Do you dream of working in Fashion? Charlotte Austin - Digital Fashion Editor Ask Me Anything

Charlotte Austin
Mar 7, 2018

Do you dream of working in Fashion? Writing for print or online is a tough business to get into so knowledge is definitely power!

Charlotte Austin is an experienced Freelance Writer, Editor, Content Strategist and Brand Consultant working within Fashion, Beauty, Food and Travel. 

With more than a decade of freelance work under her belt, Charlotte has contributed to both print and digital brands such as SUITCASE, Hero & Leander, Radio 1 and BBC6 Music.

Most recently, Charlotte has been leading Content creation and strategy at Fashion-Tech innovator, Lyst.

You can find her Freelance and Press site here!

From internships, to freelancing and working your way up - ask away!

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What was the first article of clothing/fashion accessory you ever admired?
Mar 8, 3:20AM EST0

Great question! I remember loving the Mulberry Bayswater bag when I was younger - a lot of of my friends' 'cool mums' had one and it symbolised being in touch with fashion in some way.

Obviously my tastes have changed since then but brands like Alexander McQueen and Christian Louboutin definitely inspired me when I was younger and showed me that luxury didn't have to mean just one aesthetic.

Mar 8, 5:35AM EST0
How would you define your personal style and the style Lyst exemplifies?
Mar 8, 2:41AM EST0

My personal style is quite androgenous - I'm not a girly girl and I own maybe one skirt. I pretty much live in jeans and T-shirts, leather jackets and flat shoes. If I wear colour, it tends to be a bright orange or blue, but mostly I love neutrals.

I definitely love experimenting with fashion but mostly I feel comfortable with low-key looks I can dress up or down. Skinny TOPSHOP Jamie jeans, an Etre Cecile T-shirt, my Gucci Jordaan loafers and my The Kooples leather jacket comprise my favourite pieces to wear together.

I love layering gold jewelry also: some of my favourite pieces are by Lucy Williams for Missoma, Aligheri and Shaun Leane.

Lyst is unique in that it doesn't exemplify a style. So many sources of fashion are continuously trying to tell you what you should be buying and wearing - we're simply trying to help you find what you're looking for. In that sense, whatever your personal style is, that's what we're going to try to show you more of.

Mar 8, 4:33AM EST0
Could you tell about the general process you go through to pick what is in and create content?
Mar 7, 7:45PM EST0

As Lyst is a data-driven tech company, we rely on the wealth of data we have about what people are searching for on site to make sure we're catering content to what's really inspiring people at that very moment.

We have a trending section on our homepage where you can see what people are looking for and browse the most popular trends backed by the data.

In terms of how we create content, we always make sure we're relating to the customer as we would a friend. We're not hear to judge or tell you what you 'should' be wearing. It's all about figuring out what you specifically are looking for and helping you find the best version of that.

Mar 8, 4:28AM EST0
What’s your favorite part of chronicling and tastemaking fashion?
Mar 7, 3:00PM EST0

My favourite part is definitely identifying trends evolving over the course of the season. Looking at street-style images at fashion shows and events is always a highlight as you can easily spot how fashion trends are being interpreted by innovators in the field and how this will translate to the wider fashion landscape.

We all like to think that we're individuals but take a glance at fashion month street style and you'll start to see how we're mostly influenced by the same things without us even realising!

Mar 8, 4:26AM EST0

What do you thikn about the "slow fashion" movement? 

Mar 7, 5:58AM EST0

The slow fashion movement is extremely important and something I personally champion. I rarely (if ever) buy fast fashion as I don't want to contribute to unethical labour but also, I want to be proud of what I buy and be able to wear it for more than a season. 

This doesn't mean everything has to be expensive! Slow fashion essentially just means taking time to produce garments using quality materials sustainably. It's that sustainable element that's the most important as it feeds into musch bigger ecological and political issues.

