Rebekah Sager offers insight into what it takes to become a fashion writer.
First, please tell me what you do.
I currently work as the social media editor and a reporter at the U-T San Diego.
I cover San Diego-based designers for the Night & Day section and have a column called “Shop Talk” for the Business section covering independently owned boutiques.
How did you land there?
I started writing with a blog called “Shmy Way or the Highway.” When the editor-in-Chief, Ron Donoho left his job at San Diego Magazine and moved to SanDiego.com, he called me and asked if I’d like to come along and cover the local fashion scene. I worked my way into a column for SanDiego.com called Shop Local SD, and eventually launched a website by the same name. This turned into a gig at San Diego Magazine (after they named me Best Fashion Blogger 2010). When I left SD Magazine, I began freelance writing. My first gig was with FOX News Latino.com — I continue to write for them. Once I started freelancing, I was able to contribute to Cosmo for Latinas, Hemispheres Magazine, the Reader, San Diego Home Garden, Dame Magazine, and Riviera.
I love to write. I happen to write about fashion, but I aspire to be a culture writer. I’m interested in people and the exciting things they do with their lives and their work, and how it fits into a bigger cultural trend.
What have been some of the best perks of the job?
Covering events like New York Fashion Week, Art Basel, nightclubs in Miami, and all of the incredible food and art in Baja.
How about the unexpected challenges?
I wish my Spanish were better. I meet a lot of people working for FOX News Latino that I know I’d get a better story from if I could interview them in Spanish. My Spanish is pretty good, but not good enough in my opinion to conduct an interview in.
Let’s say I want to be a fashion writer, what would be the first three steps I should take?
My biggest advice is to be undaunted in your pursuit. Be unrelenting in finding a great story to tell. Be uncompromising in writing a good pitch; you want to stop an editor in their tracks. And be hypercritical of your writing. You want an editor so impressed they’ll want to keep letting you write for them.
Be an expert on fashion history. Do your research. Know your stuff so you can ask designers intelligent questions and really understand how to track trends. It’s important to know what’s really something innovative and what’s just the same old thing. It’ll help set you apart from other writers, and give editors a reason to hire you.
What kind of money can a fashion writer expect to make?
That’s tough…you could start at nothing and become a fashion features editor at InStyle and make six figures. Or be a fashion blogger with major brands behind you and live in a luxe wardrobe with a fat salary. Luck, hard work, and making great contacts.
How many hours of unpaid time do you think a newbie would have to put in before making money in this line of work?
That depends on how dedicated and hard working you are. If you’re a strong writer who learns quickly, identifies a good story, and is rabid about pitching and pitching well to editors, you could make a bit of money quickly. You will always be working for free in this business. Building your brand (no pay), working on your social media (no pay), researching new stores/designers (no pay), it takes time to build a career.
What has been the major driving force behind your career?
I love every part of my job. Finding creative people doing interesting things, interviewing them, writing their story, going into the field. The whole thing—I can’t think of doing anything different than what I’m doing. I only want to do it bigger every day. Add video, curated photography, more social media platforms. I’m all about the discovery. The evolution of the media industry is fascinating to me, and I really get excited about riding the wave and growing my career.
Can you offer any further advice or resources for those who are serious about pursuing this line of work?
Don’t expect to get a lot of free stuff. I actually shop very little. I appreciate great things, but to me it’s about the people, not the stuff. Making a full life for myself through my work. It’s very satisfying for me.