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5 Things You Need To Succeed in The Fashion Industry: “You don’t have to say “yes” to every assignment” with Melissa Magsaysay

You don’t have to say “yes” to every assignment. I am very guilty of this and still have a hard time turning things down for fear that I won’t be asked again. I have experienced severe burnout. In fact, when I was in my early 30s, an editor told me that if I kept saying […]

You don’t have to say “yes” to every assignment. I am very guilty of this and still have a hard time turning things down for fear that I won’t be asked again. I have experienced severe burnout. In fact, when I was in my early 30s, an editor told me that if I kept saying yes to everything and taking on as much as I did, I would burn out by the time I was 40. I rolled my eyes then, but now certainly understand what she was saying. Aside from physical and mental burnout, focusing in on your “beat” and prioritizing the stories and subjects that really interest you, help you carve out your own brand and niche as a writer, while keeping you efficient and on track to avoid potential burn out.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Magsaysay, a journalist and best selling author contributing to numerous publications. Currently she is the editorial director of 11 Honoré, a size-inclusive e-commerce site focusing on exclusive, high-end designers. Melissa also writes for The Los Angeles Times, Business of Fashion and The Hollywood Reporter. Her best-selling book “City of Style: Exploring Los Angeles Fashion from Bohemian to Rock” covered style and subculture in LA.

5 Things You Need To Succeed in The Fashion Industry

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Stories have always resonated with me for as long as I can remember. I became obsessed with fashion magazines at a very early age and would soak up every word, image and even the fashion credits deep in the binding. I joined the school newspaper and started contributing to magazines as soon as anyone would publish me. My senior year of high school, just before I left for college, was when my stories started getting published, first in our local newspaper and then for a San Francisco based magazine.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

I think the fact that I moved to LA from NY as an editor with Women’s Wear Daily having no idea that LA was going to explode as a fashion and cultural epicenter like it has. At the time (2005) it was seen as cheesy when it came to fashion and Hollywood really eclipsed everything else. Being in the thick of the burgeoning action sports industry, contemporary clothing and denim just felt part of the job but looking back it was such an incredible time watching it all unfold and ultimately shape what a dynamic fashion landscape LA has become.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

There are countless mistakes! An embarrassing one that my husband I laugh about all the time now is when I started as a PA during New York Fashion Week. I had just moved to New York from Boston (where I went to college) and got my first break during Fashion Week as a PA at a production company that produced a lot of shows and events during NYFW. They sent me out with a list of things to buy for an event we were doing at an auction house. One of the items was “red wine glasses.” I don’t even think I drank wine then and if I did it had likely been out of a plastic cup or a coffee mug. I searched all over Manhattan and finally found red wine glasses. Like, the glass was the color red. I can’t even imagine what the producer must have thought about it. Somehow, I didn’t get fired.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

As a writer I really try and focus on people and brands that are working to promote diversity and inclusivity. Learning about companies that have a soul and that are mission driven is a priority for me now.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

You don’t have to say “yes” to every assignment. I am very guilty of this and still have a hard time turning things down for fear that I won’t be asked again. I have experienced severe burnout. In fact, when I was in my early 30s, an editor told me that if I kept saying yes to everything and taking on as much as I did, I would burn out by the time I was 40. I rolled my eyes then, but now certainly understand what she was saying. Aside from physical and mental burnout, focusing in on your “beat” and prioritizing the stories and subjects that really interest you, help you carve out your own brand and niche as a writer, while keeping you efficient and on track to avoid potential burn out.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I would like to think so! I am fortunate to now be in a position where I can really focus on certain stories and topics and those are usually stories that I feel will have a positive impact or make change in some way no matter how small. As writers, we have a responsibility to take great care with the subject. With how much content is needed online and across social channels, it’s hard to slow down and produce less. It’s generally just not how things work anymore, but if you can try and focus on quality over quantity, then that’s always better for you, the work and any impact you will have on the reader.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Bloom where you’re planted” it’s something my mom always says. As a type A, ambitious person now and growing up, I struggle a lot with patience and kindness toward myself. I think this reminds me to slow down no matter my situation (because I always want the next best thing) and be grateful and do my best in any circumstance.

Also, I read this profile in Vanity Fair years ago and someone described the person being profiled as a “magnet not a climber.” That has always stuck with me and since informed how I conduct myself as a colleague, friend and partner. Especially in fashion and media, where a lot of relationships are forged because of what people think you can do for them, more often than not, there is a lot of inauthenticity. I try not to let my ego get caught up in that and also try and gravitate toward people who I truly like, and I believe truly like me, not just for the press I can give them. I take stories because I am genuinely curious and treat the person I am interviewing whether that’s a celebrity, CEO or assistant, the same.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

Sustainability is what everyone is talking about, the question is just whether enough companies will do something about their practices so that it makes a difference. The fact that it’s a constant topic is a good sign. Size inclusivity is another one. Designers need to consider having an inclusive size run. It makes sense for our society (where the average American woman is a size 16) and for a brand’s business.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”. Please share a story or example for each.

Persistence — This is relevant in any industry but particularly in a field as fickle and subjective as fashion

Positivity — There can be some cattiness and competition, but not to the cartoonish level like you see in “Devil Wears Prada.” It’s also something that’s changing as the industry becomes more inclusive, but there is plenty of drama and the best thing to do is stay above it, work hard and don’t doubt your ability to succeed.

Connection — When I moved to NYC I had already been published as a writer and interned at some great magazines. Still, it was very hard to break through to the top (or even mid) tier. I refused to believe that it’s “who you know” that would really push things along. I thought I could open every door myself and didn’t seek help or network as a way to get where I wanted to go. Ultimately, it was through working somewhere (as a nightclub door girl!) and meeting a lot of people in the industry, that gave me my first break.

An Open Mind — As fashion is so subjective and evolving a lot as a business and industry, it’s important to go with the flow to a certain extent and also try and have the forethought as to where you are headed. Once when was on staff major newspaper I was told that I should “brand myself beyond the place.” I didn’t understand what I was being told at the time, because I was just so grateful to be there, but given the rapidly changing nature of publishing, even then, it was amazing advice as I began to diversify and create more opportunities for myself.

A Point of View — It’s really important to learn from others, but also to have a strong point of view and voice. It makes collaboration more interesting and allows you to develop your own style and way of doing things.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

Fashion is a traditionally exclusive industry which has created a lot of insecurity and uncertainty in people who follow it or even those who don’t. That is changing with the emergence of brands and people who are striving to make the space more diverse and inclusive. 11 Honoré is an e-commerce site that is bringing exclusive high-end designer clothing to women, size 12 to 24. That is a major breakthrough in giving women more opportunity to participate in fashion at a high level. All people should have the option should they choose to express themselves sartorially.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

To create content (stories, video, documentaries) that focus on personal style, diversity and culture.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG/Twitter: @melissamagsaysay

Website: melissamagsaysay.com

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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