I'm so glad you called it a movement rather than a trend because it really is a movement, not a fad. Slow fashion is gaining momentum and isn't going anywhere - and it's not limited to the fashion industry either! We're seeing more and more of a focus in sustainability in the food and beauty industries also.

If anyone isn't sure what slow fashion is - there's some great resources out there (I'd recommend starting with this informative Not Just A Label piece: www.notjustalabel.com/editorial/slow-fashion-movement)

You can cater to all price points with slow fashion (check out H&M's conscious label for slow fashion from a traditional fast fashion brand). Vintage is another great option for green fashion.

It's super important and we should all be talking about it more!

Mar 7, 6:28AM EST0

what has been your biggest challenge so far in the fashion industry?

Mar 6, 5:04PM EST0

The biggest challenge so far I'd say has been starting off my career. The relationship between the fashion and internships is a little bit of a murky subject to say the least and like most people, I found it tricky to make the jump from 'intern' to 'first step on the ladder'.

Unfortunately, it is true that the experience interning brings is invaluable, but as most of the time it's unpaid, you get stuck in a catch-22 situation. Similarly, if you intern for too long, it can make it more difficult to get your first step.

I hopped around loads after graduating from University - yes, it was scary and frustrating but I decided not to stay in a position for the sake of it. If I wasn't getting as much as I was giving, it was time to find something new.

What got me over this cycle of interning and changing jobs was to find a company I wanted to work for (rather than the role itself), and working hard enough to have the opportunity to progress internally into a role I was better suited to.

This might not work for everyone (and not all companies are equal when it comes to internal progression) but I found this to be a great mindset when looking for work. Ultimately, it's the company culture and values that'll give you a lot of satisfaction - the job role part is the easier thing to change!

Mar 7, 6:20AM EST0

How critical is it for a fashion designer to wear their own clothing out in public?

Mar 2, 8:28PM EST0

If you're an emerging designer, it's incredibly important to wear your own clothes - it's likely the only promotion you'll be getting.

I wouldn't say it's critical but it makes sense that most designers will wear their own clothes. It's also great to mix your own designs in with more established designers so people can really see how this piece might fit into their wardrobe. It makes it more tangible!

Mar 5, 4:09AM EST0
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Mar 1, 12:15AM EST0

I went through phases when I was little (as most kids do): singer, astronaut, and paleontologist (I was big into dinosaurs) all made the list. When I was in high school I wanted to be a barrister and later I decided to be a fashion buyer.

I don't think I've quite settled on anything yet - writing is a passion but that's not to say I won't be doing something different but equally great in 10 years time!

Last edited @ Mar 12, 9:47AM EDT.
Mar 1, 4:42AM EST0

How did you first get into freelance writing?

Feb 28, 12:15PM EST0

I started freelance writing when I was 15 - I was really into music and wanted to interview all my favourite bands. I got in touch with a music zine that was advertising for contributors and started working for them for free in my spare time. I absolutely loved it!

My first ever interview was with Dev Hynes when I was 15 and from there I went on to interview bands like We Are Scientists, The Long Blondes, andThe Young Knives (as you might guess, I was specialised in 00s indie music).

I'd get sent free tickets for big shows like Black Sabbath and The Kaiser Chiefs in exchange for reviews and ultimately working for free for this little zine helped me to get hired by my University paper and then ultimately get a weekly slot on UK radio.

Again, when I wanted to move away from writing about music, I looked for contributors wanted ads online and started writing for a luxury travel and lifestyle brand website. This experience led me to be able to apply for jobs as a full-time writer (which I definitely wouldn't have gotten an interview for without this experience).

There are so many ads out there looking for freelancing - it's the best way to create a network if you don't already have one. Another really important thing is to have a portfolio (mine is www.charlottedalilaaustin.com) where you can showcase your most recent work. From there, you can start contacting features editors with pitches for articles and introduce yourself and your work!

Feb 28, 12:41PM EST0
What are your aspirations for the future?
Feb 28, 10:37AM EST0

Thanks for your question! I'm happy where I am right now but I'm really excited to expand my freelancing work and working closer with brands on content campaigns.

