How to Become a Fashion Writer
PJ Gach is a New York City Style, Beauty and Cocktails editor as well as the founder of Queen of Style. Gach is a social media, style, beauty and drinks influencer on both coasts, and her lifestyle brand help keeps trendy men and women on top of the latest trends, whether that’s clothing, accessories, cosmetics, hair products, or delicious cocktails. She lives in New York City, and began her career as a music writer, specializing in rock. She went on to write for Spin, RollingStone, and other major outlets in the US, UK, and Scandinavia.
We sat down with her to discuss influential college courses, working your way into a career, and what it’s like to be an editor of a major magazine.
The Career Path Towards Becoming a Fashion Writer
Where did you attend college, and what was your major? What class did you feel was most beneficial to your career as a beauty and fashion editor?
I went to SUNY College at Brockport. My majors had nothing whatsoever to do with journalism. I majored in Communications with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Theatre. However, I was an editor at my college newspaper and it was there that I learned how to craft articles, how to handle a staff and how to reach out to PR firms.
How did you work up to the position you are in now?
I didn’t follow a traditional path in journalism. I started my professional career as a radio DJ. At a volunteer meeting (for an event in the city I was then living in), I sat next to the publisher of the local alternative weekly newspaper. He and I started talking, he mentioned that the newspaper was looking for reporters and I called. I kept calling and pestering them until they met with me. I went from reporter to Entertainment Editor in about a month. A few months later I wrote an article for a regional magazine, then a few months later I wrote my first national story. From there, I started writing for SPIN.com and RollingStone.com.
I had been writing stories and poems from childhood on, but never thought to make a career of it. You could say that reporting/editing found me. I realized that I had to write, that not writing would be like certain death. Even though I didn’t have the traditional journalism background, I never gave up. Anytime someone told me “no,” I ignored them. In fact, I used “no” as fuel to keep going.
I started writing for RollingStone.com because someone told me that there was no way they would ever hire me. Success is the best revenge.
A Day in the Life of Fashion Writer & Editor
What do you enjoy most about being an editor for beauty and fashion?
I’m enthralled with beauty and fashion for a variety of reasons; there are constant innovations almost daily. They accurately and immediately reflect what is going on in society, both fields are creative and both fields can positively affect someone’s life.
Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
What have I learned about writing? That if an editor wants you to write about something, you do the best job you can, even if you have no knowledge of the subject beforehand. You give yourself a crash course in the subject. Back in 2009, I was offered the chance to write an unauthorized biography of a Tween Star. I said yes! I learned about the actor as I wrote the book. I got the book in under deadline and best of all, my editor thought I had written books before!
Everyday when you write you will learn something. You must always keep your mind open and ready for new information, for new ways to write, to edit and to learn. The best thing about being an editor is that you’re constantly expanding your horizons. And you have the privilege of passing on that knowledge to your readers. You get to help people have richer, more fulfilling lives.
What have you learned about yourself through writing?
I have learned that my slightly OCD organizational skills come in really handy when managing events like Fashion Week coverage or assigning articles to reporters and writers. I love excel and use it to create and keep updated contact lists of pr firms, bloggers and more.
I’ve learned that I love teaching interns and freelancers the ins and outs of crafting an article, on how to deal with PR firms, on how to work in publishing. It’s a great feeling when you’re working with someone and you see that they’ve made an epiphany about publishing and their abilities.
Advice for Become a Successful Fashion Writer
What do you think new writers should know that they don’t seem to? What advice would you give them?
New writers should not expect to be coddled. They should not feel entitled. I’ve come across interns and beginning writers who feel that their work should not be edited, that they should get plum assignments, and that they’re the best and don’t need to learn anything. Well, I have a friend who copy edits Stephen King’s work. If Stephen King has an editor, what makes you think you’re better than him.
New writers should expect to work hard, to work long hours, to prove to their editors that they’re responsible, they can write clean copy and get that copy in on time. PAY YOUR DUES.
I once had an intern who, when I offered them an assignment (with their own byline), told me that they didn’t want to work on it because it would interfere with their weekend plans. Needless to say, we never used that intern again for anything at the magazine. The internship ended immediately.
What would you like to tell me that I haven’t asked about?
Go into publishing if you love the written word. If you love writing, crafting excellent articles and can’t breathe if you can’t write. Don’t go into publishing if you think it’s an easy to way to make money, it’s not. Be prepared to work your butt off. You will have fun, you will have adventures, and you’ll work very, very hard.