Emily Farra, Fashion News Associate, Vogue
Vogue, a glossy issue or two plays a notable role in the origin story of most people working in fashion today. Whether the last experience you had with this timeless publication was as twelve-year-old gripping a September Issue while swearing to move to New York the moment you turned eighteen, or you fervently scroll the pages of Vogue.com every day, we can all agree that Vogue, in any format, is the ultimate. That's why we had to go all the way to New York City and get the inside scoop from Emily Farra. A veteran of Style.com, Emily is now sprinting around reviewing many a collection for Vogue.com - and loving every stressful second. Although relatively early on in her rise to the top, Emily is the perfect person to shed light on working for such an illustrious company. So today, Lisa Says Gah takes you to the towering facade of One World Trade Center for some real talk. Enjoy!
LSG: Hey, Emily! Tell us about your position at Vogue. How did you land this job? What do you love about it?
I started working at Vogue.com in August 2015, right before the new Vogue Runway platform launched. I was an assistant editor at Style.com for two years before that. I joined Vogue.com as a writer, but I also had experience managing the fashion shows at Style.com—from assembling the schedules to handling our photo/video coverage requests—so I help with that now, too. Things are insanely busy during January, February, June, and September, but I love it—I think it’s great to be at a place where the runway shows and reviews are valued.
LSG: Describe your typical workday.
My day depends on the month! If it’s a show season — and, let’s be honest, it almost always is — I check my email as soon as I wake up, and then probably check it again every twelve seconds after that for the rest of the day. New York Fashion Week is hands-down the craziest part of any season; there are so many shows and presentations and appointments, and not much time to see it all. This past season, I reviewed about 40 shows, so I was running around for twelve days straight and staying up until 3:00 A.M. to write while also overseeing our entire coverage schedule. It was stressful but exhilarating!
Once the season is over, we go back to regular hours, which means I’m mostly at my desk or out on appointments. I start my day by catching up on the news; then I’m writing, researching, or pitching new stories. There’s never a dull moment!
LSG: At age six, what did you see yourself doing career-wise?
When I was really young, I wanted to be a designer because I loved getting dressed and I loved drawing! But that didn’t last very long; I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I was thirteen or fourteen. I loved fashion but was also a very obsessive reader and writer, and one day it dawned on me that I could combine both of those things. So I’ve been focused on this career path for almost ten years.
LSG: Where did you go to college? What skills from college do you use the most at work? How important do you believe higher education to be?
I went to Indiana University and double-majored in journalism and art history. I grew up in Indianapolis, so I always loved IU, but I wasn’t thinking about my career when I chose it—I just thought it would be a fun place to go, and the campus is beautiful. Luckily, IU has a very strong journalism program, so I was able to take great classes about reporting and editing, and I studied abroad in London through the journalism school, which was amazing. But since I was always focused on fashion journalism, my internships and writing opportunities were probably more impactful than my classes. My art-history degree actually informs my work a lot; art obviously plays a huge role in fashion, so it’s helpful to know what designers are talking about when they reference Hieronymus Bosch or Mark Rothko. I’ve also found that reviewing a collection is a lot like writing an essay on a painting.
LSG: Sometimes people land their dream positions, then burn out or plateau. How do you keep it fresh and stay inspired?
When I started my job at Style.com out of college, I was an editorial coordinator, which is just a fancy title for “assistant.” Writing was not in my job description—my responsibilities revolved around the shows. I managed the schedules, sent all of our requests, liaised with our photo and video teams, booked everyone’s travel, and worked production shifts on weekends, which started as early as 5:00 A.M. After a few months, I started writing news stories for the site, but I had to juggle that on top of everything else, which could be stressful. The more comfortable I got, though, the more I wrote, and eventually I was promoted to assistant editor and started writing New York Fashion Week reviews. So my job has always been multifaceted, and it’s always been about growing and doing more. I’ve always been driven, but being at Style.com instilled that work ethic; every single person there worked so hard and put so much passion into their work. It was a huge learning experience for me.
LSG: Do you have a mentor? What role do they play in your motivation?
I don’t have a mentor in the traditional sense, but I’ve had the privilege of working with some really inspirational people at both Style.com and Vogue.com. I’ve learned so much just from reading their work, seeing how they conduct meetings, and talking over my ideas with them. I’m also fortunate to work with a lot of really amazing designers and PRs, particularly during Fashion Week. They show you a completely different side of the business, which is really beneficial, and I’ve become close friends with many of them.
LSG: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from a mistake?
I can’t think of a specific mistake, but I will say that I regret the things I didn’t do or say more than the things I did. I’m reserved and a bit soft-spoken, and when I first started working, I was still getting used to the office atmosphere, and I honestly didn’t think I was in the position to speak up at big meetings or offer my opinion. I was still in shock that I even had a job at all and was just trying to do things absolutely perfectly! But I was wrong to think I was “just an assistant.” My colleagues and superiors want to hear what everyone has to say, and when you’re the youngest one in an office, there is a lot for you to offer. So I’ve learned to be more honest and confident, and that reflects in my writing now, too.
