The Role of a Fashion Journalist with Megan Doyle

As part of the blog, podcast and support channels here at Fashion Podcast, I will be interviewing a selection of industry professionals about their roles, with the vision to support students in their early career choices as well as supporting graduates into their first or future job roles. I hope that you all find them insightful! These blog posts are scripted from the Podcast episodes from ‘The Fashion Toolbox Podcast’ available on all Podcast listening platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

This week, I had the chance to interview Megan Doyle. Megan is a freelance fashion and lifestyle journalist with an extensive portfolio within luxury, sustainability, business, retail and education sectors. She has written for publications such as the business of fashion, luxury society, eco age, monocle magazine and Grazia UK. Her interests are in showing emerging designers discussing sustainability and investigating pressing issues facing the fashion industry. She is extremely passionate about those subjects, which gives a real flare to het writing. Prior to working freelance Megan worked in-house at matches fashion and the business of fashion, and then worked as a digital editor for graduate Fashion Week and fashion Scout, where she led teams of photographers, writers and social media assistants to cover these huge industry events. She has also worked for Ordre, a luxury digital showroom with a focus on fashion technology, such as 360 imaging and VR. Megan originally studied her BA in communications in her home country Australia, before taking part in an exchange programme at Kingston University in London, where she realised that London was where she wanted to make her career. She has since gained extensive experience in the industry driven by a sheer determination to succeed. Her diverse range of work experience up to and since her graduation from London College of fashion in 2017, makes her a perfect candidate to discuss her experience as a fashion journalist with you all.

Fashion Toolbox 02:35

When did you first become interested in fashion? And can you remember how?

Megan 02:43

I always hear these stories about people that are like, "I started sewing clothes, for my Barbies when I was five years old", and I could never relate to it because I came to fashion and kind of realised that it was what I wanted to do. Probably when I was about 18 or 19. Prior to that, I'd never really had much to do with fashion or being that interested in it. I was always really into art. I really loved going to museums and galleries really loved architecture, photography. And but fashion was never kind of on my horizons or kind of something that I participated all that heavily in. But I think when I finished high school, so I am Australian, I grew up in Perth. And I finished high school I took a year out and I went to live in Sydney with my sister, and just basically had a year kind of doing odd jobs and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and really hadn't kind of given any thought to what I wanted to study or if I wanted to study and I think from there I started blogging and I eventually moved back to Perth to start my undergraduate degree in journalism and started kind of doing this street style blog that was based around my campus, taking photos of people in their cool outfits at university, and I found that I was doing that a lot more than I was going to classes. And that kind of became a running project that I always had through university that I kind of discovered after way too long, probably about four years that there was potential to actually combine that love of fashion blogging, and my journalism degree and the communications degree that I was doing into an actual job and kind of take it from being a hobby into something that I could actually be professional at. So it did take a little while for me to realise that which is a bit embarrassing, because, you know, the signs were all there. But that's kind of where it started. And then, ever since I've basically been on a quite determined path for that, for that. Goal.

Fashion Toolbox 05:01

Yeah, I definitely think that we all start out with that like, art intention, because I was absolutely obsessed with like interior design and 3D. And that's what I thought I would do. But somehow fashion crawled in there and you just can't escape once you are in!

Megan 05:20

Yeah, there is so many things that are so alluring about the industry. And I think, you know this, once you kind of crack the surface of it, and you realise that there's so much more than just pretty clothes, in shops or pretty clothes on a runway. There's just an entire universe behind it that you can explore and you can understand I think, once you realise that it is really alluring, the idea of working in an industry that is so complex, but also so beautiful. It hooks you in!

Fashion Toolbox 05:56

So can you tell me about how you came to work in the fashion industry?

Megan 06:01

So I was studying my undergraduate degree and then came over to London to actually do an exchange for a semester at Kingston University. And while I was doing that I interned for a publication that doesn't exist anymore, like a lot of publications in our industry. And that was kind of the first experience that I had of working in the industry. And the publication actually got me to do graduate Fashion Week for them to report on all the shows a graduate Fashion Week. And that was kind of my first introduction into the industry, which has kind of come full circle because I've ended up working with graduate Fashion Week, you know, for the last few years now, but yeah, I think that kind of internship really was that point where I realised that it was possible, I realised that it was really fascinating. I thought I was pretty good at it, or I was good enough to really pursue it. And then I went back to Australia and finished my undergraduate degree there. And then as soon as I could, I came back to London to get back into it and to start my career here. So I was pretty, I was pretty doggedly determined to get back to London as soon as I could once I had finished, I think I was 22/23 when I moved over.

Fashion Toolbox 07:29

This is not something that we have planned, but how, how different is the education in Australia compared to here in the UK?

