Q&A: How to get into fashion journalism

Written by Alex Dade.

Alison Taylor has worked for many top fashion magazines, some that people could only dream of writing for.

Now a freelance journalist in London, Alison has a broad portfolio of titles she has contributed to as well as big names she has interviewed.

Currently teaching print workshops to third year journalism students here at the University of Lincoln, she shares her tips, advice and stories.

Darren Hall
Alison Taylor. Photo: Darren Hall

What publications have you freelanced for?

Over the years I have freelanced for a lot of different people. Recently I wrote something for Stella for the Sunday Telegraph and Marie Claire. Elle – I do stuff for them and I used to work at Elle before I went freelance.

I have written for the Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, Stylist and InStyle. Most of the big ones really. I have never written for Vogue – that’s one to tick off the list!

Have you even been star stuck when interviewing someone?

I flew to New York to interview Debbie Harry from Blondie and she’s one of my idols. I think she is super cool and I admire who she is as a woman.

She is known for being a little bit spiky, so I was a bit nervous about that. She had this habit – if she didn’t want to answer a question, she just wouldn’t say anything at all.

What one thing are you most proud of?

My book, ‘The Still Single Papers,’ which is a memoir about being single, based on a blog that I was writing. It’s really rewarding when people get in touch, especially on Twitter. I have got all these girls from Mexico City saying “we love you”. It’s just really nice that I might have identified an experience that people are relating to.

Why did you decide to go freelance?

Well I had been at Elle for four years and I just didn’t feel like I could go any further with it; I got to a point where I had quite a steep rise there. I felt like I had just reached a level where I couldn’t do any more at Elle. I just took the plunge.

How did you get to where you are today?

I did English and Communication studies at Liverpool uni and then I started applying for jobs. I wanted to move to London straight away because I just thought that’s where everything is at.

I ended up getting a job on a business magazine, ‘Quality World’, as an editorial assistant. It was quite a good grounding, because I had a job on a magazine.

Then I did the course at LCF. Sue Ward Davies (a tutor at the time) who is the travel and lifestyle editor at Elle liked the work that I had done and asked if I would go in and see her. So I went in, and worked two days a week with her for free and it went on from there.

I don’t think I would have necessary launched myself into a freelance career if I had not had that grounding of being at Elle.

What tips or advice would you give to students wanting a career in journalism?

You need to get work experience. You would struggle without that, so just get as much as you can. Get as much published as you can as well, in whatever format, whether it is online or print.

I think read a lot as well. Read newspapers, read magazines because it amazes me when I look at students and they are blank-faced about newspapers. You need to get to know the market, especially the publications you are interested in writing for.

Also, pick up the phone.  It’s not all about email and it’s frustrating to me, you get so much more from a phone conversation. You have got to have the guts to do it.

Lastly, what is the best piece of advice you have been given and who was it by?  

Sarah Bailey at Elle, the editor when I first started there. She said to me: “Stay true to yourself.” I know I was selected to interview Noel Gallagher because of who I am. Be true to yourself and stay cool, in the positive sense.

Comments are closed.