Last night I attended a seminar facilitated by Prospect 360, an initiative of Greta Donaldson Publicity. The focus of the night was Fashion Media, where young enthusiasts like myself were gathered to listen and learn from those in the industry. Panellists came from various areas of the industry:
The Publicist, Sarah Gale @AMPR_Group
The Journalist, Kim Wilson @KimHeraldSun
The Stylist, Kate Gaskin
The Blogger, Phoebe Montague @ladymelbourne
and the Moderator, Fashion Stylist and Commentator, Anthea O’Connor.
For two hours, my fingers busily reaped the keys while my ears were tuned in and working to their limits. This post will be a simple recap of what I learned from the seminar; how to get into the industry, what it takes to be a success, dos and don’ts and any other significant advice. Advice that was synonymous came in regards to internships, cadetships and the importance of work experience. Sarah Gale said she’d place greater significance on an applicant’s work history and initiative than their university degree (although she would like to see a post-secondary qualification of some description). It’s all about learning on the job and putting yourself out there. Making yourself visible and known will go so much further than attending your lectures, gaining your Media degree and then sitting at home and waiting for the opportunities to find you. It’s a ‘hard yakker’, as one of the panelists said, but if it’s what you love, it will be worth it.
Sarah Gale, the Publicist for AMPR spoke of her love for the public relations industry. She noted that to get to her dream job with Ann Morrison she went through the process of employment in agricultural and governmental public relations. It wasn’t her dream, but it was a pathway to getting her there. She has far surpassed her goal, and is now a partner within the company, having established the brand’s fashion department as one of the best in the industry.
Kim Wilson highlighted her year at the University of Nebraska (one of the top Journalism schools in the United States) as a learning and living experience like no other. A writer at News Ltd for many years, she first was the deputy editor at Inside Melbourne after doing police rounds, health and other more mundane tasks. She told of how she pursued the Herald Sun editor-at-the-time after seeing his name on a place card at an event she was attending. Subsequently, Kim developed a good relationship with his receptionist, keeping in touch “every two weeks” and after about five months, was lucky enough to gain her position. Family and love took her to New York City, where she scrambled for jobs and ended up with Fashion Wire Daily, where she developed her fashion credentials and got the chance to work at the esteemed New York Fashion Week. Kim is now the Executive Fashion Editor of across the seven days of the Herald Sun, encompassing fashion lift outs, features, coverage of special events such as the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and the Brownlow Medal Celebrations, in the Herald Sun and the Sunday Herald Sun.
Kate Gaskin was (until last week and a move to Sydney) the Fashion Editor at The Age Melbourne Magazine, at ultimately is a stylist. Kate explained she’d always had an eye for all things visual as she pursued her Fine Arts degree in combination with work in retail from Kookai to Lisa Ho. Here, she gained stylist training, as well as contacts and experience. Through a friend, Kate got in touch with Sportsgirl and gained work on their shoots while freelancing. Kate came to work across the four Fairfax magazines published with The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald in a hands on position, building up her portfolio and contacts lists from the bottom, working with modelling agencies for test shoots and doing smaller tasks in order to gain those bigger jobs at a later date. Kate also went overseas, to London where she freelanced without money nor contacts. Eventually, Kate gained regular work with interior magazines including branches of Elle, before moving back to Australia. Kate gave great insight into how freelancing works. I had no idea that freelancers were often represented by an agency who market for you and help you gain gigs, as well as you having your own contacts. She has been the Fashion Editor of The Melbourne Magazine part time, which usually takes up about a week, once a month, as well as working on advertising and events such as Fashion Week. Her recent move to Sydney is a result of a divergence between the cities. Apparently, much of the advertorial work is settled and booming here in Melbourne, whereas the high end magazine Editorial work has substantiated itself in Sydney, and the resistance to moving up north was only holding her back from further opportunities.
Phoebe Montague otherwise known as Lady Melbourne began studying drawing at RMIT University. Also moving to Sydney for love, she worked stints as a receptionist which despite draining her of vivacity, taught her professional skills and manners that have been essential in her success and practice today. Phoebe said there must be a blend between creativity and corporate activity in her area of work: blogging. Starting a blog in 2006/7 was a major risk, but Phoebe knew it was for her from day one. She’d always made her own clothes and jewellery, and had worked in Lara Bohinc in London, at her jewellery desk. Phoebe explained the different elements of her self-perpetuated and majorly successful blog. In the business of self-publishing, she is the sales, marketing, model, public relations consultant, writer, editor, photographer and administrator of her own business. Her inspiration comes from overseas blogs, fashion festivals, events and trends spotted on the streets, but her content is, has and always will be self-generated. In 2009 she caught the eye of a blogging agency and signed with them. Subsequently, Lady Melbourne was nominated for the award of Best Fashion Blog, Asia Pacific Region. She was up against Bryan Boy. She thought she had no chance. She won. This gained her a lot of mainstream media attention as well as a whole new audience and realm of recognition. Following on from this, she decided to actually study a Journalism degree to enhance her writing skills. Now, Lady Melbourne is also a teacher, has furthered her self-publishing gig since mid-2010, has launched her first eBook and is doing everything she can to make blogging her full time job.
Anthea O’Connor went from La Trobe to RMIT at a young age and studied PR with the aim of working in the music industry. Her parents didn’t have the networks or the contacts to make things easy for her, so she ended up working out of a front room of someones house. But it was a step in the door of the music industry and Anthea was invited to events and made contact with new people. She explained that she did a lot of “entry level stuff” before changing her path and gearing it towards fashion rather than music. Anthea went to London and worked on London Fashion Week (coincidently happening as I write this post), and then worked at Spin Agency, working on the inaugural Mercedes Fashion Week. She mentioned that it was crucial to be on top of your media list, knowing who was who at all times. Then came Anthea’s stint with Vogue Magazine. Contact with Kirstie Clements informed her they were looking for a new Melbourne Editor and the job was hers. Anthea redefined her job title as she settled in, so although she sat in features, she did fashion extras, did writing at GQ as an associate editor, worked on Vogue Kids, and anything that needed to be done – she was on it all. Most recently she worked regularly on Channel 10’s The Circle.
The panel spoke of how the digital media landscape has changed the industry. Jobs these days are much more specialised and people work in smaller teams as a result. Sources need to be investigated thoroughly to make sure they are credible, with good content and to consider their reach and audience. The speed at which information now flows and comes to the market has also been a big contributor to change. Social media has facilitated this change where consumers don’t want to wait for information. Things are expected to be almost instantaneous. Mainstream media are undergoing a shift towards digital media but are still in a position where they are playing “catch up”. Online links and extended content are a key aspect of print media now, too, as consumers reach to multiple platforms across many spheres for their dose of news, information and daily gossip.
It really was a worthwhile experience and I feel like I myself was able to get a foot in the door and create contacts of my own through speaking to the panellists and other attendees.
As a side note, I received a complementary bottle of water upon arrival. It was not a Mount Franklin Crushable bottle. The brand was Ice House – tagline “It’s cooler inside”, and to be honest I’d never heard of it before. It too, professes to be ‘natural spring water’ and it’s sturdy bottle came as a great relief to my hands and pleased my visual aesthetic. And it’s still this way. Day two with the same water bottle and I couldn’t be more satisfied. The bottle cap size and thus the opening from which you sip is slightly bigger than that of the Mount Franklin bottles, and this too, came as a pleasant surprise. I think this proves reason to change things up a bit and buy a different brand every once in a while. I’m one satisfied customer.