When you're a digital nomad, the sky's the limit!

Feb 28, 10:49AM EST0
What exactly is Lyst? Who is it intended for?
Feb 28, 6:40AM EST0

Lyst is a global fashion search engine. So basically, we help you search through the world's largest inventory of products quickly so you can find exactly what you're looking for at the right price.

There's everything from ASOS and Gucci to Saks 5th Ave and Luisa Via Roma so it's easy to find something you love at any price.

Lyst is for everyone and anyone, so if you follow the latest trends, obsess over certain brands, or need to top up your basics - we've got you covered!

Just go to www.lyst.com and start searching - I'm sure you'll find something you like!

Feb 28, 7:01AM EST0
How did you get into editing? Has it been the natural choice since the beginning of your writing career, or did you get into it later?
Feb 28, 1:33AM EST0

When I first started writing I just loved submitting an article and leaving it with the editor to 'deal with'. I thought my work was great but looking back on my early pieces now, they're riddled with grammatical mistakes - it's really embarrassing! 

My modern languages degree really taught me the value of having a solid grounding in grammar and syntax. It's now become so innate that I can quickly scan a submission and spot all the mistakes first time round.

Part of moving up the ladder in my career has meant that I do less and less writing at work, and more editing and subbing (which is why I like to keep my toe in the water with freelance writing).

It's really important to have a solid background in writing your own work before you start editing other people's pieces. If you don't know what mistakes you tend to make, you're going to miss it in other people's work.

A lot of what I do with my team is help them sub their own work so that when they progress in their career, they're able to edit other people's work much more easily.

Feb 28, 5:29AM EST0
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
Feb 28, 1:12AM EST0

Short answer - no!

I'm not my work and keeping healthy boundries allows me to give my all when I am working, and enjoy myself when I'm not. 

A lot of people in fashion, tech and freelance work do tend to have workaholic tendancies but I really make an effort to do what I need to do but also keep a healthy work/life balance.

Part of that is having an excercise routine (so I know when I need to leave the office) and keeping super organised with to-do lists and task management tools.

Feb 28, 5:24AM EST0
What are your working days like? How many projects are you currently working on?
Feb 27, 10:57PM EST0

I'm incredibly lucky in that I have a lot of autonomy in my company and can manage my schedule accordingly. I have to wear lots of different hats in my current role so my days and weeks can vary quite a bit.

At the moment I'm balancing writing articles, launching A/B tests into new content approaches, motivating my team, reporting on performance, maintaining our content calendar, researching new ideas, and probably ten other things...

I find that keeping organised is the only way I can do it. I make a list of priorities in the morning and tick them off as they day goes on (so satisfying!).

I normally start going through my emails at 8am and try to take an hour for lunch. I like to work out in the evening so I leave the office around 6pm and then do a final check in around 8pm. 

Working in tech is much more flexible than working for a fashion brand, we're all about working smart, not working long hours.

Feb 28, 5:22AM EST0
What kind of internships have you taken?
Feb 27, 10:21PM EST0

While at university I interned in a well-known luxury department store as a buyer's admin assistant. It was a steep learning curve with long hours but I loved it. I also learned that buying wasn't exactly what I thought it was (ie. more excel spreadsheets than parties). It was an invaluable experience because I was so sure that was the career I wanted, just one month in a buying office told me that while I loved getting the experience, it wasn't the path for me.

I then tried my hand at marketing for a luxury handbag brand, I helped form guerilla marketing campaigns and learned about PR and sales too. Again it taught me that PR and marketing wasn't my calling, incredibly useful as at the time I was gearing up to doing a Masters degree in fashion marketing.

I then started freelance feature writing for free, and even though I wasn't getting paid, it felt right. I knew that writing was the path I wanted to take because I had already scoped out several other careers and trialed them in some capacity and felt in my gut that it was what I wanted.

