Last night saw Stella’s Style Director Kate Finnigan take to Harvey Nichols for a talk about her role, previous experience and career advice whilst we all sipped on a cheeky glass of OJ.
The talk began by outlining how Finnigan got to her current position at Stella magazine, The Sunday Telegraph’s weekly supplement. Originally from Chorlton, Finnigan completed a degree in English Literature at the University of Sheffield and ensured she was involved in as much student journalism as possible whilst there, though not necessarily fashion related. She then moved to City University in London for a Postgraduate degree in journalism before working in teen magazines, including acting as the Editor of Big magazine and the Deputy Editor of J17. Kate eventually moved to Elle as a Senior Writer and then freelanced for three years before joining Stella as Style Director. She notes that her regular articles about ethical, environmentally-friendly fashion whilst freelancing were particularly appealing to The Independent as they were especially keen on green issues.
Her current role sees her working to a weekly Tuesday deadline where she must both write and commission features, edit articles and conduct interviews. The styling tends to be done by colleague Charlie Harrington, Fashion Director, who is also responsible for attending global fashion catwalks.
Asked what qualities are needed for someone looking to work in a similar role, Kate believed that curiosity was key, as was spotting a good story, knowing your audience and making sure to engage with multimedia. In regards to the print versus online journalism battle, Kate believed that there was still an appetite for print media as long as content was strong and the print outlet engaged with online media platforms to enhance its brand.
Advice for design students and aspiring fashion designers was to really hone the craft, through work experience for example, as well as to network and have self-belief. With the struggling economy, Kate suggested that it might be worth taking a job that isn’t directly what you might be after but is still related. In terms of work experience and interning, she agreed that it is not right to expect interns to work unpaid for long periods of time and was pleased that this is becoming more acknowledged.
The talk then opened to questions from the audience. When asked how best for new brands to get noticed, Kate advised to really get to know the right publications, the right features and the right journalists for focused targeting. For aspiring fashion journalists, her advice was to get write a blog, network and get work experience through clear application letters. For hopeful photographers, the suggestion was to become an apprentice or an assistant to an established photographer.
Her final tips for those looking to get into the industry were to be curious, shop and get to know fashion, write constantly, read a wide variety of material and do (non-exploitative) work experience. Oh, and to always be nice to editors.