Monday, 31 August 2009

Week 4 at Cosmopolitan

I am writing this from my bedroom. Outside I can hear a lawnmower, a few birds and the disconcerting sound of silence. Beside me my open wardrobe door reveals a month’s worth of clothes hung tidily away.
It would be easy to think I had never been away at all and that I had dreamt this last month, if it wasn’t for the few clues dotted around my room. An envelope propped up on my dressing table reads ‘Libby Page, Fashion Department, Cosmopolitan’: the card that accompanied the flowers my mum and sister sent me for my AS results. A pink bunny necklace is hanging from my jewellery mannequin. It was sent to one of the fashion assistants who didn’t want it. When she asked me if I would like it I replied, “Pink? Bunnies, my two favourite things!” As I write this I am leaning on a hefty copy of American Vogue that one of the fashion assistants gave me, and hanging from the end of my bed is a Cosmopolitan bag featuring hundreds of old covers. I can just spy a Cosmopolitan pen peaking amongst biros and make-up brushes in my pink mug. On my last day I happened to find a whole box full of these pens, and when I asked excitedly if I might be able to have one I was handed not only a pen, but a Cosmopolitan bag and a Cosmopolitan book ‘The Best of the 70s and 80s’. I was stupidly excited; they smiled at my enthusiasm and said that I was actually mad. I hope it was meant with affection and not disdain, but I suppose either way they were right. 
Next to me two new additions sit atop my pile of bracelets. The two bangles (pink) were part of the goodie bag I was given on my last day as a thank you. I found it strange that they were thanking me, when I feel so unbelievably grateful. They have given me such a valuable experience, not to mention being so kind to me. I wrote them a card and made them each a little piece of jewellery but I still don’t think they understand quite how grateful I am. I wrote to so many places trying to get work experience, and know how much competition there is. That means I also know how lucky I was to be given the chance, especially as I am younger than the interns they usually accept. 
This week was as good as the past three, perhaps even better if it wasn’t for the shadow of having to leave that hovered over me. On Monday morning I was sent down to reception to bring up the new intern. I remembered Alison greeting me on my first day and how nervous I felt. It seemed strange the way it had now turned around. The new intern was called Alex, like my sister, so I knew straight away she would be nice. She is in her last year at university studying French and English, which is what I would have chosen to study if I didn’t want to do fashion journalism. Smiley and chatty she has just got back from a year working in Paris at Hugo Boss and Diesel. I am incredibly jealous. Fashion, french and Paris - three of my favourite things. In the lift up to the fourth floor we talked about her work experience. It has long been an idea of mine to go to Paris between my A levels and starting university. I would get work experience in a fashion house, speak french and live in a tatty attic where I could hear traffic and the city under my window. Speaking to Alex this became not just an idea, but a plan. Kindly she offered to pass my name on to the people she worked with at Diesel, who she said are always looking for interns and who were lovely. I liked her immediately.
I spent this week showing Alex around and how things work. It felt strange to be the old hand, especially as she is so much older than me. It did give me a guilty confidence though, and showed me how much I have learnt here. 
The fashion team are starting on their January issue, so this week I was calling in lots of things. This involved phoning PR agencies and telling them the theme we needed clothes for. When bags full of clothes I had requested started to arrive addressed to me I could hardly contain my excitement. (In fact one of these bags is hanging on the end of my bed - it would only have been thrown away and the ‘Libby Page, Cosmopolitan’ makes me smile whenever I look at it.) As the clothes arrived we had to unpack them all, and hang them up in the cupboard in different sections. We were calling in for a sports story, and some of the clothes actually made me want to take up sport. I could just imagine myself in the colourful shorts, hooded jumpers and rainbow high tops with smiley faces on them. Some Stella Mcartney racer back vests were in the softest blush pink that it would seem a sin to contaminate them with sweat. Much better for sitting in the cafĂ© at the gym looking the part. As the week went on more and more bags and boxes of clothes arrived, until the cupboard was fit to bursting. Each afternoon when the post delivery man would come round with his trolley overflowing with bags we would pray they weren’t for the fashion department. But each time they would be tipped into the cupboard and I would find myself trapped amid piles of clothes. Of course, there are worse ways to be trapped. 
It gave me an interesting insight if I ever wanted to work in PR. Some companies sent in such a vast quantity of clothes that the fashion team couldn’t even begin to sort through them all. We ended up sending some of them back unopened. The companies that stuck closely to the brief and sent in a good but limited selection were the ones that ended up having clothes used. 
Jewellery was also being sent in for a sparkly christmas shoot. When jewellery arrived I had to photocopy it all and write where it came in from so that nothing got lost. As I opened one package I fell in love immediately. Sparkly and colourful earrings, necklaces and bracelets tumbled into my hand. One necklace had a pink glittery flamingo on a gold chain and seemed made for me. It even had a tiny ‘L’ charm at the back. I discovered, however, that this ‘L’ wasn’t for Libby, but for Lily Allen. The jewellery was part of Lily Allen’s jewellery collection that will be coming out in September. I am never one for celebrity endorsed products, it is safe to say the Lindsay Lohan range of fake tanning products was never on my wish list, but I think a flamingo necklace warrants an exception to this rule. 
One morning I was sent to Butler and Wilson to pick up a bag of jewellery. Stepping inside the jewel bedecked South Molton Street shop I felt my mouth begin to water. Tutti frutti crystals and an abundance of sparkle and I left with an unnatural desire to cover myself head to toe in rainbow diamanté. Clutching a pink bag full of jewellery that weighed a ton (who knew sparkle could be so heavy) I headed back to the office.
One day I went with one of the fashion assistants to a press day. It was interesting to see the relationships between pr companies and the press, and how both sides go about their jobs that are so linked but so different. 
On Wednesday my three week’s worth of packing and unpacking paid off, when I got the chance to write something. I had finished my jobs for the day and asked one of the assistants if there was anything I could do to help, when she suggested I write something for the Cosmo news page of their website. I jumped at the chance and was thrilled when they said they were pleased with what I had written, and then used them on the website.

