You studied fashion here at NTU, did you do so with the idea of pursuing fashion journalism?
Lots of little moments led me to journalism. Growing up, I was interested in image making and photography. Then I saw a documentary about John Galliano, the fashion designer, and was fascinated by this opposite world than the one I grew up in. After that, I applied to fashion schools to do design. I was so naive. I grew up in Northern Ireland, I wasn’t from a fashion family, I didn’t know anything about fashion. I got in because I was a bloke and there were only three guys in my course.
In my second year, a fashion editor from Elle gave a talk about fashion editing. I remember that so specifically, I have her to thank for my career. I knew immediately she was where I wanted to be, in the middle of photography and design.
That’s when I started to collect I-D magazines.
How did you come to work at I-D and how did you climb so far up the I-D ladder?
In 2000, just after graduating, I knocked on the door of I-D – which I think is something only a 20-year-old would do. I went with my portfolio, met the receptionist and some fashion editors. Slowly but surely, I got my foot in the door and my name in the running. Three months later I was assisting Edward Enninful OBE who was the fashion director at the time, now editor-in-chief of British Vogue.
I tried everything: assisting, styling, fashion editing, fashion directing, some page design, bits here and there to gain skills and pay my dues. I was also doing pieces for other magazines to prove to myself, and to I-D, that I could, that I was willing to do the work.
I spent 21 years building my portfolio and when I-D wanted to start an office in New York, they knew and trusted me. I became the New York fashion director, then I became global fashion director. Five years later, I’m editor-in-chief – if you stick around long enough, you know?
What do you do as global Editor-In-Chief?
There are many facets to this job. I’m editor-in-chief. I’m a creative director, a stylist, a designer, and a publisher too.
When I started working, everything was very scheduled. In August everybody had holiday, September you went to fashion shows, October you came up with ideas and commissions, November you shoot advertising, December you shoot editorial. It was systematic. Now it’s chaos, we do everything all the time.
There’s certain things we plan, scheduling we have, but mostly I’m dealing with what’s in front of me at any given moment. I receive hundreds of emails everyday, it’s a lot to keep up with those.
My days entail working lots of different jobs; there’s a never ending list of things to do. We do editorial all the time, go to fashion shows all the time, do advertising all the time, work on consultancies all the time. We just went to print on one issue yesterday, and this morning, we’re talking about what we have to do for the next.
There’s no time to have a break, which is probably dangerous, but we’ll find out. In this job, you have to be hyperactive. Some people wouldn’t want this life at all, but I thrive on it.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What’s exciting is having a platform I can share with the new generation. Anytime we put people in the magazine, they’re thrilled.
How do you see the industry evolving?
There’s going to be more layers. I liken it to when television came along and everybody said cinema was dead. Cinema isn’t dead. You have both. It’s the same with new technologies. Everything works alongside one another but the print magazine is still the pinnacle.
I revert back to the printed issue as our time capsule for that moment. With the internet there are no time capsules, it’s constant noise. I love the internet. I love the website and I love the print. You can’t do one or the other and I don’t want to, you have to evolve while remaining true to those roots.
What’s the best advice you could give to an aspiring journalist?
The best advice I ever got was to lean into my point of difference – to not be like everybody else. You move to London and you’re surrounded by all these people that are very unique and successful, so you try to emulate them. Instead, you need to find what you love.
Keep moving towards what excites you and makes you feel inspired. I picked up I-D and loved it, was obsessed with it. It was my wildest dream to work for I-D in any capacity. All I wanted was to be involved with this thing I loved. I didn’t ever think I would be editor-in-chief.