**writing the dream: an interview with nandini d'souza

A while back, I did an interview with Nandini D'Souza, a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Harper's Bazaar, New York Magazine, and InStyle, among others. I first noticed Nandini when she wrote an article on "The Secrets of Effortless Dressing" for Harper's Bazaar several years ago. She later went on to serve as the editor for the special issue Harper's Bazaar "Runway Report." In addition to working as a freelance writer, she is the author of Harper's Bazaar Fabulous at Every Age: Your Quick & Easy Guide to Fashion. For those of us who are approaching graduation and thinking about careers in fashion (*ahem* me), I think that Nandini offers an interesting perspective on working in the industry, as well as some great advice. She's clearly a fashion writer worth looking up to.


Where are you from? Where did you go to school?
I grew up in Connecticut and received a bachelors from UConn in English and photography. I spent about a week in Columbia's masters journalism school, but I was already an associate editor by then so dropped out. What I do is a trade—once you learn how to do it...etc. I got great training on the job.


Why did you decide to go into fashion journalism?
It was by default. I was torn between going into journalism straight-up or photojournalism. But first, I needed a job when I graduated from college and when I was offered a paid internship at Fairchild Publications (now owned by Conde Nast), I jumped. I was the junior executive assistant to the editorial director of the company who was also the editor in chief of W magazine and Women's Wear Daily. I was an abysmal executive assistant but was good with editorial tasks (budgets, tracking down delinquent editors, fact-checking, etc.). I then did a stint at the then newly-launched Jane magazine as an editorial assistant but was offered an associate editorship at W/WWD. This isn't the normal course for writers/editors. But I did really well on an editor's test (which included picking a potential cover—my photo degree came in handy) and my boss was looking to groom someone who could write but didn't necessarily know anything about fashion. Basically, I was in the right place at the right time.

How long have you been working in fashion journalism?
In total, 12 years; ten of those at W/WWD. When I returned to W/WWD as an associate, I then learned the ropes for magazines, newspapers and all-round editing of features and display copy. It was trial by fire but it was the best education I could have received. That said, I worked a lot. Double deadlines are tough. From there, I worked my way up the food chain until I was the senior fashion features editor for W/WWD.

I honestly didn't like fashion magazines growing up. I never read Vogue or W or anything. I barely even read 17 in my teens. I read Time, NYTimes, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, etc. But when I got to see W/WWD from the inside, I started to appreciate fashion. But more, I learned from my boss how fantastic fashion and features writing can be. Some of the most beautiful writing happens during the fashion shows when people like Cathy Horyn or Bridget Foley get going on a subject.

What is your favorite thing about being a fashion journalist?
The personalities. As cliche as that sounds, you've got brilliant business brains, crazy artists, legends, rock stars, intellects. It's this bizarre melange of characters. I love getting to travel for work (and yes, stay in fancy hotels) and meet cool people.

There was also something amazing in seeing one of those breakthrough collections unfold. It doesn't happen often, and I only ever witnessed two, but when all the elements align, it's pretty great. I have a distinct memory of sitting at Marc Jacobs' grunge redux show a few years ago at the Armory watching the models parade out as Philip Glass' Heroes symphony playing. The other Rodarte's spring 2007 collection. It felt like watching a couture show.

What have been your biggest challenges?
I'm not much of a "fashion" person. Don't get me wrong—I can blow through a month's salary in one afternoon at Marni, but I'm not into the off-hours culture of fashion. I'm not a fan of the parties that I used to have to cover. I hated going to the fancy dinners. I love watching fashion shows, but I hate going to them—too crowded, too hot, too many unwarranted egos. Unfortunately, it's all part of the package. I loved reviewing the shows but I hated having to give someone a bad review. (Even worse was getting a phone call from an irate or sad designer because of a bad review.)


What qualities do you think have made you successful as a fashion journalist?
Thanks for thinking I'm "successful." I still have a long way to go, but so far, I think I've gotten where I am through a combination of being type-A and intellectually insecure (I always want to write a better, wittier, more insightful story). I think, too, not being a die-hard fashion lover has served me well. I can sometimes step back and see the big picture, which is oftentimes more interesting. I can see fashion in terms of how it fits into life in general. I'm not tall or skinny, so how does it serve me?

What project would you consider to be your biggest success?
Hmm, that's tough. I'm proud to have worked on some great launches—Vitals, New York Magazine's Look, Harper's Bazaar's Runway Report, WWD's the Magazine. But from a writing standpoint, I think features I wrote on Rodarte and Celine Dion (yes, you read that right) for W.

Do you have any advice for students hoping to pursue a career in fashion journalism?
No assignment is too little or beneath you. No matter how silly you may think it is, attack it like you're on the White House beat. Don't be entitled. Soak up every fashion, entertainment and art magazine and book you can get your hands on. Know your writers and understand their different styles. Be eager. Cultivate your own opinion based on what you see and not what you're regurgitating from someone else. Learn good grammar. Know when to say "I" and when to say "me."

23 comments:

Kavery said...

Great idea to interview Nandini D'souza. She comes across as intelligent and down-to-earth.

Francesca said...

great interview :) lovely blog :)

http://opinionslave.blogspot.com

Fashion Cappuccino said...

I love reading the entire interview as I'm always curious about how fashion insiders get their jobs and how they work. She's certainly a very smart, ambitious and hard-working woman and I really admire her. Thank you for sharing this! xoxoxoo

Rand T said...

interesting, she seems to have worked hard!xx

Naomi~.♥ said...

ooh i really like your blog!
following you now!
wanna follow mine blog to?

xoxo
naomi

http://petite-mademoiselle-fashion.blogspot.com/

Queen but no Crown said...

Great Interview! Love your blog, so inspirational!

Following, Follow back!

-B

www.QueenbutnoCrown.blogspot.com

H Rija said...

Neat post!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
My Lyfe ; My Story

jamie-lee said...

Such a great interview, offers a lot of insight!

Pop Champagne said...

nice review, I totally understand the challanges and with the "unwarranted egos", yeah fashion shows are fun but a few rotten eggs can ruin the whole experience!

SabinePsynopsis said...

I really enjoyed reading this - very insightful and her tips are great. I can imagine that not being a fashion fanatic is quite helpful, but not liking going to the shows.... Wuhaa, send me, please!

Zarna said...

what an opportunity!! great interview :)

Mumbles said...

Such a nice interview, great job
I wouldn't mind working on harpers bazaar either ahaha
Hope you're having a nice weekend

♥ Marley

Sofi Stellar said...

This is such a great feature. I want to be a writer, so it was really inspiring to read this! Thanks for doing it :)

THE CHEAP said...

Love this. Thank you for such a great post!

xx THE CHEAP

Marie said...

this is a fabulous, inspiring interview. i am always so curious to hear how successful writers, editors, and freelancers get to where they are - - it's a career so many of us want, yet there's so little information on how to get there!

thank you so much for posting :)

-Marie
So What If I Like Pretty Things

Stevia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stevia said...

it's inspiring how you inspire all of us with interviews from inspiring people :)

keep up the good work!

I'm enjoying reading this

<3
http://escapesweetest.blogspot.com/

Marina said...

congrats!great interview :)

xx Marina

Erica Wark said...

Wow! She really does offer some great advice! Really like her!

I'm your NEWEST follower! I hope you will visit me and follow me back!

xx Erica

www.ericawark.com

annierama said...

she is amazing!!!! awesome shots!

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