The pieces may only be small, but for me it was an affirmation of what I have been doing. Obviously I have thoroughly enjoyed me month here, but having my pieces used on the website showed me exactly why I have spent the last month away from my family and friends, spending a fortune on food and travel and working 9 till 5 instead of spending the holiday lazing in the sunshine. It just shows me how things work - you work hard doing (at times repetitive) jobs, in order to get that little bit closer to what you are aiming for. 
A similar thing happened this week when the fashion director here sent a personal recommendation for me to the director of the fashion journalism course at the London College of Fashion, who is a friend of hers. Just that she would do that for me made me glow with happiness. I don’t want to get in to the London College of Fashion because I know someone, but then I realised I actually didn’t know anyone. I worked hard to do the book, then worked hard to get work the work experience, then worked hard during the work experience, and that is how things happen. 24 people apply to every 1 place at the London College of Fashion, so as I am writing my personal statement at the moment I am still gripped by fear, but at least I feel I have tried my best to get in. When I send in my application I will be terrified, as it is the only place I want to study, but I won’t be thinking ‘if only I had worked a bit harder’. My month at Cosmopolitan has been fabulous, but it has also been hard work. 
I had to fight back tears when I left Cosmopolitan on Friday afternoon. I said good bye to everyone and left laden with suitcase, goodie bag and memories of my month here. As I handed over my swipe card and the receptionist said it wouldn’t be the same without me I felt the lump swell in my throat. I can’t quite describe my sadness on leaving. I will miss the fashion team and the people I didn’t even know but smiled at every day. But the most difficult thing is coming back after a month of such independence and being so close to where I want to be. In a month you forget that you will be leaving again, and what came before and what must come after. I was so enthused and so absorbed that I almost forgot about my life before this summer, and also how far I have yet to go. Once you have a taste of what you want it is difficult to go back and carry on in the same way. But after this summer I have a focus that will hopefully help this year go more quickly. I know I am heading in the right direction, and that I want to get into the London College of Fashion more than ever. It may be difficult to get used to being home and going to school again, but at least I have been lucky enough to have had the experiences I have, and I can now use these experiences in my final year at school. 
This summer couldn’t have been better.


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