December 12, 2013
/ by Laura Botham
The world of fashion journalism is often times portrayed in books and movies as cut-throat and intimidating. But luckily for those of us who just want to wear sequins and white shoes at a dive bar on a Tuesday after Labor Day, there are fashion editors who are more than happy to celebrate fashion that is equal part facetious and self-indulgent.
Charlotte Cowles is an editor that stresses the notion that “the frivolity of fashion and beauty is an important part of what makes it wonderful.” Before she became senior features editor at Harper’s Bazaar in December, she was senior editor for The Cut, New York magazine’s fashion site.
Cowles was part of The Cut during the re-launch from a vertical into a stand-alone site. The Cut provides women with an intelligent and modern take on digital fashion coverage, covering provocative and edgy fashion news. “It was an amazing chance to envision what we felt the Internet was missing in terms of women’s content,” she said.
She helped to shape the site into what it is today: a destination for women looking for fashion coverage with a bite. It has become a place to read side-by-side stories about couture and street style written with a wink and a smile. When an opportunity came up to work for Harper’s Bazaar, a fashion magazine with a long history and a tradition of engrossing fashion features, she jumped.
“I had been at The Cut for over three years when this opportunity came up, and it seemed like a perfect next move,” she said. “I was really intrigued by the change of pace – working at a monthly magazine is obviously quite different from working at a website.”
Harper’s Bazaar was first published in 1867 and is known as America’s first women’s fashion magazine. Although today’s media landscape sees more publications moving away from print and into digital, Harper’s Bazaar still prints monthly, and offers a fully integrated, exclusive digital content.
“I think Harper’s Bazaar is brilliant because they make beauty and fashion fun, entertaining and inspiring.”
Cowles emphasizes that approaching fashion and beauty with an upbeat and cheeky demeanor keeps readers interested and engaged. “Magazines that treat that stuff like it’s very serious and deeply necessary are such a bore,” she said.
Taking a foray into print after working in digital may seem like a step in an unusual direction in a time where digital publishing and social media have set a precedent for a constant breaking news cycle and hyper-current journalism.
For Cowles however, she is looking forward to adjusting to the pace of a monthly print publication and sharpening her skills as a writer and editor. Focusing on long-form features will allow for working with more time for each piece and having “the luxury of putting much more time and effort into each individual project.”
Cowles went on to say, “We always put our all into everything at The Cut, of course. But we just had less time to do so.”
When she worked at another daily deadline driven environment, the now-defunct newspaper the New York Sun, one of her first editors offered her words of wisdom: “write clean copy, on time.”
“And it’s true – no matter how brilliant you are. If you can’t meet a deadline, no one wants to deal with you. You have to be willing to work hard and fast.”
Cowles walked away from the New York Sun knowing that she was truly in it for the long haul. “The crappy thing about journalism is that when you’re starting out, you really have to work for next to nothing. So you have to really love it, or else why even bother?”
She aims to utilize her time at the publication “to become a nimbler, funnier, and all-around better writer and editor.”
And in this cold winter weather when you are feeling inspired to layer fur upon fur over those sequins just to keep warm, you can rest assured that there are editors out there willing to celebrate this questionable, but decadent decision with you.
“I obviously prefer very targeted PR pitches,” she said. “I hate winding up on someone’s list about the latest backpacks or something. Much as I DO like to look at pictures of backpacks occasionally, I don’t want them cluttering up my inbox.”
Find Cowles on Twitter at @CharlotteCowles.
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