On Monday I started my first of four weeks work experience at Cosmopolitan. Similarly to the Evening Standard, some of the people that work here contributed to ‘Love Pink’ and they offered me the placement when I sent them a copy of the book. Usually you have to be 18 to get work experience here, so I was thrilled when they made an exception.
On Sunday evening I arrived in Holland Park (where I am lucky enough to be staying with a friend of my mum’s) laden with bags and a suitcase that seemed filled with bricks. No, just my entire wardrobe. Working on the fashion department of a magazine I have to make an effort, so I don’t consider my mountain of clothes in the least excessive.
Monday morning, and after dressing (opting for the same outfit as my first day at the Evening Standard) and eating a quick breakfast I get the tube to Oxford Circus. I walk down the chic Carnaby Street, past shops I remind myself to visit and onto Broadwick Street, finding myself in front of the National Magazine House. Opposite a London College of Fashion exhibition space and right near the lovely vintage shops and boutiques in Kingly Court, I feel immediately at home.
Unsurprisingly, I am early and after being greeted by a smiling receptionist and handed my pass for the month I wait on a leather sofa in the reception. Whilst I am waiting someone comes and changes the huge floral display on the coffee table, and I watch as people come in through the front door and pass me as they head for the lifts. They chat about their weekends, sip coffee and smile at me, some gliding in dresses, others teetering in heels, and a few clutching bike helmets and rucksacks.
At 9:40 a young woman heads towards me and says “you must be Libby”. She introduces herself as the other intern at Cosmo. She has already been here for a week and is in her final year at university studying fashion promotion and management. Despite feeling a bit intimidated by her, she is friendly and I feel pleased to have some company for my month here.
The lift stops at the fourth floor and she swipes a pass like mine to push open the door. I am greeted by a huge poster of this month’s Cosmo as we walk down a corridor and into the office. Desks and macs fill the room and we walk to a huddle of desks in the centre, which is home to the fashion department. I meet and shake hands with one of the fashion assistants, the only person in the department who is in the office today, the others being on a photo shoot. She seems friendly and laid-back, and shows me to my desk. Everyone in the fashion department has their own area which they have each decorated with pages from magazines, photos, tickets, rosettes and other colourful bits and bobs, so that the computers seem to hover in a rainbow cloud of trinkets and photos of beautiful clothes. I immediately imagine my desk adorned with postcards, tags from my favourite clothes, pictures from Vogue and lots of pink things. When I arrive they are finishing the November issue, and proofs of the fashion pages are pinned to the wall behind the fashion department. I find it so exciting to see what will be in the issue so far ahead, and love the feeling of being inside and part of such a big and commercial magazine.
After being shown to my desk I am led into the ‘fashion cupboard’. The word ‘cupboard’ is a bit of an understatement. It is a small room filled with rails and rails of clothes. The clothes are sent to the magazine by PR companies and fashion brands for photo shoots; for Alison and me it will be our job to return all the clothes to the right places after each shoot. We set to work straight away- there are a lot of clothes. Alison shows me how to sort them into piles, bag them up and then find the address to send them back to on the internet. As we work she shows me around the fashion cupboard. Clothes hung on the rails on the left side of the room are still to be photographed, all those on the left are to be returned, and the same applies for the bags of jewellery and accessories beneath the rails. All the clothes that have been bagged and have addresses written on them get put in a huge pile, which gets taken away by a courier every afternoon at 2.
There are always things to return, so I have spent most of the week in the fashion cupboard surrounded by clothes. Perhaps that may seem monotonous, and I am told not to worry, that this is how everyone starts, but in fact the ‘surrounded by clothes’ part means I am more than happy. Most of the clothes are press samples that are not yet out in the shops, so I am given a sneaky glimpse at things I will want to buy this autumn. I am also discovering new brands that I haven’t heard of, like the jewellery make Eclectic Eccentricity who make quirky and romantic vintage looking jewellery (I am pining after a tiny gold envelope on a chain with a little letter inside inscribed ‘je t’aime’ - how cute). After sending back bags of clothes I am also getting an insight into the main PR companies and which brands work in alliance with each other. It is also interesting to see how the whole process works: magazines send a brief to PR companies, for example chunky knits for winter, the companies then send a huge selection of things that might be appropriate, which then get narrowed down, possibly photographed, and then returned. Along the way the PR companies need to be contacted for information about the products such as price etc. All these things may seem small, but I am so keen to learn how the industry works that to me they are incredibly interesting.
On the second day I met two of the other members of the fashion team (the third being away on holiday this week), including the fashion director who is lovely. I am interested to learn that she went to the London College of Fashion, where I will be applying this October. I am struck by how down to earth everyone is here. The Devil Wears Prada is one of my favourite films, but I am relieved to find myself in an environment where everyone eats their lunch, chats to each other and you are not afraid of having your eye jabbed by a Louboutin heel in a cat fight. The Cosmo fashion department seems like a family, albeit a well-dressed one.
Although being in the fashion cupboard all day can be a little tiring, the organised side of me relishes the work. Some days this week when we had finished the returns and the fashion team looked too busy to ask for other jobs to do, we set about tidying the fashion cupboard. It seems Alison and I share a love for organisation. Once we had finished on the cupboard and all the rails were empty and all the shelves sorted, we sorted through the look books. Companies send in look books for each season which get filed alphabetically onto shelves. We made new sections for shoe look books and accessories, and threw away duplicate copies. At the end of the week the fashion director said the fashion cupboard was the tidiest she had ever seen it, and bought the whole department cupcakes to say well done. The compliment and the cupcake made me skip out of the office on a high, half happiness and half sugar induced.
As well as enjoying my work experience, I am loving being in London. I go to lunch with the other intern, and so far we have been to a burger bar, Leon (a fab wholesome fast-food place), a falafel restaurant called Just Falafs (I chose it purely for its name) and a nice cafe. Living in a town where the only place to eat is the local tandoori the deciding where to go is almost as good as the food itself.
In the evenings as well I have been enjoying being in a city. I watched Coco before Chanel at a fabulous cinema in Notting Hill where you can bring a bottle of wine into the old theatre with its rows of big velvet seats. I had never been anywhere like it before, and as I sipped wine and watched Audrey Tatou play Coco Chanel I wondered how anyone would ever get me back to my little town where the high street consists of charity shops and estate agents and the nearest cinema is a generic Cineworld 40 minutes away.
This weekend I had the saturday off work (I work in a bead and jewellery shop), a rare luxury, and went to Cambridge to visit my sister. It was a perfect weekend and a nice dose of relaxation after a busy week in London. Although I was sad to leave her, as I pulled back into London and stepped onto the tube I felt surprised by a sense of coming home.
I feel incredibly luck and am looking forward to tomorrow, and to the next three weeks as a Cosmo girl.