I really recommend making a list of the types of job you might like given your interests and skills and go out there and trial them out. I had a friend who wanted to either be a doctor or a lawyer (pretty different paths right?), so she went out and shadowed both a doctor and a lawyer for a couple of months.

It might sound like a big undertaking (especially if you're not getting paid), but if you can find a way to get some experience, it'll help you so much in the long run!

Feb 28, 5:11AM EST0
In what ways has the fashion industry changed in the past 10 years?
Feb 27, 6:53PM EST0

This is a great question - so much has changed.

I haven't been in fashion for ten years (I started in music journalism and have hopped around from there), but in the last three years a huge amount has happened.

Online shopping has skyrocketed and with it the need for digital content. More and more traditional print magazines such as Vogue have really stepped up their online content and companies such as Lyst (where I work) are helping people to navigate the online fashion world.

Even fashion week shows have changed, with access to images and catwalk shows immediately, the rate at which the high street is able to interpret trends has increased massively. Fashion has definitely gotten faster and I think that's why we're now seeing more and more brands launching in the 'seasonless' space (such as ARKET and AYR). 

That's what's so exciting about fashion - it's always changing!

Feb 28, 5:00AM EST0
Why is the writing for print business difficult to get into? What should everyone who is looking to get into it know?
Feb 27, 5:53PM EST0

Print has been in decline for a number of years now, while digital has boomed.

It's tough because even though there's less money in print than ever before, there's still a huge amount of writers trying to get into the industry. The competition is really fierce!

I wouldn't recommend just getting experience in print as digital is really where the opportunities are but a mix of both looks really great to employers (especially if you ultimately want to work for a print publication).

More and more magazines and papers are putting a big focus on their digital content so that area of the business could be a good place to start.

My advice would be to start getting experience as soon as possible - write for your university paper, submit articles to local magazines and papers so you can start building a portfolio. Don't be put off by vacancies for digital roles at print publications - a good company will allow you to grow with them and there's always a chance you can move into print with them at a later date.

Feb 28, 4:55AM EST0
Besides fashion, what do you love writing about the most?
Feb 27, 4:47PM EST0

Beauty is my current obsession so definitely takes the top spot. When I first moved to London my skin freaked out and I had to really up my skincare routine. It was a bad time for my face but it ultimately sparked a love for taking care of my skin and now my friends regularly come over for facials and ask my advice before buying any beauty product.

Feb 28, 4:50AM EST0

Did you struggle a lot in the beginning of your career? What was the most difficult obstacle to overcome?

Feb 27, 4:32PM EST0

Doesn't everybody struggle in the beginning of their career?!

I was certainly no different. The most difficult thing I found to overcome was 'where to start'? I wanted to do so many things and the idea of pigeonholing myself into just one career was terrifying.

Transitioning from studying where you constantly receive feedback and grades to working, where you might only get feedback when you're doing something wrong is a really daunting step.

If I could tell newly graduated me something it would be to not be in such a rush to get the 'perfect job' and not to compare myself to other people so much. It can really feel like you're getting left behind by people who take graduate jobs or find a career path more easily but you really have no one to compare yourself with except yourself.

Feb 28, 4:48AM EST0
Where did you go to university and what did you study?
Feb 27, 3:55PM EST0

I started off at Warwick University in the UK studying French and Italian. In my second year I decided that I wanted more of a city experience so I transferred to Trinity College Dublin for my remaining three years. 

I loved studying languages as it was basically an English Literature, History, Classics and Linguistics degree all rolled into one (with the added bonus of being fluent in two other languages).

I'm half italian so I already was fluent but I hadn't gone to school in Italy so missed out on all the literature and cultural references. It was a great degree that set me up so well for writing.

I would recommend studying a traditional degree such as English, modern languages or History at university over a specific course such as fashion marketing, as it gives you a solid foundation to build on once you start working.

Having a thorough understanding of grammer is also really important and skills such as editing, essay writing etc. is also something I honed during my degree and all have been invaluable skills in my career so far.

Feb 28, 4:45AM EST0
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