Friday, 27 November 2009

Week 1 at Cosmopolitan

My alarm pulled me roughly from the warm depths of sleep on Monday at 5:30. I emerged from my bed bleary-eyed and wild-haired, in a daze. That is, until I tripped over my suitcase. Ah, now I remember why I am up at this unholy hour of the morning. My first day back at Cosmopolitan.

By 6:30 I was huddled on the station platform with my suitcase, waiting to be taken away - literally to a different world. As I sat down and the train pulled me away I watched my school roll past. It lay covered in shadows, waiting for the students to pull themselves from their beds and trudge up the drive. I would usually be one of those students, but not for the next three weeks. Despite the sleepiness I was incredibly excited. I was going back.

It was lovely how familiar the walk to the National Magazine House felt. This time, however, Carnaby Street had been hit by a Christmas rainbow. Bright pink bambis are suspended above the shoppers below, and ‘Love’, ‘Peace’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Joy’ are written in swirly text on huge technicolour balloons. The back of Liberty is still swaddled in a floral print and the top floor windows a cerise pink, the ground floors dusted with snow. So all in all it was Libby heaven as I walked to work.

Unsurprisingly I was early, and as my suitcase and I waited for the fashion assistants to arrive, I think the receptionist thought I was moving in. Not too far from the truth. When I struggled to find somewhere to stay for my first week I had considered hiding in the office until everyone had gone, and then curling up to sleep on a pile of clothes in the fashion cupboard. I would make a bed from dresses and the office has toilets, showers, a microwave... What more do you need?! On second thoughts perhaps staying with my sister in Cambridge was a better idea.

I was woken from this daydream when one of the fashion assistants arrived and took me up to the fourth floor. It was lovely to see her again, and as I walked through the Cosmo office and peered into the fashion cupboard I was met by familiar faces. Also partly hidden amongst the mass of clothes, were two new faces. They were the two interns who have been here for the past few weeks. I was met with a friendly but brief hello - I had arrived on a hectic day and there was work to do. The whole fashion department are going away next week, and everything needed to be sorted for their shoots in South Africa and New York. The fashion cupboard was fit to bursting and all the clothes they weren’t taking needed to be returned. With Christmas lights hanging in the streets below and the memory of the biting cold on my walk to work, it seemed strange to see such an abundance of florals and summer dresses. Strappy sandles and piles of canvas beach bags lined the floors and multicoloured, besequined bikinis dangled from hangers. One of the fashion assistants apologised that I had arrived on such a busy day, but of course, that is what I am here for, so I set to work. Despite having spent a month here in the summer, I was nervous. Perhaps the early start had something to do with it, but I could feel I wasn’t my normal chatty self. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing, and I felt slightly in the way. Although lovely (as I have now found), the other interns are older than me and enviably confident, so I couldn’t help feeling a little intimidated. Clothes were being passed to and fro, people were walking purposefully in and out of the fashion cupboard, phones were ringing and being answered; in my eyes I was the spare part to a well oiled machine. Despite this feeling I tried to get on with it, helping the others to wade through the mound of returns. In the afternoon bags of clothes arrived that I helped unpack and hang up. Bags of sunhats, swimsuits, dresses and jeans for a denim special the fashion editor is doing. Lunch came and went. I am bringing in sandwiches to try to save some money, and I have so much school work to keep up with that I spent my lunch sat at a desk reading Hamlet. Before I knew it the mound of returns had become a few bags that we would do in the morning, and it was time to go home.

I left early in an attempt to get the 5:44 train to Cambridge. FYI: it is not possible to get from Oxford Circus to King’s Cross, with a suitcase, at rush hour, in 19 minutes. Perhaps I would have managed it if I had been able to get on the train that was standing at the underground platform when I arrived there, but unless I was prepared to abandon my suitcase or lose an arm, there was no way I was fitting on that train. At 6:14 instead I was sitting on the train to Cambridge, hot and exhausted. I slept the whole way. I had planned to do my school work on the train each morning and evening, but I had underestimated how tiring the commute would be. The second I sat down on the train each morning, Hamlet in my hands and my notes on my lap, I was fast asleep. I admire people who do it every day; I have managed one week (I write this on the train on the way back from London) and am exhausted. I suppose it is understandable to be tired, I have been getting up at 6:30 each morning to get the 7:45 train, working all day and getting back to Cambridge about 7:15. It is surprising as well how physically tiring doing work experience at a magazine is. Packing and unpacking, hanging armfuls of clothes onto rails, carrying boxes and bags of clothes up from the post room - it’s more exercise than I usually get in a week. That’s why it was so nice to have a relaxing evening with my sister on Monday night. I was so tired and still full of nerves, so I nearly cried when she opened the door to me. I hadn’t seen her since October, and after a crazy day in London my big sister was exactly who I needed.

Tuesday morning and it was back to London, and back to work. For the first few days, whilst I was wedged in on the tube or walking amongst a swarm of people on Oxford Street, I felt like a small fish in a very big sea. Actually, I think a tiny plankton in a massive ocean more or less covers how I felt. I was of course happy to be back, and so grateful for the opportunity, but for the first few days I knew I wasn’t as happy as I should have been. I was away from my friends and family and alone in a huge city where I mattered to no one. I love London, but I cannot wait until (fingers crossed) I am living here. I will still be very small, but I will have other planktons to keep me company. It also struck me that there are only 4 people working on the Cosmopolitan fashion department, but there are interns all year round. Which basically means there are about a million other girls who want to do the same thing as me. Whilst running an errand I walked through Hanover Square and past Vogue House. I stood outside the revolving doors, peering in at the high reception desk with Vogue covers painting the wall. And I just thought, with all the million girls who want to work here, how can I possibly think I am going to get there?

