Maria moved to New York to pursue a career in magazines, only it was during the recession and half of the print industry was folding. Her story proves that along with determination and grit — an open mind and the ability to pivot — are the two traits that will make you successful. Now the Senior Editor of Fashionista, she gives us a feel for her work day, what surprises have come with the job, and advice for individuals looking to enter the industry.
This interview took place between Tate and Maria at Lincoln Station in Brooklyn
Editor: Sydney Edwards
TVPS: Can you give us an overview of how you got to where you are today?
MB: For undergrad, I went to Villanova. I was Pre-Med because I wanted to be a doctor, but then switched my major to Communications and Art History, and ended up getting internships in New York over the summer. My first internship was in the fashion closet at Nylon.
When I graduated college I moved to London for six months to study a post-grad course in Fashion and Lifestyle Journalism at the London College of Fashion. It was like boot camp for fashion journalism. However much work you put in, that's how much you get out of it, so you can't really slack off. I also did little internships while I was there.
Internships over there are only like a month at a time, right?
Yeah or only a couple of weeks, which is crazy. It’s almost too short to learn anything.
Afterward, I moved to New York, but that was during the recession and all of the print publications were folding. Online was just picking up, it wasn’t really that big of a deal yet. So I interned while also working part-time in retail.
I interned for a bunch of places. I went back to Nylon, but this time in the editorial department. For New York Magazine, I transferred all of their print content onto the website. That's how old school it used to be. Then I was also at Time Out New York.
So all of those internships were mostly fact-checking and transcribing interviews for other editors. But at Nylon, since it was so small, they would let me write and pitch as well.
My first official fashion job was assisting the designer, Jen Kao. I was a Studio Assistant, it was a lot of admin work and helping with fashion week. It was cool to get a behind-the-scenes look of how a collection comes to life.
After that, I was an Editorial Assistant for a publishing company. It was mostly museum guides, shopping guides, events - all things meant for New York City tourists. I was there for almost two years, and then I got an opportunity to work for a startup website, which is no longer around as that’s what sometimes happens with a startup. I was there for about a year until they laid everyone off.
But that gave me the chance to freelance for a good nine months. I got to write for a bunch of different places that I've always wanted to write for, such as InStyle and Refinery29.
Then I went back to a full-time position, working on content marketing for a beauty company called Luxury Brand Partners, and I was also freelancing on the side. One of the places I freelanced for was Fashionista. I would pitch the Editor in Chief at the time and cover events at night that their team wouldn't be able to make — panels, discussions, things like that. So I kept in touch with them until a full-time opportunity came up and that was three years ago.
Do you think your time at Villanova prepared you for where you are today?
Yes and no. I chose to study Art History since there was obviously nothing fashion-related there. But art history required a lot of writing, which relates well with fashion writing. That was a great way to start thinking of visual concepts in a critical way.
How did London College of Fashion prepare you for where you are today?
London College of Fashion made me more aware of different types of writing and reporting, whether it's a profile, a more research in-depth article, your standard Q&A, a trend piece. Also, we were taught to be really prolific when it comes to ideas. I think as a writer, freelance or full-time, you have to be full of ideas. LCF helped me with that because every week was a different assignment so you got used to deadlines and managing different stories at one time.
How was the transition from full-time to freelance?
Getting into my own schedule took a couple of months. I actually would come to this coffee shop all of the time to work, just to make sure I would leave home. I also had this big desk at my apartment during that time with all my things set up that helped me feel productive.
I would also schedule out my day, so do some writing, emails and pitching in the morning, then maybe a workout in the afternoon, come back to do a little bit more work, and then try to have a standard workday cut-off time. The workload really varies while freelancing, which can be challenging. Although, I had some assignments that were consistent which kept me going. Then add trying to find a job at the same time.
And I made sure that I was taking time for myself, too. Like not feeling bad if I want to be outside for the rest of the day, you know?
The work is always going to be there so you don't want to get super drained just from being at home and working all day.
What originally drew you to Fashionista?
I've been reading the site since it started. I've always liked how everyone at Fashionista is super smart about reporting on the fashion industry — they’re able to call it out and laugh about it at the same time. Like not take it too seriously, but everyone who works there knows their shit.
It’s hard these days to find good fashion content, there’s just so much fluff out there. So I've always been drawn to Fashionista because whether you're in the industry or not, it has a nice balance of insider information, but also, like, very cool boots to buy.
So what’s your role now?
Mostly what I do is writing, and that’s either breaking news that happens during the day, or working on long-lead features, which is the majority of the time. I try to consistently get a feature story up each or every other week, depending on how busy it is, or how in-depth the story is. I also do some editing for freelancers that we've taken on.
Is there anything that surprised you when you first started?
I think because this was the first time I worked on the Internet in a news-oriented role, being super tuned into social media, like Twitter and Instagram, is a very important part of your job. It’s not always fun, but it's a good way to stay informed.
Also, the speediness of deadlines that come with working online. If something breaks, you have to have your story out immediately. You want to be the first. That urgency and competitiveness was something that I wasn't too familiar with.
What time do you usually come into the office?
Around lunchtime, so like noon. We log on at 7:45 AM at home to handle breaking news. So we all work from home in the morning, and then by the afternoon, we come into the office.
Oh, that's an interesting way to work. Do you like it?
Yeah, I like it. It got some getting used to because I wasn't a morning person, but now I am! So by the afternoon, we're all in the office and usually what’s left to work on are interviews, meetings, feature stories, and things like that. Our day is broken up so you know where to focus your time.
What is it like growing as a writer in the digital space, where anyone can comment on your articles?
That's something I definitely had to get used to. There have been times where people have tweeted out my story and have disagreed, or called things out. But, you just have to grow a thick skin and stand by your work. I take feedback of course, but I also don't listen to a lot of trolls. Luckily, it hasn't been too much over the past years.
Is there anyone that you look up to?
Cathy Horyn, Tim Blanks, Robin Givhan. Robin Givhan is the GOAT.
Also, my team. Everyone's so smart, we all learn from each other. I always get excited when something that they wrote is up on the site. We all root for each other, make each other better.
Is there anywhere in particular that you'd like to go in your career?
I just want to be somewhere where I'm still writing, and it doesn't even have to be about fashion. I would love to see what else I can write about outside of fashion. Freelance would definitely be fun again down the road one day. Anywhere that I can be a writer or a reporter is fine by me.
What advice would you give to someone who looks up to you?
I always say, especially when it comes to writing online, there's so much opportunity to get your work published, whether you publish it on your own, or you get published on a site that you’ve already read. Don't be afraid to share your ideas, pitch, and reach out to people and talk to them. Everyone and everywhere is always looking for content.