Media Interview with Alice Fisher, commissioning editor for The Fashion and The Observer
A fashion biannual from The Guardian, you say? Not as crazy as it sounds – The Observer Magazine's commissioning editor Alice Fisher promises features that will celebrate the shiny surface glitz of the industry, upcoming trends, and classics, while also stripping back the glamour to find out what's underneath in The Fashion. Alice brings know-how from her time at The Face, Vogue, and POP to edit the just-launched magazine, seamlessly stitching in some Observer/Guardian threads while she's at it.
Alice at The Fashion, lay it on [us]!
Hello Alice! You and your team have recently introduced The Fashion to the world – can you tell us a bit about the new publication?
The magazine is a new biannual fashion title put together by the fashion teams from The Guardian and The Observer. Like most biannuals, it provides an overview of the season – the trends, the must-haves, the news from the catwalks. It's full of beautiful things to buy, but it's full of opinion, too.
What will be different about the magazine’s approach to fashion in comparison to other fashion publications – will features have an Observer/Guardian spin?
We've worked really hard to put an Observer/Guardian spin on the magazine. Fashion isn't a subject that readers instinctively associate with The Guardian and we wanted to make sure the magazine appeals to the core Guardian reader. So there's lots about the business of fashion and its cultural importance. Don't worry, though – there's lots of humour and lovely clothes, too.
Give us a glimpse into the life of a commissioning editor – what are your day to day responsibilities?
The Fashion is a biannual publication, so I'm seconded to work on it every six months. My day job is commissioning editor on The Observer Magazine. So, on a weekly basis I'm commissioning features, working with various columnists and writing for The Observer.
What do you love most about your job(s), and how does your role on The Fashion differ to what you do on The Observer?
I enjoy working on The Fashion because it's really rare to get the chance to create something from scratch and see your ideas transformed into pages. Especially as it's primarily a print project. The Observer and The Guardian have amazing fashion journalists – clever, creative and enthusiastic people – so it was nice to work with them as a team. It's very different from The Observer, because on The Fashion you get to go in depth on a specialist subject and really get to grips with it. The total opposite from a weekly magazine, when you have to bounce from topic to topic to keep the supplement fresh and interesting.
Will you be using contributions from freelance journalists in The Fashion? If so, how should they pitch/who should they pitch to, and what kind of ideas are likely to result in a commission?
I'm always happy to hear from freelance journalists. You can never have too many people suggesting ideas. I love to hear about off-diary stories or clever or counterintuitive takes on the current trends
What kind of thing grabs your interest when commissioning for The Observer?
For The Observer, we're always looking for human interest stories and indepth reportage – once again, it's the sort of off-diary stuff that is really hard for editors to find.
How can PR companies help with putting each issue of The Fashion together – would you prefer the first approach to be by phone, email, or a parcel of random fashiony goodness to be delivered to your desk?
Email works best for me. It means I can read a pitch properly at a time when I have the space to give it proper attention. You can't always do that with a phone call.
Do you and those you work with on The Observer interact with PRs face-to-face any more, or is the journalist-PR relationship mainly digital in today’s media industry?
It's a shame how much I rely on digital interaction, but I do make an effort to meet PRs face-to-face, too.
Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I've worked all over the place. I've got quite a strong background in fashion journalism, which is why I was asked to edit The Fashion. I've written about fashion for Esquire, Elle, Wallpaper* UK, Fantastic Man and Arena Homme Plus, and I've worked as a commissioning editor at the old style title The Face as well as at Vogue and POP. But I've also written for Time Out, The Big Issue and various newspapers. I've got a really strong interest in fashion but it's not defined my career. That's why I love having the two jobs I've currently got.
We can’t find you on Twitter – are you one of the rarest of creatures… a journalist who doesn’t tweet?!
Yes, it's terrible. I'm on Twitter, but I lurk. I check it regularly but I don't tweet. I know I should…
Favourite moments of London Fashion Week?
LFW is amazing at the moment. Such a range of designers. I'm fascinated by J.W. Anderson's work – I think his approach is radical and you don't see enough of that in fashion.
Who are your other favourite designers working in fashion at the moment?
I'm a huge fan of Raf Simons. I interviewed him for the second time for the launch issue of The Fashion. I love his cerebral approach to fashion and he's such a nice man.
You can't work in fashion and not be a little bit in love with Miuccia Prada. She's so clever and her clothes are so consistently amazing. If you look in my scruffy old wardrobe, though, the few designer clothes stuffed in between all the high street clothes are all pretty much by the same three names: Margaret Howell, Marc Jacobs and Eley Kishimoto.
The Guardian's fashion team can be found tweeting @GuardianFashion. Alice may be lurking over there, also.