Monday, 7 December 2009

Week 2 at Cosmopolitan

I am on the train on my way back to London for my final week at Cosmopolitan. Despite how much I am looking forward to next week, part of me - in fact quite a large chunk of me - just wants to be curled up in bed. In fact, that is where I spent quite a lot of today. I had planned to catch up on school work, but apart from pulling myself up for a Sunday roast with my grandparents, I remained curled up in my duvet.

I may be tired, but I still can’t believe tomorrow will be the start of my last week. Just like in the summer I have settled in. My train journey each morning now seems routine: Northern Line, Morden via Bank, change at Euston, wait several trains before being able to squeeze myself onto a southbound Victoria line, huddle up next to the body of a surly stranger then “mind the gap” and burst out at Oxford Circus. Each morning I smile as I walk past Liberty - at the suited foxes sitting in one window, the flamboyant ugly sisters in another. “Good Morning Libby,” I seem to hear them gruffly say, winking a heavily made up eye. Asking for the key to the Cosmo fashion cupboard at reception, swiping my pass card and getting the lift to the fourth floor, turning on the computer, watching as the office gradually fills with coats, smiles, people and the ringing of phones... It is easy how quickly things becomes routine.

This week the fashion team were away on shoots in New York or South Africa. It is hard not to feel envious, although I know their trips will be full of early morning starts and work work work. But then that’s fashion.

For two days this week, I literally was the Cosmo fashion department. On Monday Hayley, the other intern, was ill, and on Thursday I suggested she take the day off for her birthday (we had finished our jobs and I remembered the fashion director giving Alison the day off for her 21st in the summer). It seemed strange to be surrounded by empty desks, but I can’t deny I also felt guiltily cool.

On Monday I had a pretty mammoth task of organising jeans for the Denim Special, as they were to be collected by the photographer that afternoon. This involved describing every pair and then bagging them up into their separate sections, from skinny to boyfriend. I had no idea how heavy jeans were. I think people perhaps think of working in fashion and magazines as champagne sipping and late lunches, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Having done well academically I have often been met with a “What do you want to do that for” attitude towards fashion, as though I should be doing something more ‘challenging’ or ‘worthwhile’. However having now spent 6 weeks in total at a fashion magazine, I have gained a huge admiration for everyone who works here. Cosmopolitan really is a machine, and the people that work here, whether it be styling a photo shoot, writing an article or simply unpacking boxes and bags of clothes, are the reason it runs so well. For me that is something to aim for, and if I have got anything out of my time here (whereas in fact there are too many things to list) it is a determination to not only get to where I want to be, but become the person I want to be too.

As I sorted the jeans I was also answering the phones and responding to emails at the same time; a lot of the day was spent with a pair of jeans slung over my shoulder whilst I held the phone in one hand and tapped at the keyboard with the other (I subsequently learnt the art of one-handed typing, a skill which now seems just as handy as touch typing). I had a couple of minor panics throughout the day. I had been told to wait for two pairs of jeans, one from Marks and Spencer and one from Bhs. However when I opened an M&S bag that arrived in the morning, I found myself with 5 different pairs of jeans on my lap. Oh dear. To make matters worse the Marks and Spencer press office weren’t picking up the phone or responding to my emails, and whereas a description of the items enclosed usually arrives with the clothes, this package contained nothing. Meanwhile the Bhs jeans still hadn’t arrived. Eventually I managed to get hold of someone from M&S, who helped me find, what I hope were, the right pair of jeans amongst the five. One pair down, only one to go. I called Bhs and they said they would send the jeans over on a bike straight away. Whilst I waited I worked my way through the rest of the jeans, had a quick sandwich, until the Bhs pair had eventually arrived and I could finish the final set.

I had been told what I had to do and the details I needed to give the photographer, but it was so hectic that once the jeans were eventually all packed up and had been collected, I was terribly worried I had made some sort of mistake. After the jeans had arrived I called the photographer to make sure it was all ok. I think he could tell how anxious I was as he was lovely to me. Despite this even now I am awaiting the return of the fashion team with baited breath - I know I have tried my best but I’m still desperately worried I will have made some sort of mistake. But I guess at the end of the day mistakes happen and they can usually be fixed.

Whilst the fashion team have been away I have got to know some of the other people here. One day this week I had finished all the returns and things I had been asked (or could think of) to do, when I noticed a woman surrounded by boxes in the fashion cupboard. I offered to help - she was unpacking Christmas gifts that Cosmopolitan send every year to single mothers and their children living in hostels in London. We opened boxes of toys, putting batteries in where needed. Some of the toys I would have quite liked myself - including an incredibly cool Buzz Lightyear backpack. Ok, I may be a girl, and 17 at that, but I still want to go to ‘Infinity and Beyond’. The woman I was helping has a child herself and had chosen all the presents and organised them being sent to the hostel. It was very humbling to help and I hope the children (and their mothers - there were bags, gloves and perfume among the toys) will enjoy their presents on Christmas Day. Whilst we were opening boxes and adding batteries to remote control cars and a High School Musical talking diary (!!) we chatted and I thought to myself (not for the first time) how nice everyone is here.

Some people have recognised me from the last time I was here, one lady said to me “We haven’t seen you in a while” as if I actually worked here! In the lift one day someone said they had remembered seeing me here in the summer. She also said that her friend was starting work experience next week. “Oh, what’s her name?” I asked. It turns out it is a ‘he’. I felt awful for having jumped to the conclusion that they would be a girl, because of course, why not a guy?

This week I really enjoyed working with Hayley, the other intern so it was sad when she left on Friday. But I am also looking forward to meeting the new intern on Monday, and to see Laura again, the second intern who was here for my first week (she spent this week organising a fashion show).

