Staff Writer

July 5, 2023 (Updated )

To those not in the industry, fashion — and fashion journalism — can sometimes seem like quite a hidden world. Marred by well-earnt clichés, certain aspects of the fashion industry have historically been gatekept by “the elite.” However, against a backdrop of global social unrest and intense criticism, fashion, like many other industries, has been forced to make changes for the better. 

In a bid to uncover this seemingly secretive world, we speak to Daniel Rodgers, senior fashion writer for Dazed (also published in Vogue, VICE, Highsnobiety, The Face); Olivia Pinnock, lecturer and freelance fashion journalist (Forbes, Drapers, and The Telegraph, among others); and Isabella Silvers, multi-award-winning freelance journalist, editor in Hearst UK’s branded content team, and founder and editor of the Mixed Messages newsletter.

What Qualifications Do I Need To Become A Fashion Journalist?

Don’t let The Devil Wears Prada scare you off. There are plenty of routes into fashion journalism, and you don’t necessarily need to boast any one specific sets of qualifications.

Reflecting on how he got into the industry, Rodgers, who grew up in London, recalls: “I was always interested in fashion, but I never really knew how that would manifest.” In school, he found that significance was often placed on academia rather than creativity, and that conversations tended to be centred around “what universities you might get into.” He ended up doing Spanish and Italian at university, which he found enjoyable, but had no relevance to his current career.

When asked if a degree is necessary to pursue a career in fashion journalism, Rodgers is quick to answer: “No, you don’t need a degree at all. You don’t need a degree of any kind. I don’t think there is a correct way to go into journalism and writing […] No one ever asks me about my degree.”

After various stints working at a cybersecurity start-up, a shop, and at a charity, Rodgers landed a job as a photoshoot producer and was excited by the prospect of being surrounded by creative people. However, he still had lots of thoughts about fashion that weren’t really being answered, so he started writing on the side “as a way to vent my frustration.”

“I literally sat down and wrote a notebook’s worth of pitch ideas and topics. I’d never written a piece before […] I guess an essay was the closest thing.” He then trawled Twitter and LinkedIn to find an editor to send his pitch to, “and luckily by some miracle, it got commissioned.”

Journo Resources
“Some people honestly write in an absolutely bonkers, batty way. I love that; it's so interesting to me. And then some writers write in a really incisive, astute, critical way, which I also find really thrilling.”
Daniel Rodgers, senior fashion writer at Dazed

Like Rodgers, Pinnock doesn’t think having a degree is mandatory to becoming a fashion journalist. “It’s more about thinking whether university is for you. That is, if you’re someone who likes academia, if you enjoy studying, then absolutely go to university.” She notes that by doing a journalism or fashion journalism degree, students will end up with practical journalism skills, but “also have a bit more of an academic sense of fashion and the industry and more of those theory elements, which I find really fascinating.”

Silvers, too, speaks to the importance of experience when breaking into the industry, and recommends looking out for local fashion magazines, newspapers, or events that would be willing to take on newcomers for internships or work experience. She adds: “If you’re at university, student newspapers and blogs can be a great place to get some experience too.”

Although “interning at publications is a great way to make connections,” Silvers acknowledges that the global pandemic has changed working formats. “Consider if they’d offer virtual placements instead, or look out for schemes like Kickstart, Creative Access, and more. Don’t wait for other people to give you permission to start, though — when hiring, we look for passion, so start your own blog or newsletter to build up your portfolio too.”

isabella silvers and daniel rodgers
Daniel Rodgers (R) and Isabella Silvers (L) both say that fashion-specific education is not needed, but gaining experience is important.

What Makes A Good Fashion Journalist?

Rodgers points out that, as a fashion journalist, “your strengths are often just what you are interested in.” As with any kind of journalism, it’s important to feel a genuine connection with your beat of choice. He adds, “Remember that if you do come from a different background, you’re going to bring such an interesting perspective.”

Similarly, Pinnock feels that a good fashion journalist “doesn’t buy into the clichés,” and is “someone who can use a really journalistic eye and nose for news and interesting stories, and apply it and find them in the fashion industry.” As well as being “culturally savvy about fashion,” she says you should also be informed “about art, music, film, pop culture, and all of these things because they all feed into each other.”

What Skills Do A Fashion Journalist Need?

• A genuine passion for fashion!

• A good sense for what makes interesting stories, and the ability to link in the fashion industry

• An understanding of how different forms of culture feed into fashion

• A voice that is authentic

Additionally, Rodgers warns early-career writers against getting “lost in trying to replicate someone else’s voice.” He recalls once being told to “just write in the way that you speak,” which he found really helpful.

