Last night, we had the privilege of speaking with Maggie Bullock, the deputy editor of Elle Magazine! With a background in fashion design and journalism, Maggie reads and edits every article that goes into the magazine. ”I’m kind of like a high school teacher in that regard, I do a lot of red pen action!” She also has the privilege of interviewing most of the stars who grace its cover. Check out her thoughts on the state of the industry, breaking into fashion, and her craziest interview stories!
On growing up. Maggie split her time growing up between New York and North Carolina where she “wasn’t cut out for caption of the soccer team; she was the kid who wanted to go to the museum on the weekends and sketch.” Her artistic side eventually led her to art school to study fashion design. In school though, Maggie realized she needed a little more structure than was afforded to her in the art world. Magazines, she said, are a great mix of surrounding yourself with people and great ideas, a fast moving environment, but with the structure and paycheck that comes from a major corporation.
After working for a young designer straight out of school, she went back to grad school in London to focus on fashion journalism. Fashion school is not a general degree, she said; it’s about patterns and seams, a very focused kind of education. But whether you’re in school for fashion, business, or the business of fashion, “if you’re always out in the world gathering ideas for your work, it makes you a curious person, which builds an interesting world around you.”
On the industry. The shift from print to digital is nothing new, but it’s still hard to decipher the statistics. Magazines are still judged by print circulation, which discounts key metrics like iPad and mobile readers. The industry standard hasn’t shifted even though the industry is going through a major shift.
Maggie had an intern once who said: “Why would you want to intern at a magazine when you can intern at a website?” There’s been a massive mentality shift, but Maggie says she is still very much an old school, die hard fan of print.
In parallel to the shift to digital, the lines between retail and editorial are blurring. In the magazine world, you’re promoting product all day every day, but now magazines are starting to sell their own products. The key is to maintain a separation between church and state (or, in this case, the integrity of your content and selling a product), while coming up with more organic avenues to sell your product. Essentially, publications and content providers want to sell merchandise, and retailers want to provide content.
On interviews. When Maggie preps for a cover story interview, she goes deep. Preparation means seeing every movie and every YouTube clip and seriously marinating in the person so that nothing they say when you meet them is shocking. It’s about knowing everything they’ve said before and being able to pick out what’s new and fresh.
Maggie’s had some crazy interview experiences, interviewing celebrities from Sarah Jessica Parker to Marc Jacobs to Cate Blanchett. Once, when she interviewed Megan Fox, the two went to get mani/pedis when they were literally locked in by the paparazzi! Maggie had to sneak out to get her rental car, pick up Megan in front of the salon, and wait as Megan ran out and ducked into the car.
While most interview feedback is negative, Maggie did say that Sarah Jessica Parker always writes thank you notes. A little thank you can truly go a long way.
As to her best interview experience? Well, apparently we’ll have to check out the upcoming December issue of Elle to find out!
On starting early. If you want to break into the fashion industry, Maggie swears by internships. In grad school, she interned pretty much the whole time, at a website, newspaper, and magazine. It’s so important because you can get exposure to different work cultures and jobs and identify the right place for you. Her best piece of advice? ”Treat your internship like your job.” Show up, dress professionally, and make a good impression.
Maggie’s moment of reckoning came when she worked at Vogue. ”You have to be on it, informed, and on top of your game the whole time you’re there.” Not only do you have to walk the talk at work, but you have to take the job of representing the magazine seriously when you’re out in the real world.
Maggie said there are a lot of young interns who come through the doors and aren’t ready for it; but there are also people who come through, at any age, who have a truly professional bearing. ”They are willing, tuned in, and paying attention.”
Her best advice on resumes? “Typos are just… not ok.”
Thanks so much for chatting with us Maggie, and to everyone who tuned in for another amazing Ambassador call! You can join the conversation every month on Twitter with #SASS12.