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Interview: Life of a fashion intern

Rogue talks to former Roar! Fashion and Lifestyle editor Coryn Brisbane about her post-KCL experiences as an intern for some of the UK’s leading fashion magazines. She tells us about previewing the much anticipated Charlotte Tilbury make-up line, meeting Made in Chelsea’s Francis Boulle and an upcoming internship with Vogue.

Can you tell me a little bit about what you have got up to since graduating in summer 2012?

In the last year – I can’t believe it’s been a year! – I took some time out to travel around Fiji and Australia and then was lucky enough to secure a features internship at Marie Claire, Stella at The Sunday Telegraph and a beauty internship at InStyle.

Which were your favourite fashion publications to work on?

Stella was definitely my favourite as I was there for three months so I really felt like I was part of the team. I also love their output, they produce incredibly interesting, intelligent and dynamic articles and the team is wonderful. It was also so interesting being part of a national newspaper, especially when I was walking through the hub of the newsroom as breaking news came through.

Were any of the magazines like the set of the Devil Wears Prada or Ugly Betty? Are the fashion stereotypes true?
Not at all – I can’t dispel that rumour enough! Obviously there are moments when you have to go out and grab a coffee or do an errand but you realise that your editors are working to the tightest deadlines and are under so much pressure, so just by doing the tea run you’re actually helping more than you think.

What did you tend to wear to the office? Was their pressure to always look on trend and immaculate?
Obviously on the first day I made a lot of effort – there was the 6am prep and frantic looking at my wardrobe shouting ‘I have nothing to wear!’ but when you go in the office you quickly realise people just wear what they want. Naturally you don’t have to wear typical office clothes and most people do dress amazingly but I didn’t feel like I needed to walk in with a new outfit every day. Also most people wear high street which is refreshing!

Did working on fashion magazines alter the way you dress, or open your eyes to new brands?
Not in terms of the way I dress, no. I think if you’re working in the fashion industry you’re inherently going to have you own style and it’s important to stick to your guns with that. You can’t profess to have a sartorial eye if you’re going to be fickle with your own fashion. However, I am lusting after more brands – a pair of custom made Chatelles is top of the list. I think the one thing I’ve definitely taken away is less is more – both with fashion and beauty.

You must have got given loads of freebies!

Around once a month the beauty team do a massive sale where products cost as little as £1 so I got some amazing bargains from that. I think my most cherished product is the YSL Forever Light Creator Serum which I’m not sure I’ll be able to live without now, but don’t think I’ll ever be able to justify buying again which breaks my heart. I also got to see a preview of the much-anticipated Charlotte Tilbury make-up line and it’s even more amazing than I imagined!

What was it like going to work at such popular magazines and working with well known editors and writers? Did it confirm that this is the career you want?
I always knew I wanted to work in the magazine industry so there was that part of me when I started at Marie Claire that thought ‘God, what if I hate this? I have no plan B!’ but luckily it confirmed to me that I want it more than ever. Working in an environment where everyone is so passionate about the same cause and you’re speaking with incredible writers, seeing the various edits of work and researching anything from drunk texting to Catherine Zeta Jones to women’s rights in divorce is so stimulating.

Which projects did you enjoy working on most?
I loved working on ones where I was researching case studies for a piece, for example I had to find around 5 Janeites – people who absolutely adore Jane Austen and dress up in Regency attire to events. With little to go on I had to think laterally. It takes hours finding the right people and then I got to preliminary interview them for the piece. When it gets published weeks later it was amazing to see how all my research helped make and shape the piece.

Did you have any surreal, ‘pinch yourself’ moments?

I think the most surreal thing that’s happened when I’ve interned is having my work published in Stella. Seeing my name in print in a national newspaper was something I’ll take with me forever. It was only a small interview and I think it’s safe to say Graham Norton’s job is safe for a while but it was an incredible moment for me. Oh, and I got to meet Francis from Made in Chelsea, I know, big name!

Were there any bad parts to your internships?