The kind of fashion writing that Rodgers enjoys reading is “from writers who have really distinct voices themselves.” He adds: “Some people honestly write in an absolutely bonkers, batty way. I love that; it’s so interesting to me. And then some writers write in a really incisive, astute, critical way, which I also find really thrilling.”

Pitching Tips And Topics To Think About

Fashion journalism can be much more than just trend predictions for upcoming seasons and celebrity style roundups. Pinnock, who specialises in sustainability and social justice in fashion, reminds us that there are plenty of disruptors in the industry right now that are shaking things up. “There are people coming from other industries and other backgrounds who have really innovative, exciting ideas, which means that the things that you can report on are wider and more varied.”

She adds: “Fashion is an industry which has woken up to an awful lot of problems that it has regarding its environmental sustainability, social sustainability, diversity, and inclusion issues.” Like Rodgers, Pinnock encourages early-career fashion writers to “find the things that really spark your interest. Keep an eye out for things that you really think are going to solve the problems.”

a magazine open on white fabric
Fashion has its fair share of issues — which can make for really interesting journalism. (Image: Nicole Angelova / Unsplash)

Discussing how she finds inspiration for her writing, Silvers says, “I’m endlessly motivated by inequality, and I aim to uplift and support underrepresented groups in everything I do.”

“I listen and research to find out where change needs to be made, or issues that need to be spotlighted. This could be listening to podcasts, reading books, following Instagram accounts, being a part of online communities — and then [I] translate that into something practical that readers can take something away from.”

When pitching to editors, she recommends including a suggested headline, a clear description of what the article will entail — “Not too long, two paragraphs at most!” — and why the pitch is right for the publication and audience at that present time.

Advice From Fashion Experts

In the fashion industry, a little flexibility can go a long way. “This is a tough industry,” Silvers says, “and staff writer roles are barely ever available. Be flexible to what you think your career should look like, and take all the best parts out of every role you’re in.” After all, she says, “a stint at a local newspaper may connect you with someone who ends up at Vogue, so be flexible and open to every opportunity.”

For Rodgers, learning how to pitch well is paramount. He says, “My practical advice is literally just pitch. I cannot make that clearer. It can be a big hurdle for people to get over sometimes, but if you pitch a piece, then an editor [might] tell you why it doesn’t work, and then you can learn. If you pitch a piece, it won’t be long until you get something online.”

Lastly, he adds, “Just don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Read other people’s work and work out what you like about it and what you don’t, and really just have your own opinion.”

Journo Resources
“I’m endlessly motivated by inequality, and I aim to uplift and support underrepresented groups in everything I do.”
Isabella Silvers, freelance journalist

There is also the sometimes paradoxical nature of social media use for journalists. Whilst social media platforms can be very positive spaces for making good contacts and joining supportive communities, they can also promote unhealthy work habits and attitudes amongst journalists. It’s helpful to be aware of this because if used well and with balance, Rodgers says knowing how to utilise social media well is a real practical skill for showcasing your work and establishing a name for yourself.

Pinnock emphasises the importance of demonstrating to future employers that you have taken the initiative to gain relevant industry experience. She says, “I built up a lot of my experience by blogging, and blogging is not very cool anymore. [Give] yourself the space to write longer pieces when you don’t have any experience yet, and just show that you are passionate and dedicated, and that you’re self-disciplined enough to run a blog and publish on a regular basis.”

Another benefit to blogging is that writers can showcase raw, unfiltered work, without the influence of external editing. Pinnock asserts: “It’s a great way to impress employers, build up your experience, and practise your craft. Don’t overlook it just because blogging has become a bit lame.”

There are so many interesting and important things happening in the world of fashion, and the likelihood is that you have something really great to bring to the table. As Rodgers puts it, “fashion is in need of some really expert, funny, incisive writers.” Who’s to say that’s not you?

Hannah Bradfield
Hannah Bradfield

Hannah is a recent graduate from Loughborough University, where she studied a BA in English and Sport Science and an MA in Media and Cultural Analysis. Alongside her studies, Hannah was on the editorial teams of several student magazines, and was awarded ‘Best Student Journalist, Midlands’ by the SPA in 2018.

She was a BBC Sport Kick-Off Reporter in 2019 and had co-founded and edited a one-off 40-page print and digital magazine in celebration of International Women’s Day 2021. Along with her work for Journo Resources, she is currently studying for the NCTJ diploma at News Associates and freelance writing.

Header image courtesy of Toa Heftiba via Unsplash