My plan for spending my Debenhams voucher on Christmas presents went out ot the window, as I thought it might, when I went there during my lunch break on Tuesday. The weather seems to have all of a sudden become properly wintry, and with no scarf or gloves the walk to the station each morning has been proving chilly to say the least. I arrived back in the office wrapped up in scarf, hat and mittens. Oh and I couldn’t help buying a teacup print bra and matching knickers. Perhaps I didn’t really NEED them as such, but I think life is too short not to have teacup underwear. I did, however do lots of Christmas shopping this week. I thanked the high heavens for my Topshop discount when I piled my presents on the counter.

On Thursday this week I visited my favourite shop, Anthropologie, which I discovered in New York and has recently launched in the UK. The Regent Street store is now not only my favourite shop in the world, but my favourite place in the world. I actually had to leave because it was so beautiful I was nearly overcome by tears of happiness. Yes, I am incredibly sad, but go there yourself and you will see what I mean. It really is Libby heaven, all my dreams spread across 3 beautiful floors. Entering I was met by teacups that looked like were straight from the Mad Hatter’s table, each with an ornate black letter on the front. I could imagine four teacups lined up spelling ‘Love’ with a pink rose in each cup. The shop is filled with beautiful clothes and homeware, all far too expensive for me to buy, but that didn’t stop me drifting around the shop stroking everything. Lace skirts and cardigans trimmed with ribbon and buttons, silk dresses with Russian style embroidery and woollen hats adorned with bows and flowers. The whole shop is a feast for the eyes, sumptuous colours filling every available space. And what appeals most to me is the quirkiness of it all. One mannequin had a skirt made from broken blue and white china. Chandeliers of colourful paper and bottle tops hang from the ceiling, lighting up the left hand wall which is made entirely of plants. And as I walked downstairs to the kitchen and homeware department I was met be a serene narwhale floating above my head. One of my favourite books as a child was Michael Morpurgo’s ‘Why the Whales Came’; to me narwhales have always had a certain magic about them. Below the whale a table was laid out as if for a tea party, a bookshelf filled with beautifully bound hardbacks standing behind. Upstairs I found rugs made from pompoms and an iron bedstead with rows of vintage alarm clocks standing in regimented lines behind it. Among my favourite things in the shop were colourful fabric letters that I could see spelling my name above my bed, striped children’s mittens and a teapot that made me want to start liking tea. The same evening I met my boyfriend for supper, which was lovely, although I think he may have been slightly bewildered by my misty-eyed description of Anthropologie. “It’s just so beautiful,” I tried to explain.

One of my tasks this week was phoning press offices to find out the prices of things that had been used in the New York photoshoots. This included phoning Mulberry, Christian Louboutin, and most notably, Chanel. Remember the grey jersey jacket and quilted bag? Well I discovered that they could be mine for a mere £2700. £1500 for the jacket and £1200 for the bag. I’m sorry Karl, oh Roi de la Mode, but I have seen an almost identical jacket at Topshop for around £35. Nonetheless, if either jacket, or bag (in particular) turned up at my doorstep they would still find a very loving home.

This week my A level french came into use when I had to call the Sonia Rykiel press office in Paris to find out the prices of some of their items. I was close to shying away from it - they probably would have spoken English or at least have been able to put me through to someone who could. Perhaps they wouldn’t understand me, or I wouldn’t understand them? But then I figured, why am I learning French if not for moments like this? So a little hesitantly I picked up the phone. When they answered I said I was calling from Cosmopolitan in London, and as I explained what I needed I was a little surprised not to hear a “Je ne comprende pas! Votre francais est tres mauvais ma petite!”. I was so pleased that in fact I was understood and got the information I needed - it showed to me exactly why I am learning the language. Not only do I love it, but I want to be able to speak to people in Paris, and at the fashion shows which I hope to one day attend. I also had to phone Milan but having only started learning Italian (for similar reasons to French) a few months ago, I must admit I was too nervous to try it out. I probably would have just ended up confusing the person on the other end. But it has now given me something to work towards.

Speaking of French, I had a nightmare this week that I got an E in my A level exam. Although I have tried, doing essays in my lunch break and when I get back from work (the family I’m staying with must think I’m incredibly antisocial), I haven’t been able to keep up with all the school work I have been set. When I arrived home this weekend I was met by a pile of work from one of my French teachers. Of course, it is not their fault. I chose to take the time out of school, I knew it would be difficult and that I would have to work hard to keep up. But then I also knew that this was too good an opportunity to miss. Just from the calibre and sheer quantity of interns they have here, (and this is only one magazine) I know how competitive it is. So of course I am prepared to have to work hard. Saying that, I know I can’t make any more hours in the day. I will catch up with any work I need to in the holidays, but for now I will just get the most out of my last week here.

This weekend I came home for a brief sleep, then work on Saturday. In the evening my boyfriend and I went for a meal with family friends, who are actually more like family really. After having been Cosmo girl in the big city for another week it was nice to just be the little old Libby they have known since I was the chubby cheeked freckle face who wore Minnie Mouse leggings.

Going home briefly did make me miss everyone even more. It has been two weeks since I have seen my friends, but in a way it seems more. I feel so far away from home. In reality London is only 2 hours away on the train, but it could be a million miles away from how different it is to the little town where I live. Don’t get me wrong, I adore London, and really hope that I will be here at university next year. In all honesty I could never visit the town where I live again and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest, if it wasn’t for the people that are there. But despite being shattered, missing my friends, and the issue of my school work, I wouldn’t change this for the world. I feel so lucky to be here, so lucky to have been asked back. I look forward to going in to the office each morning, I really will enjoy my last week, and I know I will be incredibly sad to leave.


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