If I counted up all the half hours I have arrived early for things, I would probably find that I have spent a year of my life waiting. 365 days of lurking awkwardly outside cafés and buildings checking my watch and waiting for it to tick down to an acceptable 10 minutes of earliness.
Today was definitely a day to live by my mantra that arriving 30 minutes early is far better than arriving 30 minutes late. It was also a day for my lucky red heels.
Today was my first day of two weeks work experience at the Guardian’s fashion desk.
Of all the offices I have waited outside, the Guardian HQ was by far the swishest. And as I discovered when the 10 minute mark eventually arrived and the escalator carried me into the belly of the building, it is also the biggest. In fact, it is huge.
You can tell a lot about a company by its reception; the way they choose to welcome you always seems to me to convey (or at least attempt to convey) certain important messages. So what about the Guardian? Two friendly receptionists in black dresses and matching green cardigans (mere coincidence, or a uniform acting as a reminder of ‘green’ credentials?), spacious landing and scattering of colourful chairs that looked like open mouths ready to envelope you in a kiss. So far, so good.
Despite being sat in a kiss, I was nervous. I have got quite good at tricking myself into feeling confident. Most of the time when the nervous Libby inside me gives a little shout I just ignore her. Sometimes, however, she is so insistent on being noticed that she gives a little dance that sends my stomach jittering.
My nerves were calmed somewhat when I was met by Sara, one of the fashion team who was all smiles and friendly chatter. As she brought me up to the fashion department she showed me around the building. Yes, it may have been my first day of work experience, but my mind was already wandering as I imagined myself working in the modern and dynamic hub of a building. Everything felt fresh and bright and (what appealed most to the Monica inside of me) organised.
After arriving on the third floor and being led past coffee stations (“Help yourself!”) and through the open plan office, I met the rest of the team; equally as friendly and thankfully down to earth.
I was sat at the desk of one of the fashion editors who was away, and spent the morning cutting fashion stories out of newspapers and organising look books. In the afternoon the team were heading out of the office and I was to go with them to a very familiar destination: Selfridge’s.
The lowest floor of the department store is currently home to the Oxfam Curiosity Shop, a vintage den with a difference. As well as the usual silk scarves and printed jumpers raided from Granny’s wardrobe you can also find vintage with a special twist. Next to one colourful rail stood a faded and love-worn aviator jacket. Not so unusual for a vintage pop-up shop. It was only on closer inspection that I noticed the tag: “first worn and loved by Colin Firth.” Next to the jacket: a dinky dress donated by Kylie Minogue. Celebrities from Helen Mirren to Scarlett Johansson have given items of clothing to the pop up shop, items which are all on sale to raise money for Oxfam.
As part of the event various newspapers and magazines are getting involved, styling several outfits for a ‘Style Off’ that will take place on the Oxfam website, votes being taken for the favourite looks.
Watching and assisting as the fashion team scoured the rails was a great learning experience. It was particularly interesting to watch them work and compare it to my time at Cosmopolitan; just from looking at the outfits laid out and by listening to them make their decisions it was clear that these were outfits Guardian style. Fashion or no fashion that is perhaps the main thing I took from day 1 at the Guardian: a good journalist has to know their reader inside out and back to front.
It was interesting to see Selfridge’s behind the scenes (“Selfridge’s: Uncut”). At one point we were taken down into the depths of the store to a basement housing additional stock. What a contrast to the bright shop floor thronging with Chanel bag toting fashion darlings and a battalion of shop assistants spritzing perfume and brandishing hair straigtheners. Because beneath the pussy bows and perfume this is fashion: one of the world’s largest industries chugging away in offices, factories, workshops and basements. In an industry built on dreams it is best to keep that quiet. The basement is fashion’s best kept secret.
An interesting Day 1 at Guardian HQ.