Megan 07:40

in terms of fashion education. You really when I was studying, so this was probably six years ago, that I finished up my degree. And the opportunity to study fashion journalism in Australia was wasn't possible. So really, you could Study fashion design and within that you could study fashion business or you could do more of a design led course. And there were a few universities that were really good at it but there was nothing else outside of that. So I think the UK, I mean, having done my with graduate Fashion Week and knowing the universities here and understanding a bit more about the quality of education in the UK now it's in comparable to what you can get in a lot of other countries around the world. Yeah. Especially London. But you know, in a lot of, in a lot of universities around the UK, you can get these really specialised degrees whether you want to do fashion marketing, fashion communications and promotion. You want to like just study knitwear you can do that, it's so, so specialised in so many universities, you can study this, you know, certain universities, you can just do footwear. So I think the difference between Australia I'm not sure if it's different now, but I have a feeling That, you know, the UK is always led in that in that sense. So when I came over I went to the London College of fashion and did a postgraduate certificate in fashion and lifestyle journalism. So that was about I think it was maybe like a 15 week course. So it was really intense. It was basically they had kind of taken the bones of the masters and, and smushed it into 15 weeks, which was really hardcore, but it was the best introduction I could have had to, to the industry and to understanding that, you know, it was going to be pretty tough and it wasn't going to be a walk in the park and even though things look really shiny and beautiful. There's a hell of a lot of hard work that goes into it. Yeah, so it's definitely there's a huge difference between the education and you know, in some sectors, the education in Australia is leading the world. But I wouldn't say that fashion is one of them. No, I think certain countries are always specialised in a certain area of education aren't they? And I think that maybe the UK and France, there could be others as well, but they are the ones that are leading at the moment. And yeah, so what field or job role did you want to do when you originally started on your fashion journey? What was your vision? It was always to be a journalist, whether that was for a big publication or it was for my own freelance career. That's always kind of been the crux of what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be able to write that's always where I found the most kind of meaning out of my work. It's where I've always found the most satisfaction out of work. I think what I quickly realised is that you can't just be a journalist, you have to be a content creator, you have to be a social media manager. You have to be able to do copywriting, do editorial strategy for brands, you know, understand how SEO works, and also do like the administrative side of working in an editorial team. So you need to know how to set up a blog post, you need to know how to, edit images to a certain degree, you need to know how to write newsletters, like there's so many things that you can't, you know, maybe 50 years ago, or even less than that, maybe 30 years ago, you could just be a fashion journalist. And there are some fashion journalists who are just incredible journalists and they're like old school. That's all they've ever done or they've ever wanted to do. They are basically fashion historians because they have such a breadth of knowledge. of the actual industry and design. But nowadays, I don't think it's possible just to be a journalist, I think you really need to be able to have so many different skills that you can tap into. And they will get you lots of different jobs, but also the nature of even if you are a journalist, you need to be able to promote your work on social media, you need to know how that works. So it's definitely massively multifaceted. calling yourself a fashion journalist. It basically entails about 20 different job roles kind of rolled into one nice little package. But that was always that was something that I have definitely developed over the years and I've developed it through the different roles that I've had. And I've definitely gone into roles, not having any of the skills I needed, not any of the skills but maybe not having a few core skills that I needed for that job and learning them on the job and then the next job you go to you just got another thing in your arsenal that you can say, Yep, I've done marketing as well, because I've done social media management. I've written newsletters, you know, you just kind of keep adding to the list of things that you can that you can do.

Fashion Toolbox 13:20

I definitely think that that is the way that things are going for a lot of the jobs in the industry, you just need to have so many different skills, no matter what it is, there's so many crossovers so many. And yeah, just from what you're saying there, I see how many crossovers there are just even for like fashion marketing, things that you would expect that role to be doing, and you're doing as a journalist. So yeah, you need to make sure you take all those skills on board.

Megan 13:50

Exactly, and also you probably can't, you know, you can't assume or expect to learn all of those at university like there will be jobs and skills that you learn as you go. You can learn to be a great writer and you can learn aspects, but a lot of it is just get in there get in the deep end be really uncomfortable, not know what the hell you're doing for three months and then somehow you get it and you're like, yeah, it just clicks, eventually it does. It always does.

Fashion Toolbox 14:23

So how did you get into your current field of work? You're now a freelancer?