As an intern you have to sort through the post, send out magazines and do lots of errands but without those tasks being done the office doesn’t run. For all the small tasks you do, though, you get to do some incredible things like write articles and research for interviews.
Alexander McQueen recently apologized for not paying its interns. How do you feel about the criticism surrounding fashion and magazine placements?

The only downside is the pay, or lack of. I have to work on the weekends to afford to do the internships, so seven-day weeks really takes their toll. However, as demoralizing as it is getting little money you just have to accept that’s how the industry is – it doesn’t make it right but if you don’t do the internship there’s a line of people waiting behind you ready to take your place. You have to take the things you learn as compensation for the lack of money you get. I got to be in charge of some of the magazines’ social media, write articles for online and in the magazine and go to fashion shoots, which are all invaluable experiences.

You’ve just secured an internship at Vogue in November- congratulations!

Thank you! So excited, but I’m not sure it’s really hit home yet. I was eerily calm in the interview and they told me there and then that I had got it so I had to try and play it cool. When I left and looked back at the Vogue House sign above the door a bit of me died inside! It’s been my dream to just step into Vogue invited since I can remember so to actually have the opportunity to work there is unbelievable.

When did you first decide that working in fashion was what you wanted to do?
It sounds so cliché, but it’s true – when I bought my first Vogue. But it wasn’t the fashion that made me want to work in the industry, it was the features. I loved the rich, gorgeous photo shoots but I loved more that crafted between the pages of amazing fashion, the thought-provoking, witty and stimulating articles, and I knew I wanted to write them.

As Roar!’s Fashion and Lifestyle editor from 2011-12, how do you feel that position helped you with your future?

At Roar! I got to work with a body of editors and a team of writers, create and commission unique and engaging features for a student demographic, edit and write, and design from scratch the section. I got to work on every single aspect of a publication and witness firsthand how symbiotic each part it – it was one of the most worthwhile things I’ve done.

Did you find it difficult to secure an internship in the fashion magazine industry?

Being Fashion and Lifestyle editor at Roar! helped massively. Every interview I have had has picked up on it as it showed my dedication to working in the industry. I was lucky enough to have a fellow King’s alumni at Marie Claire who helped me with the internship and once I had that first publication on my CV the rest came easier. But as much as it’s about who you know, you have to have the work ethic and determination to merit yourself when you’re there.

What advice would you give to other people wanting to break into the fashion industry?
Work hard and be proactive. Keep your fingers on the fashion pulse and be a part of the blogging community. The more you can do to immerse yourself in the industry the more you’ll prove your dedication. Also, be nice to everyone, there’s nothing worse than working with a bitchy intern. Plus you never know when you’re going to cross paths with that person again!

This year Rated R. is focusing on creating a blogging network for KCL students. What do you enjoy most about writing for your blog?
I love how you can completely have your own voice, there’s no editing or restriction on your tone, your style or what you write about. Blogging is also great because it allows you to create an online portfolio of your work.

What’s your inspiration for deciding what to blog about?  Do you follow any other blogs?
In terms of inspiration it can be anything, a conversation with my friends about sex and relationships, a topic that’s sparked my interest in a newspaper or film or seeing someone do something horrific when they’re drunk, and by ‘someone’ I mean me. It’s pretty varied. In terms of blogs I follow, it’s mainly beauty blogs, they’re my guilty pleasure.

Do you think the blogging world is important to the future of the fashion industry? 
I think the importance of blogging is so evident now. Magazines like Company are completely adapting themselves to this more colloquial, accessible and ultimately fun sense of editorial. You also see it on the front rows of fashion week, alongside the Alexa Chungs and Sienna Millers are Bip Ling and Susie Bubble. But that’s not to say there isn’t a demand for quality fashion journalism. Magazines have something elusive and decadent about them which is hard to match in a blog. I think there’s room for both!

What are your plans for the future?
I’ve just completed a beauty internship at InStyle and am now taking some time out to earn some money and write. I’ve just returned from a couple of weeks backpacking across Croatia so need to replenish my funds before the next internship! I’d love to be features editor at a fashion magazine but this industry is so hard and competitive I’m just going to keep my head down, work hard and hope for the best.

Find out more about Coryn’s life as a fashion intern through her blog.

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