Monday, 17 August 2009

Week 2 at Cosmopolitan

I don’t know how I’m going to go back to school in 3 weeks time. On my way back home for a brief weekend of work and catching up with friends after my second week, I had a sudden realisation. It suddenly hit me that I am dreading my final year at school. It is a good school, I have lovely friends and I am happy with my A level choices - the majority of the time I am actually interested in lessons - but it is not where I want to be.

My second week at Cosmopolitan has been just as good as my first; better even. Sitting at my desk and answering the phone with the “Hello fashion?” that I copy from the other girls (my voice rising to a sugary pitch at the end of ‘fashion’) I feel oh so cool. After two weeks I now feel so much more confident. The first week was full of nerves and trying to catch up with Alison, who had already been here for a week, but now I feel more at ease and as though I know what I am doing. I have finally mastered my swipe card so have stopped holding people up when I arrive at work, I know where things are kept, the receptionist and I chat in the morning and the post delivery men know my name.

At the moment the Cosmo team are working on their Christmas issue, which means sparkle and lots of it. The fashion cupboard looks like a sequin factory or a feisty fairy’s wardrobe. Party dresses are crammed onto the rails in a rainbow array of ruffles, beads, and pailletes. It was one of my jobs to hang up all these dresses as they arrived in parcels and bags. I opened the bags greedily like a child on Christmas morning, eager to see what sparkly goodies lay inside and to feel the weight of the fabric in my hands. I spy a silver dress entirely covered in studs and beads that weighs a ton but looks like the kind of armour that would be worn by the most stylish female knight. One jacket is entirely covered in crystals that wink provocatively at me in the light. Some dresses are so extravagant that I could leap for joy . To me the range of styles and the flamboyance achieved in even the most high street labels are two of the reasons fashion is so exciting. A purple strapless dress from ASOS has a huge bell shaped wire skirt with purple ribbon following the seams so that it looks more like a sculpture than a dress.

On the floor beneath the dresses are rows and rows of shoes that we have unpacked and laid out. There must be at least two hundred standing there, as if awaiting a hundred pairs of manicured feet before they can clipclop off to the ball. Some of the heels give my stomach a shudder of vertigo, but they are nonetheless beautiful. Gold, strappy, patent, peep-toe, bows, crystals, royal blue, scarlet, hot pink, wedge, platforms...Some of my favourites are a pair of leopard print courts with a neon pink trim and heel which so shouldn’t be gorgeous but really are. Mountains of bags are piled along the walls; I love the little box clutches that look just the right size for a lipstick and iphone. A forward word of warning: if you’re not gripping a sequin clutch bag at this year’s christmas party, then you really shouldn’t be there. Daaarling.

I am sorry, it may only be August, but I am feeling incredibly Christmassy. But after a day in the Cosmo fashion cupboard I think even Scrouge would be humming Jingle Bells and having a craving for mince pies.

My favourite task this week was out of the office and on Oxford Street. Cosmo have a ‘style on the street’ page on their website, and I was lucky enough to go with one of the fashion assistants and find and photograph stylishly dressed people milling around Topshop. (The fashion assistant pointed out an inconspicuous looking man as the Abercrombie and Fitch model scout who stands against the railings opposite Topshop every single day.) The ‘style on the street’ pages in magazines are often my favourite, as I think fashion is so much about how people wear their clothes rather than just what appears on the runways. It also gives you ideas that you can actually use; anyone can tie a scarf around the handle of their favourite bag or wear a boob tube as a skirt instead of a top - not everyone can buy the latest ‘must have’ Balmain jacket.

Our theme was checked shirts, so we hovered outside Topshop and scoured the rush of people for a flash of checks. The fashion assistant would then approach them, and if they agreed, I would take their photograph. I was surprised how miserable some people could be. If it was me, I would be incredibly flattered and it would probably make my day. Nonetheless we found some lovely people and got some good photos.

Standing and seeking out checks for 45 minutes made me realise how little attention I pay when I walk down the street. I love clothes, so love checking what people are wearing, but when I stopped and did nothing else I realised I never really look at people. When I walk I am so busy thinking away to myself that Brad Pitt could probably walk past and I wouldn’t notice. But it is actually fascinating when you really pay attention. There were a few people who were dressed truly fabulously, and their outfits made me so happy that I was so glad I had been paying attention. It was like I had glimpsed a lovely secret that no one else noticed because they were too busy to stop and look. But perhaps I am just strange.

