Fashion Roundtable: An
Interview with Three Leading Black Fashion Journalists
QUESTION: ENTERING THE
Bernadine: Newspapers have not traditionally welcomed
women reporters. When I went to The New York Times for a job, I was
told, "We have a girl reporter." I went to Women's Wear Daily
Constance: I applied to Women's Wear Daily and
Billboard. I had twin interests, fashion and music. I started at Women's
Wear in a minority training program. They were having trouble attracting
minorities in 1988. Monique Greenwood went through first. She went on to become
editor in chief of Essence. The minority program is no longer in
place--it was a one year program. At Women's Wear I covered furs.
Vivian: Where was that in the pecking order? Was it a good job?
Constance: The excitement about furs had calmed down by then. It
was a pretty good beat. It wasn't as low on the totem pole as hosiery or
Teri: I didn't necessarily want to go into fashion. My
first writing job was "Teri's Tips for Fashion Flair" in the Kansas City Junior
High School newspaper. The journalism teacher in the ninth grade gave everyone
something to do. I liked fashion and loved Susan Haywood in Back Street. That's
when I said to myself, "I want to be a reporter." I was the editor of the
Yearbook. I wrote obituaries--anything I could get my hands on. I went to
Fairchild in l977. Andre Leon Talley was the European editor. There were three
black reporters: Audrey Edwards, the supermarket reporter, Andre and me. I made
$13,OOO a year.
Constance: When I went into the minority
program, I felt I was overqualified, but that was the only way to get in.
Before that I had clips from Ms., underground music magazines, an
internship at The New York Times and a journalism degree from New York
Robin: The Washington Post doesn't have corners where
they shove people, they hold fashion up to high standards. My first job was
for the Detroit Free Press. I didn't know a solitary soul at The
Washington Post and I got a job there.
QUESTION: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEWSPAPERS AND
Vivian: Robin, how were you treated at
Robin: I was in a unique position. I had written
stories that had an impact. I knew Anna (Wintour) from doing stories with her,
My surprise was that it was going over the firewall from newspapers to
magazines. I was Associate Editor for six months. It became clear to me that at
newspapers you have the autonomy to write a story as you see it. That's not the
case at a fashion magazine. Anna is the voice of Vogue. she looks at
every word there. ALL copy has to be "A-W-Aked" (approved with Anna Wintour's
Constance: When I was with Elle, I was in a
heated discussion with Amy Gross. "She said, Constance, fashion editors are not
journalists. We are here to edit, to be subjective."
Robin: My great eye-opening
moment was at Vogue. The point is that Vogue and other magazines
exist to champion the designers. They can decide that they believe in a
designer like they do Marc Jacobs. They can do a great spread showing loads of
his clothes and accessories to support him.