Monday, August 18, 2008

industry insider interview: navaz batliwalla, part two

part two of interview with Navaz Batliwalla as part of the new industry insider feature, which will see me speaking to people working in coveted positions within the fashion industry, and prizing as many helpful tips as possible from their stylish fingers..

they're long posts, but i think they'd make great print outs to stick in your handbag for a read on the bus/underground.

How significant is the presence of the advertisers' influence when working on a magazine?
Staying true to your creative ideas is the mother of all challenges! Ultimately, the fashion and beauty pages are there to get the advertisers in so you have to appease them. But to prevent compromising your ideas you have to be really creative.

Ultimately it involves a lot of thinking outside the box, how to make an ugly shirt look good, can you disguise it somehow? The advertisers aren't stupid, they know if their brand is a bit naff, so often they don't mind what you do as long as their name is in the credits somewhere.

Wondering why every magazine seems to do a 'denim special'? Big denim labels have a lot of money and it's a good way to get their advertising in, plus you can always find an alright-looking pair of jeans, even from the naffest brand. Although my editor would never force me to use something I didn't like (I was lucky!) there's still a lot of pressure.

Can you tell us a little bit about your early jobs when you started working in fashion, and how you got them?

I was very lucky as I only did work experience for three months before landing my first job - these days it can take years. I worked for Caroline Baker who was a freelance stylist and also the fashion editor of Good Housekeeping. She had previously worked at i-D, The Sunday Times, Vogue and Nova.

I had written to her asking if I could be her freelance assistant but she needed a work experience person as someone had dropped out and it was the middle of fashion week. I stepped in and saved the day and basically never left.

Caroline was extremely creative, inspiring, encouraging and quite eccentric. I learnt loads working with her but what got me the gig was pre-empting her needs, doing things to the best of my ability (and then some), working hard and long hours, being super-enthusiastic.

I've found that being professional and reliable is almost more important than being talented. It also helps to be personable and outgoing. I'm actually very shy around people I don't know but I've learnt to suck it up and get on with it. If you're freelance you're always going to be around new people so you have to learn to work that little bit harder at putting yourself out there and basically selling yourself.

Please could you correct any misconceptions about your area of work.
The main misconception is that it's 100% creative. It's so not!

Alongside the fun stuff like reading Lula and going to launches and getting goody bags, there are endless meetings about tedious things like covermounts (the free scarf/flipflops/make-up bag that comes with the mag) and competitions. There's budgeting to be done and invoices to sign off. You spend a lot of time managing people, going on training courses and sitting in the office emailing and making calls.

Another thing people don't realise is that a lot of the job is formulaic. Every December issue is about party dresses, every May issue is about Prom, every June issue is about are we going to do 'swimwear for your bodyshape' this time?

You don't just get free rein to come up with whatever. That's the same on any magazine, even Vogue. A friend of mine who works for a Very Important Magazine has to have everything approved by her editor. So they have to justify every concept, photographer, location, dress and shoe - ugh, nightmare! For me that can kill the spontanaeity but there are reasons and ultimately magazines are businesses so it all comes down to money.

Another misconception is that it's well paid. For the hours that we do the pay is pretty bad so a lot of fashion editors top up with freelance work for catalogues or advertising. There are a few perks but contrary to films like The Devil Wears Prada, we don't get given designer handbags every other day (beauty editors on the other hand...).

The last misconception is that it's glamorous. I'd say that glamour accounts for about 5%, maybe 10% at a push! Ultimately, it's all work and pressure and a lot of responsibility so even if you're shooting abroad in Rio for ten days, glamour doesn't quite come into it when no-one's turned up to your model casting and your photographer's gone awol!


Anonymous said...

this is seriously an absolutely amazing new feature of your already great blog! i find this really informative and helpful b/c I hope to go into this career, so thanks again and again!

Siru said...

Great idea. Lots of usefull info.

juliet xxx

young-shields said...

A great and very helpful read, once again.

Thanks for the comment---KOL were really, really great! Unfortunately I started to feel really faint during the last two songs, but luckily managed to get out (eventually) from the crowds so I could breathe easy again. My bra even came undone in the process, it was cerrazy. Anyway, still worth it!

y-s x

Ella Gregory said...

loved the first part of this so it's nice to read the end.
Some really great advice.

Your a true blogging star!

emsie said...

i loved reading this - some really great advice. more of the same please (if possible)!

Rebecca, A Clothes Horse said...

Oooh, very cool. Even though they all say it isn't glamorous...I still think it would be sort of rad to be them...

María said...

Greatest interview ever! Really, and the answers are very interesting too.

María said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

what a great great feature.

Jackie said...

This was really very interesting to read!

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Top interview, thanks for sharing.


KATLIN said...

Verrry good read! This may sound weird, but I love hearing about the business/non-glamorous side of magazines, I find it really fascinating to know what goes on behind those slick pages.