At the end of the week I was sent to Next and Topshop to pick up clothes for one of the fashion assistants. I felt very Anne Hathaway in the Devil Wears Prada going to the back entrance of Topshop and saying I was there to pick up a bag of clothes for Cosmopolitan. I love seeing places that no one else usually gets to, the bits behind the scenes. At Topshop the bags of clothes were kept in cage like rooms that I had to ask a man in a high vis jacket to lead me to. It’s strange that by being very unglamorous that somehow made it glamourous.

I have been kept very busy this week, and it makes me think what happens when there are no interns around. The journalists are so busy that they would never have time to do the little jobs that Alison and I have been set to do over the past two weeks. They are little jobs, but then they are also important, and jobs that need doing. I find that the answer to my question is that they don’t have to worry about this. There are always interns. One of the fashion assistants tells me they are fully booked from now until April. I feel slightly sick. Perhaps the most important part of this experience for me should be about making contacts and opening doors. But how on earth can I hope to make an impression when I am just another one of the many interns that come in through the door. I try my best: I have been the first in the office every day so far, I work hard and I smile. (I think smiling is very important.) Despite my attempts I can’t help feeling slightly disheartened, but on one of the days I am given some lovely encouragement from the fashion editor that lifts my mood. She said she thought I would go far as I had the right attitude and was clearly enthusiastic. I could have jumped for joy.

So far I have had a tiring, but surprisingly stress free time. That changed, however, on Wednesday. To keep a long story short, I made a mistake. When I was archiving the magazines I didn’t realise I was supposed to be keeping a second copy of everything, so threw away the spares. When I had finished the fashion editor asked me where the other copies were. I felt my stomach drop. I discovered these were the only hard copies she had, and I had thrown them away. I was mortified. I wasn’t shouted at, so it wasn’t the reaction I received that upset me so much; I just hate making mistakes, especially when they impact other people. I felt like I might cry or be sick. Thankfully I did neither. Instead I apologised and tried to find a way to go about fixing things. Luckily there is a room here filled with old copies of the magazine, so I got the key and climbed over the piles of boxes until I had found every copy I needed. I then went back and cut and filed everything again. I am still gutted I made the mistake, but everyone makes mistakes, and I feel pleased that I got on with it and managed to put it right. Hopefully this will count for something even if I wish I had been more careful.

Despite that minor glitch, I have enjoyed my two weeks so much. I love the atmosphere in the office and how lovely everyone is. But it has made me think hard about what I want to do. I love Cosmopolitan, but I have discovered that the main part of working on the fashion department is styling. Styling sounds fabulous, as I love clothes and creativity, but the thing I want to do more than anything is write. I want to earn my living by writing about fashion, and I think perhaps Cosmopolitan isn’t the right place for this, however much I would love to work here.

If I lived in London, had the time and money and didn’t have to go to school, I would spend the next year interning at as many different places as possible. I am so keen to get as much experience as possible to show me what it is that I am aiming for, not to mention the fact it is just great fun. I would love to gain experience on a magazine with more fashion articles like Elle, or a fashion blog where I could experience the fast pace I loved at the Evening Standard but whilst writing about fashion. I would also love to see what it would be like working at the fashion department of a newspaper. Although the buzz of ideas and places I want to work is a little confusing, at least it shows me I am heading in the right direction. I love fashion so much that it all looks just too fabulous - I want to do everything.



  1. Well done, Libs. Great attitude and excellent comeback after the mess up. They are right (although we knew this already!) - you will go far.
    The Mad Irishman

  2. Hi Libby
    Just have to tell you, I just love your book(as well as your Mum's), your style of writing and your blog, and wish you huge success in the future. Writing so descriptively and expressively is a rare talent and I'm sure one which you'll continue to explore and develop. I am sure too that you'll use your A level course as another opportunity to spread your wings - and after all it'll only be a couple of hundred days or so, with lots of additional opportunities for writing and observing, as well as the nitty gritty course work stuff! Enjoy it! Finally, may I ask whether the fairy story in the book was your own - if so it deserves its very own book with it's own special characters. It is a brilliant little story. Congratulations - looking forward to seeing and reading much much more, I am sure you will make lots of good opportunities happen for your future. All Best wishes.

  3. Thank you for the comments and encouragement, it is so lovely to get such nice feedback. :D

    And I did write the fairy story in the book and am glad you liked it Liz. Although I want to be a fashion journalist I love writing creatively and hope to do more of it in the future.

    Libby :)