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Fashion Roundtable: An Interview with Three Leading Black Fashion Journalists

QUESTION: ENTERING THE FIELD?

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 instead.

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 brides.

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 University.

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 MAGAZINES

Vivian: Robin, how were you treated at Vogue?

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 initials}

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.

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