Kay Weston caught my eye, not only for our many mutual interests, but also because of her inspiring career and her smart view on the industry. At only 23, Kay has got an impressive curriculum vitae. “I still find it difficult to believe that I’ve done so much, yet I only graduated from university this year!” she admits.
And yet, she grew up very far from the world of fashion: “Growing up, nobody I knew was into [it] or even reading [...] magazines, so I was never surrounded by it or particularly interested in it. Fashion was of little relevance to me.” Mainstream fashion, perhaps, but the Brit girl already had her own style: gothic, with “the whole black hair, black lipstick and white face look”. She seems to apologize for the “dubious things” she wore, “all of which I did eventually grow out of”, but she doesn’t have to- most of the present fashionistas have roots in the underground fashion : Leigh Lezark, Daphne Guinness ... Not to pretend that I can be featured in that prestigious list, but at 16, I looked like Siouxsie Sioux and was devoted to the 70s punk clothes. Those influences enrich someone, and are still part of Kay’s current style. “I still love heavy metal music and there are a lot of rock-chick elements on my look”, adds the blond beauty, who can easily be seen with “loads of black eyeliner” and her Doc Martens, even if she admits that “on the whole, it’s quite casual”.
Now that you could recognize her on the streets, it is time to tell her adventure, which started at the University of Sheffield, a culturally dynamic city in the north of England. “I loved words and was always reading and writing, even from a very young age. I knew that I wanted to do something with writing.” That’s the reason why she opted for a degree in journalism, but also teamed with one in German, due to a passion for foreign languages. “Learn another language”, she advises. “Being fluent in a second or third language will put you miles ahead of anyone else looking to get into the industry and give you a better understanding of how your own language works.” University was an important time for Kay. There, she explains that she “had the time and guidance to really develop [her] writing skills.” She also started to freelance, from student media to independent magazines, she soon reached national and international levels. Her real first encounter with fashion journalism occured when she started to work with AGENT2, an ambitious digital magazine created in 2009. This first apnoea in fashion was a revelation. “I found that I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the industry and designers, so I started to move more and more into that field until it became a specialism.” She went from Fashion Editor to Director. Soon, things were quickening for the Sheffield student. She wrote for British newcomers Fault and Push It magazines, but also for the website of the famous British newspaper The Independent, and the American fashion magazine Chaos (which might have seduced her because of its metal inspiration, as it recently chose a song by German band Rammstein for its introductory video). She also lived and worked as a writer in Germany, writing in her second language.
|Ein Traum in Erdbeerfolie (2009)|
Her travels are also a very important part of her personality. “Travelling has influenced my views on fashion, because when you’re exposed to other cultures it does leave you more openminded, and not just about style. When I lived in Germany, I went to a press screening of a Marco Wilms documentary called ‘Ein Traum in Erdbeerfolie’, which was about the main protagonists of the underground fashion scene in East Berlin before the wall came down. I loved that for these people, fashion became a form of escapism. Even under an oppressive regime such as that [of the German Democratic Republic], creativity thrived and fashion brought people together. I found that really inspiring.”
She has got a lot of those anedoctes you have when you explore the world. For example, she remembers a trip to Macedonia where, she says, the disparities of wealth are startling. “I remember being on a bus in Macedonia, travelling three hours from Ohrid to Skopje, and driving through what could best be described as shanty towns. It was obvious that the people living in them were very poor. But when the bus reached Skopje, I remember looking out of the window and seeing a huge billboard advertisement for Miss Sixty in Macedonian. It’s quite surreal.” But Eastern Europe still holds much appeal for her because of its speed of development. “I’d like to spend more time over there. Armenia, Kosovo and Georgia are next on my list.”
|Push It Magazine|
From this enviable position, Kay is now able to give us some tips for success. “Fashion writing is generally regarded as the lowest form of journalism, so be prepared to have to fight hard to prove yourself,” she says. “You need to have an awful lot of patience too. It takes a long time to break into the industry and there are no short-cuts to success. Absolutely nothing will be handed to you on a plate, so be prepared to work hard and work for free.”
She adds that journalism, especially fashion journalism, is not the gold mine we tend to imagine. But don’t be disheartened, she has got some good advice. “The only way to succeed is to intern, do work experience, write for websites and magazines and prove your passion as much as you can. Even when the rejection letters are piling up, persevere. Resilience is crucial in this industry. Put yourself out there as much as possible and make sure people are aware of your work.” She also insists on networking, which is, according to her, a good way to become known. “So much depends on who you know, so talk to everybody, never be rude to anyone- even if they are rude to you- and ask for help if you need it. More importantly, actually listen to feedback and act on it. It’s the only way you will improve. And learn to write properly. So many people are tempted to get into fashion journalism for the freebies or glamorous lifestyle, but the truth is that if you can’t string a sentence together, you won’t get anywhere. Editors don’t have a lot of time on their hands and are under pressure to get jobs done quickly, so we don’t want to have to be spending hours correcting grammar or spelling errors, or having to constantly fact-check details. We also like people who have a steady stream of interesting and new ideas. For aspiring writers, it’s important to devour everything and keep your ear to the ground. Read fashion magazines and blogs, always be on the lookout for exciting new designers, keep on top of trends and get to know as many people in the industry as possible.” Words of wisdom!
Now that we know Kay Weston better and that we have all the insider knowledge to try to steal her job (don’t be afraid, Kay, I am joking!), it’s time for an in-depth conversation on modern fashion. But, in order to read it, you will have to wait for the second part of the interview !