -- from spellchecker to editorial assistant to administrative assistant -- requires previous experience and/or industry connections. Summer internships at magazines qualify as experience, even if interns only staple, fax, and deliver coffee. Publishers value office experience -- period. Interns should keep in touch with their supervisors after their internships have ended, as these professional relationships come in handy for the job hunt and recommendation letters. Unfortunately, many college internships are unpaid or provide slave wages. Financial planning is a must.
When applying for any magazine position, study the magazine's elements. What demographic group does the magazine target? What kind of advertisements does it use? Does the magazine deal with crucial social issues or glossy beauty trends? Is the writing light, scathing, upbeat, progressive, conservative, or rebellious? How much photography does the magazine use? Is it top-heavy with illustrations and graphic design? Perhaps most importantly, does this magazine "fit" with your own style and sensibilities? Before you apply, you must first consider these questions. Your answers will help shape a stronger and more dynamic cover letter. Your samples -- whether writing, photography, or art -- should also be in keeping with the magazine's tone. Computer skills and knowledge of standard editorial processes are also paramount.
Pay and Perks
The top 20 fashion magazines in the U.S. are published in New York, one of the world most expensive cities. And consider this: editorial salaries at fashion magazines are notoriously poor. Unfortunately, prestige doesn't help: many of the most prominent fashion magazines pay average and below-average wages to their staff. Most entry-level employees barely cross the $20,000 threshold - and for an unsubsidized single person in New York, this is nearly a poverty wage. While managers, writers, and editors earn more, these positions require years of experience and toil.
Freelancing is a good way to get experience, if not money. It's not a lucrative occupation, especially for an unknown. The standard rate at magazines is one dollar a word. Three dollars a word is considered high. What's more, don't expect the market to budge: these rates have been steady for nearly 20 years, according to a recent industry study. Whether you make a career of freelancing or do it on a part time basis, freelancing takes a lot of legwork -- making contacts with editors, sending out queries, and conducting the research and writing. There are a number of monthly reports and magazines for freelancers, and numerous books to point you in the right direction. After you hit the bookstore, look on the Internet for helpful freelancer advice. One place to start: The Write Markets Report, at http://www.writersmarkets.com.