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Dear Fashion Editor-In-Chief

I hope all is well.  This week for my blog I flirted with several fashion ideas namely, giving my take on New York Fashion Week, commenting on the start of LFW, A/W 2011 Colour trends, accessory trends, style tips and the like.  However for this post, I feel I am more inspired to delve into underbelly of fashion- to speak of what most creatives whisper about in fear of being ‘outed’ and their work drying up.  The topic kind Sir/Madam is money and when it comes to (most) fashion and art magazines, the extreme lack thereof.

When I was younger, like the creative genius Natalie Massanet (Founder of Net-a-Porter), I too wanted to be Editor-In-Chief of my own magazine, however several internships working in the esteemed fashion cupboards of magazines like In Style and Tatler, made me reconsider.  Why, I hear you ask, because after doing some press pick ups and learning how much particular magazines owed stores and showrooms due to not returning press pieces, I (for lack of a better word) got pretty freaked out.  Also after befriending a certain Editor-In-Chief who had started up a fashion and art magazine that was continuously praised in the media, but could barely make his rent, like Fagin (Oliver Twist), I told myself, ‘I think I better think it out again’.

As of late, I have seen a sharp rise in fashion and art magazines finding new ways to get creatives to work for free.  In fact one such magazine who of course is trying to sell itself as ‘more than a fashion magazine’ has this written on their Facebook Information page-‘Should you be brave enough to join us in our adventure…we want to hear from you!’  When I got in touch to see if this ‘more than a fashion magazine’ would be funding creatives to go on this ‘adventure’, as usual the response was negative. 

Just this week, I read the blog of one my favourite fashion editors, Vanessa Friedman, Financial Times (Material World), and she too seemed to be showing her ‘astonishment’ at a certain fashion and arts magazine that has just started up, who instead of paying creatives for submitting their work insists that the payment is the world-wide exposure they give that creative through publishing their work.  Now this is one hymn I am tired of hearing being sung, in fact, I’d very much like to throw the book at all ‘choir conductors’ who orchestrate this hymn.  However, violence is never the answer.

I am so tired of seeing magazines use the ’emerging creative’ loop-hole to skirt away from financial remuneration for services rendered.  If most of these magazines were publishing the work of fashion students, then maybe, just maybe that reasoning would fly.  As it stands, having studied magazines like ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ that insist that they are all about ‘new talent’- a few issues in, most of these magazines begin to use much ‘older talent’ to raise the profile of their magazines.  Despite doing this, because they remain hidden under their ‘doing it for the new creatives umbrella’, they manage to avoid payment.

I have also noticed a trend of new magazines avoiding to pay for editorials by setting themselves up as pure submission (as opposed to commission)-based magazines.   By doing this they are saying, ‘Hey, for our next issue, the ‘edgy’ theme is ‘Sex,Drugs & Rock n Roll’, we won’t be paying you but here are all the rules and high standards we have set which you have to adhere to, to  be published. Furthermore, due to the large scale of submissions we get, we will only be in contact with you if we want to publish your work.  BTW we won’t be giving you a commissioning letter for this shoot either as the less contact we have with you before the shoot, the less likely issues of fees are likely to be raised.’

Some might argue that most magazines are pretty upfront about non-payment and that creatives have a choice on whether to work for free or not.  But here’s the thing, they don’t.  Emerging photographer’s, stylists, hair and make-up artists need portfolios (be it online or printed) to get jobs, and the more published work they have to show potential clients,  agencies and so on, the higher the chances are of them landing a job.  This is the way the industry works, so in fact, creatives have no choice in the matter- they need to be published, if only to get the ‘golden tear sheet’.  It is my belief that many an Editor-In-Chief realises this and exploits it.  They base their ‘business idea’ on exploiting the fact that there will always be creatives out there who will do ‘anything’ to be published, in time these magazines always crash and burn (Wig, Anglomania, Colures, War, Panther Style, Random-anyone??!!) and then from their ashes rise more non-paying magazines and so the vicious cycle continues.

Here’s an idea Fashion Editor-In-Chief, if you really want to support fashion, art and new talent, why don’t you treat setting up a magazine as a business and leave of starting up your fashion magazine until you have the necessary financial investors?  Why don’t you spend more time seeing how you can pay the people that you commision?  When will you realise that ‘exposure’ can never, ever compensate for lack of payment, as one cannot use ‘exposure’ to pay the bills.  When will you stop taking the more lazy option of setting up a business where from the get-go you are content with the fact that the people who work (really, slave) for you are never going to get paid?  And if you cannot pay for the editorials you crave and commission, can’t you at least work out how you will pay for the basic expenses needed to execute these editorials?

I fully admit that although I am well-versed in the creative aspects of fashion, I still have a lot to learn about the commercial side and I am more than willing to learn. So maybe your response to the above questions will help shed some light on why ‘non-payment’ has scarily become the norm for (a lot of) new fashion and art magazines.

I look forward to your response.

Many thanks

My Fashion S/ash Life