How to get into fashion writing? Set up your own magazine!

Lipstick Royalty alternative fashion magazine


Rachel Phipps explains one way to get into fashion writing – and that’s to set up your own alternative fashion magazine! Interview by Victoria Clarke

Since the first cavewoman dolled herself up for a night on the plains and drew a picture of it on her cave wall, fashion has been a huge part of human life. Many years later, as the printing press came about, people started writing magazines on it. Editor of Lipstick Royalty Magazine, Rachel Phipps (the brain behind the Battlefront Project to campaign against normative use of size zero models) tells us what it’s like to set up your own alternative fashion magazine and collaborate with others to write on it.

How long have you been the editor of Lipstick Royalty Magazine?

Ever since I founded the magazine in December 2007.

What do you enjoy most about fashion writing?

Getting to interview kick-ass people, getting to go to fashion events like Clothes Show and getting to write, which is what I love! I also love the kick that comes from seeing how many people have read the magazine each month, and seeing the work of our great readers who write in and give killer feedback on each issue!

Sounds like a party. How did you actually start writing, then?

Ooh… I haven’t been asked to tell this story in an interview before! I used to hate English lessons and thought they were a waste of time until I changed schools. Then I had this very inspirational and brilliant teacher who made me actually pay attention and enjoy lessons. He set us this homework to write a ghost story and I really enjoyed it and he gave me some really constructive criticism on it. Then I got injured and had to stay sitting on my bed bolt upright for days on end, and I had my laptop and the homework with me. I finished the story and made it longer and posted it online. I got a fantastic response and that’s when I really got into creative writing. Journalistic writing was a natural progression from that.

Lipstick Royalty Magazine focuses on alternative fashion and style. When did this particular style of fashion begin to appeal to you?

I found out about it totally by accident, when one of the magazine’s writers booked alt. powerhouse New York Couture as our Feb. 08 cover. As an artist at heart I loved the out-there take on things and really fell in love with alternative culture. Thinking about it, Lipstick Royalty wouldn’t have survived without it!

What interests you most about putting the magazine together?

As well as a writer, when time allows I’m a fashion photographer so it has to be the bright, different, creative and out-there photography that captures the alternative industry.

Does doing all of that ever get boring?

Hell yes. I don’t spend enough time being able to write for the magazine, that’s why I started my blog as well as my first novel I’m writing. I hate how much time I have to spend doing administration, dealing with copyrights and even now we have a PR girl, the amount of time I spend on Public Relations. I have two things, however, that keep me sane: First, I make sure I either read a chapter of a book a day (before the magazine came into existence I used to read on average a whole 400 page novel a day); or I write a chapter of the book I’m working on; or write a short story. If everything really gets too much I go out and buy a magazine: Vogue, Harpers Bazaar or Elle. I sit and read the whole thing cover to cover, looking at the pictures and holding it in my hands. A glossy magazine is a beautiful thing. Lipstick Royalty may not be in print but it reminds me of how much I love what I do.

How did you get into fashion writing, in particular?

I hadn’t done any fashion writing, even journalistic writing when I started the magazine. I was too young and without enough experience to be really getting anywhere with creative writing yet, so fashion writing, in founding the magazine was just next on the long list of things I tried. It clicked – and that’s what I’m doing now because I seemed to be OK at it. However, it’s enabled me to hone my skills. Of the three pieces I have enjoyed writing the most over the last year, none have been about fashion; instead, they’ve been an exploration of voyeuristic themes in the Twilight books, an informative piece on the death of the print magazine industry and my Classical Civilization coursework, a comparison of the lives of women in Ancient Athens compared to those in Ancient literature.

Any advice for any aspiring fashion writers?

Start a blog. Practise writing about different topics, get a feel for who you want your audience to be. Develop your writing skill. Find out about what you enjoy writing about. Then apply for writing positions at online magazines, write articles to submit to websites and ‘zines that take submissions. Build a contact base. Don’t be afraid to ask for an interview with someone; the worst thing that can happen is they say no.