My week cheered up however, as I knew it would. After all, how unhappy can you be when you are missing school to work at Cosmopolitan?! I soon got into my stride and began to really enjoy myself. As I walked back to Oxford Circus on Wednesday evening, Christmas lights making tall old buildings glow and twinkling in the windows of taxis and buses, I felt myself glowing too.

On Wednesday afternoon we three interns were sent to the Debenhams press day. The fashion director gave us the Cosmo camera to take photos of all the fashion and report back to them; they were all too busy to go. We walked together to where the press day was being held, chatting away as we went. It is nice that there are 3 of us. Although it means we all have to share one small desk, which at times proves problematic (one person on the phone, one using the computer and one leaning across for some files) it makes it so much more friendly. Following a ‘Debenhams Press Day 2010’ sign, we climbed a marble staircase and emerged into a bright room full of colourful clothes. They were samples of the Debenhams ranges for Spring/Summer ‘10. I loved it that we were being given a glimpse of what will be on the shelves next year - you can’t help feeling like you’re part of some super cool secret club. To top it off, as we left we were all given a £50 Debenhams gift voucher. The next morning we offered them to the Cosmo fashion team, as they had originally been intended for them, but they told us not to be so silly. My friends may now all be receiving Christmas presents from Debenhams, but perhaps I might just spend it on one of the lovely underwear labels I discovered at the press day!

There was much excitement on Thursday when a black and white parcel arrived. I recognised the iconic logo immediately. We all huddled around as the fashion director ripped open the Chanel parcel. Inside lay a gorgeous grey jersey jacket, and a white tshirt with the Chanel logo. The next day another parcel arrived, and there was more ripping of tissue paper - it felt like Christmas. Only it was a Christmas in Libby dreamland, because out from the tissue paper emerged a Chanel bag, the infamous quilted, chain handled fabulousness, but this time in Electric blue. Both the jacket, tshirt and bag had been called in for the shoot in New York, but with samples often going to the Vogues and Elles, there were literal squeals of delight when they arrived. The Chanel was packed away amongst all the other clothes for the shoots - about 5 big suitcases full for each location. I had never really thought about the logistics of exotic photoshoots before, so it was interesting to witness (and help with ) the process. Every single item has to be noted for insurance processes, an obviously lengthy ordeal.

The fashion assistants remembered that I want to write, and that I had written a few small pieces for the website last time, so they gave me a few more this week. They were only small again, but being set something to write I felt so much more in my comfort zone. The fashion team and other interns are more fashiony than me, but actually I don’t mind. I love clothes, but mainly because they are the things that inspire me most to write. Which I guess is an assuring thing to realise after having applied for a fashion journalism course at university.

As well as doing tasks in the office, I was sent out to return things to Dolce & Gabbanna and River Island (their press offices are not far away, so sending a courier seemed a bit pointless). Arriving outside the glass fronted Dolce & Gabbana office, with its empty interior and black glass walls, the only thing that showed me I had come to the right place was a glossy advertising campaign on the back wall. The doors were locked and I could see no one inside, so I buzzed the doorbell. A few moments later a woman emerged from the emptiness and pulled the door ajar a fraction. I told her I was returning something from Cosmopolitan. In a swift movement an arm reached through the gap in the door, took the bag and then the door was closed and the woman disappeared back into the mysterious darkness. An ajar door was obviously all the mighty D&G were going to let a mere mortal like me see of what goes on behind the scenes. On the way to the River Island press office I managed to get lost, but I found my way eventually and enjoyed the walk anyway. I peered in all the windows of the designer shops on Bond Street and caught a glimpse of the lobby at Claridge’s through their revolving door. All light, flowers, chairs, golden flounces and beautiful people - another world. Just like D&G, that was all I was going to (and will ever) see.

I am now on my way home for a quick wash of clothes and a night’s sleep, before going to work tomorrow morning. Then it will be straight back up to Cambridge and changing into a sparkly dress on the train to arrive in time for my sister’s Christmas formal. Sunday will hopefully mean a well needed lie in, before heading up to London where I will be staying for the next two weeks. I have had a busy, but satisfying and enjoyable week. Perhaps I may have had a slightly nervous start, but despite being incredibly tired, I am also incredibly happy. Today I walked back to Vogue House. It was getting dark and the office windows glowed above me. I could just make out fashion photographs hanging from the walls of a beautiful looking office on the second floor. And this time as I stood there, I said to myself, one day I WILL work here. And now more so than ever, I am determined that I will.


  1. Hi Libby (Cosmo Girl!), a bit of pink for you:

  2. Hi Libs,

    Sounds like another great week at Cosmo, and you get to see big sis too (say hi)! I think you should try the sleeping at the office for one night just so you can write about it!

    I have a photo from a facebook friend I need to get to you, ties in well with your writing.

    xx Clayton, Lucy, Tilly, Lauren & Stuart