Megan 14:29

Yeah, so I became a freelancer. I guess I've kind of done freelance work on and off through my career. Even when I've worked in editorial teams, or for a company, freelance work has occasionally come to me and I would just do additional things on the side. But I suppose I kind of went freelance properly last October and it was really just a culmination of the company that I was working for was going through a lot of troubles and it was a really precarious situation to be in working for them and staying in that company. I had kind of gotten a bit fed up with going into full time roles and being really excited about the role, really loving a certain aspect of the job. But there was always something about the company that was really difficult to reconcile with. So it was either, you know, the company was so small that your job was either really precarious or the owners expected you to be as obsessed and live and breathe that job as much as they did. Or, you know, working in a really intense environment where you're expected to be on 24 hours a day you're expected to answer emails at 10pm at night. You know, there was just a lot of times, I just had maybe like three or four jobs that I was. Whenever I looked back at every full time job that I had had in the in recent years. I was just like, that was horrible because of this, that was terrible because of that and I just thought, you know, maybe, maybe trying out freelancing and maybe seeing if I can make a go of it is, is the way to go. I don't think I don't know many people who have started their freelance careers, super, super confident that it was going to go amazingly well from the get go. I think there's definitely a period of panic and a period of I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if I'm ready. I don't know if I want to give up that steady income. But yeah, for me, I think it was just a combination of needing a bit more flexibility, needing a little bit more control over the environment that I worked in and the and the situations that I was putting myself in. Because, yeah, I think I just had quite a few experiences that really put me off wanting to go back into another full time job. And it has been massive learning curve. I didn't feel like I was ready when I did it. But the past six months or so have been maybe longer than that have been, you know, a massive learning curve. And I think it always takes a while just to figure out how, how the industry works from that perspective. It's kind of like learning it all over again, you really have to understand how the work cycles might come in how some months might be busier than others. The sort of work you might have to do that is like a money job compared to the work that you get to do which is really exciting and fulfilling and and creative. And it's all about kind of balancing that I think.

Fashion Toolbox 18:03

Yeah, I do think that's a driver for a lot of people (to go freelance) is that they are fed up of the expectations that they get from their employers, I guess and that's why the thing I want to try out freelance. So yeah, I can totally sympathise with that.

So how did you get your first commission?

Megan 18:27

I guess, at the very start of my career, when I was still in Australia, I did a lot of cold emailing people, writing blog posts for brands that I liked. And basically finding the only people that I knew in that industry and latching on to them, I think I was really lucky as well. I mean, especially, this is kind of before I've got to London and before I started working in the British fashion industry, which is a whole different scale to what was going on where I was living in Perth. But I was also really lucky in the sense that it didn't feel like there was huge competition. So I never felt that I wasn't good enough to do anything or that I wasn't qualified enough or that there was people that were better than me doing these things, because I didn't really know of anybody, especially in Perth, who was doing anything similar to what I wanted to do and had any of the goals that I wanted to have. So for me, I think that just instilled a fair amount of confidence that was probably not deserved. And probably, I hadn't done anything to earn. But yeah, that was kind of how I first started being able to write for magazines and write for different publications. And then when I was in London, a lot of the little commissions and little things that came through while I was working full time and in different companies. Just came through a network of have friends of friends of friends. I think when I first started out, I probably did a little bit more unpaid, or very low paid writing commissions. Which was tricky because it felt like at the time, that was kind of the only way you were going to get published anywhere, and they think it probably is to a large degree now unless you're writing your own content. And I was in a position where I was able to do that to a certain degree. I mean, I was working in a pub and working in a tea shop and still not making my rent, even close. But, yeah, it was it was just kind of a, I would spend my weekends writing for people and then any free time I had writing for people and that was basically how I got those first the little bits and pieces. Yeah, I think a lot of the freelance work that has come to me before I went freelance (So a lot of the things that I was doing on the side of my other jobs) came through just my network. So, I either knew people that I had studied with or who I had interned for, they knew somebody who was looking for a young writer to do a couple of blog posts for them or to cover a few shows at London Fashion Week for their publication. And so yeah, I think that that at the start, that was definitely how I got commission's and how I got little bits and pieces was just through friends of friends of friends, through the networks that I had, which were at the time really, really small, but I think especially working in the kind of parts of fashion industry that I write about, it does feel like if you can find your little niche and you can find your little community, you'll find people who are either looking for writers or want to help you out and will connect you with other people, connect you with editors who are going to be able to, you know, publish your work. I think it is quite hard, getting those first commission's especially when you don't have much of a background to what you're, you know, or you don't have much to show for what you've been publishing or where you've worked before. But yeah, I think a lot of it is networking and going from them.

Fashion Toolbox 22:46

Yeah, that's something that I'm trying to get across is how important networking actually is. Because a lot of people don't see the importance of it, but it is so important in our industry.