LSG: How do you separate work and life? Do you consider yourself a workaholic? How do you unwind?
I can be a workaholic, but I’m pretty good about “turning off” after work and on the weekends now. That wasn’t always the case—when I first started out, I was so focused and had so many responsibilities that I was working twelve- or fourteen-hour days and didn’t see my friends or boyfriend until the weekend! I thrived on the stress, though—I loved being busy. And that’s how it should be when you’re 22. You have to hustle! It also taught me to appreciate my time off, which I have more of now. I love being in New York and am totally happy just to walk around my neighborhood, exercise, and get lunch with friends on the weekends. In the summer, I also play tennis at the courts along the East River and go to Long Beach. Getting some sun and exercising is really helpful.
LSG: What are the top five things that help you have a productive day?
A good night’s sleep—at least seven hours!
Making time for a healthy breakfast.
Getting to the office earlier than everyone else.
Wearing an outfit I like!
Hitting the gym in the morning or right after work.
LSG: Describe your personal style. What is it most influenced by?
I love clothes, but if I’m just going to be at the office, my style is pretty simple. I wear jeans almost every day; I have at least 40 pairs. My current favorites are Brock Collection’s light-wash straight-legs and a pair of black Citizens of Humanity flares that I cut off above the ankle. I might wear them with a T-shirt and velvet jacket or with a girly blouse, then throw on ballet flats or mid-heels. I hate feeling uncomfortable or overdressed, so practicality is really important to me. I don’t like to spend too much money on clothes, either, so I’m really into “the hunt”—I’ll go into a Zara or a vintage store and pore over every single item before deciding what I want to try on. Or I’ll do really thorough research online to figure out exactly what’s on the market. Since I don’t really buy designer clothes, I rely on jewelry and great accessories to upgrade my outfits—my “nicest” things are hands-down the bracelets, rings, and earrings I’ve collected over the years, and a great M2Malletier or Chloé bag can change everything.
LSG: Did your style change when you got this job?
My style hasn’t changed too much since I joined Vogue last fall, but there is a nice sense of freedom here—everyone is encouraged to be creative and wear what they love. My style did change a lot after I started my first job at Style.com, though. I was fresh out of college and wore a lot more colors and prints, and my clothes probably skewed a bit younger. It’s only natural for your style to “grow up” with you, so I started wearing more neutral colors and simpler silhouettes, and I began to prioritize quality over quantity. I shop less now, and I’m more concerned with honing my signature look than playing into trends.
LSG? Best perk or opportunity you’ve come across in your career (so far!)?
I’m extremely lucky that I’ve never had a bad boss! Quite the opposite — they’ve all been incredible. Meeting and interviewing Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen was pretty amazing, even though we only spoke for about 90 seconds. They’re definitely some of my style icons, and I have a twin sister, so we’ve always felt inspired by them. We even share the same zodiac sign (Gemini, naturally). I recently met and interviewed Tory Burch for a story, too, and she is so cool and inspiring.
LSG: Any advice for aspiring writers and creatives looking to get into the fashion business? What is the most important first step?
I think one of the reasons I was able to jump into writing at Style.com was because I had a lot of writing experience and knew my voice. In college, I had seven or eight internships and was constantly writing for the school newspaper, the school magazine, the Indianapolis Museum of Art blog... It’s important to stay really busy, if not just to prove that you have the drive and can handle the work. Aspiring writers should also be on top of industry news and trends; they need to be reading all the major magazines and top fashion-news websites every single day. Even if you’re just starting out, no one is going to take you seriously if you don’t know what’s up at Balenciaga!
LSG: What’s next? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Publishing is changing, and the fashion calendar is changing, so it’s hard to say what will happen in ten years! I definitely still see myself in New York and working in fashion in some capacity—I hope as a writer or an editor, but there are tons of opportunities that require those skills that I never knew existed, so I’m open-minded.
LSG: Describe your ideal weekend. What should we make sure to see while in New York?
The ideal weekend would preferably be in spring—New York’s best season!—and would start with coffee at Happy Bones, brunch at Egg Shop, Two Hands, or Sadelle’s, followed by a long, leisurely walk. I personally love just walking all over the city when it’s nice outside, and Central Park is always a good call. As for restaurants, my favorites are GG’s, Ruby’s, Balzem, Piacere, Maialino, and ABC Cocina. Drinks at Leadbelly are a must, and shopping would also be necessary—I love popping into vintage stores on the Lower East Side and am always up for a trip to Dover Street Market, even though I rarely buy anything there. I’d top off the weekend with an amazing concert, preferably one that’s outside, followed by rooftop drinks with friends.