Megan 22:50

Definitely. Yeah. And networking gets a really bad rap because it comes across, sometimes people can be really in-genuine, and they can come across as if they just want to get something from you. And they're only interested in you because you work for a certain publication, or you, represent certain brands that your agency or whatever you are, whether you're a PR a journalist or working in that sort of communication side of the industry. But the way I always think about networking is that I would network with people who I genuinely like as a person, and I think they could be a friend. So a lot of my network is also people who I consider friends I, you know, I made a promise to myself, that people who I knew had maybe a reputation for not being the nicest person or maybe I didn't think, it's hard to explain without bad mouthing anyone but, you know, I don't try and make friends with people who I don't think I'm going to be friends with, or who I don't think we have a natural connection or a natural rapport, I think then it becomes really in-genuine, then it becomes forced. And it becomes something that isn't natural and isn't comfortable for anybody. And that's why networking gets such a bad rap because people think it's like, it's this really uncomfortable thing and you're sitting in a weird kind of, you know, press breakfast where you're having like really awkward, small talk with everybody and it's really horrible. But I think if you think about networking, as in, you're trying to find other like minded people in the industry, who you can be friends with and you can support each other. It's not just like, what can I get out of this person? Or what do they want from me? It's like, you know, maybe I'll help them out with something one month and then the next month, they'll help me out. Or we can just catch up every few weeks for a coffee and complain about the industry or, you know, there's, it's more of a support network than it is kind of a trade network. In that sense, it's how I like to see it because of course, you're going to find it absolutely horrible and painful to socialise and pretend you like somebody who you just don't like. So, I think if you re-frame it, you know, looking to find people who you have a really good connection with you have fun with, you can see at fashion shows and have a quick chat and have a catch up and a laugh or you can go for a beer after work, those are the sorts of connections that I think you should be trying to find. Not just all that person works for this publication or that person can get me something that I want. I'm going to hound them. And I'm going to email them every few weeks just to, you know, show them I'm still alive and make it really uncomfortable for everybody. I just think that's such a bad way of going about it. Yes, I totally agree with that.

Megan 26:17

Yeah, I think you notice it, you know, if you go for a coffee with a PR as a fashion journalist, and it's a really awkward half hour, you don't have much to talk about, it's not very easy, I think that that person is less likely to be somebody that you're going to think of, when you are thinking more in a work context, you're going to think of like, Who's my friend, who do I really get along with who do I want to work with? And that's kind of a nicer way of going about things as well. I mean, there's no networking happening at the moment anyway. But I think when we can go out for coffees and network and everything again, I think it would. Yeah. And I also just think that like, why would you waste? Why would you like life is short, don't spend it on and spend it with people that you don't like, or, you know, don't waste it pretending to be someone or pretending to like something that you don't like. I think there's a lot of really authentic, wonderful, lovely, fun, amazing people in this industry. And equally, like every industry, there's people you might not get along with. And you might think they're a bit of an idiot. And you don't have to hang out with those people if you don't want to. It's my motto.

Fashion Toolbox 27:49

What makes a successful journalist?

Megan 27:54

I think, first and foremost. Well, success is obviously very subjective. And I think universally, success from my point of view success is being able to write about what you're really passionate about. Because, at the end of the day you might write about what you absolutely are obsessed with and you're an expert in that that sector and you're, you are really passionate about the information and the knowledge that you're getting to share about that particular sector, and if that makes you happy, then I think that success, I think, I don't think anyone goes into this industry to make millions. So there's never really that much of a question of like, oh, if you've got you know, if you can buy your own house in London, or if you can go on expensive holidays or if you have like material wealth, then you're successful. I don't think that that's so much the case in fashion journalism. I think, if you are lucky enough to get to write the sort of stories that you want to write, and not the stories that someone else wants you to write that you don't care about, or you don't find engaging or interesting or important, then that is the kind of biggest factor for me I think. But I also think that if you're, you know, I look at people in the industry who have been around for, you know, since the 60's, if you look at fashion journalists that, like Tim Blanks if you look at people like Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times, if you look at people who are hardcore, professional journalists, and that is their calling, they are so curious, they are so excited, and enthusiastic about the industry, whether that's what graduates are doing, and the type of technology that young designers are using, or heritage houses and how they're tapping into their archives to kind of create a modern context for old clothing. I think, if you can maintain that curiosity, without having cynicism and q kind of jaded perspective on the industry leak in and kind of taint your perspective on things, I think that's a really good sign that the industry is right for you, you're out of the industry, and it really is about fashion. So I think that that is success, like if you really want to be a fashion journalist, I think, you have to set your own definition of success, but if you're a writer, getting to write and getting to write what you love and maintain that and build on that knowledge year on year on year and have a really healthy long career in the industry. I think that is a really good sign of someone who's successful.

Fashion Toolbox 31:15

Now, you've mentioned this briefly, I think previously, about your skills that you've learned, you said that you've picked up quite a few from education, but mostly from industry. So could you just explain in a little bit more detail, what you did learn at university versus industry, if you can?

Megan 31:40

I think at university you get more of a theoretical understanding about how the industry works and you get that base of, especially through my education, I really got a base of this is what fashion writing can do. This is what good fashion writing looks like. Thi