I have always admired Kirstie Clements.
To me, the last Vogue Australia editor channels an old world elegance, a time of sensuality and womanliness before a stark androgyny and nonchalance took over fashion magazines. So what happened to her once-coveted post?
Clements herself made an early style signature at Vogue 25 years ago by emulating a 1950’s Fellini bomshell at the magazine’s reception desk (but not before discovering punk’s boldness in her early 20s). So it would make sense that during her editorial reign from 2000-2013, all things iconic and fabulous at Vogue were celebrated. There was the guest editorship by both Karl Lagerfeld and Kylie Minogue, plenty of homage to Cate Blanchett and that famous Princess Mary cover (which Clements cites as the highlight of her career).
The Vogue of Kirstie sold ‘sexy’ to me as I remember it. Arty, gorgeous and rather grand. Her 12 years at the helm happened at an industry pivot, when photoshoots were still a clandestine production and fashion magazines were the gate keepers of all fashion news. Still, those early whispers of a ‘democratisation’ of consumer power were just beginning, via pokes from the bloggersphere and rising publishing pressures. Fashion still had a semblance of originality (remember when we could define an era by its outfits), while magazines clung to their curator status through using edgier models and moving hesitantly online. It was during this time that Kirstie established her mark, bringing Vogue’s sartorial heritage to the forefront just before the full effect of social media’s overwhelming soundbites dismissed whole collections to simple statements such as #amaze before her eyes.
Getting to know her story deeper via her first memoir, The Vogue Factor, I instinctively connect with her qualitative approach to editorial work. It really celebrates women, power and fashion. She seems reflective about the artistry of magazines of yore – and the evolving integrity of the fashion industry as a whole.
This is why I was delighted when her latest book IMPRESSIVE – How To Have A Stylish Career hit the shelves. A curation of anecdotes and advice from fashion industry heavy hitters, it is a must-have tome for any aspiring fashionista who’s serious about getting into the fashion industry. I was allured by not only to the gravitas that Clements lends it, but for the welcome glimpse inside the minds of her impressive fashion friends, who give first hand accounts of how to ascend to their positions.
Here are gems from the people whose photos I used to rip out of Vogue and put in a special ‘inspiration’ folder for myself – from Giorgio Armani GM Mary Chiew to PR impresario (and ex Gucci comms pro) Tracy Baker.
These women (and a host of admirable men) encapsulate the polished nonchallance that speaks without screaming both ‘fashion’ and ‘you need to have your wits to get to where I am’. How these elegant fashion stalwarts present is a far cry from the peakocking of the modern era.
Before this book, I wouldn’t know how far to label-up for my next fashion interview (groomed, but not necessarily designer clad is the overall advice) or be reminded (time and time again) that this is a job where your first intention must be to serve creative vision, not self interest. Because behind the glass-chinking and glossy editorial are long nights packing boxes, heaving stock and deadline-weary muscle joints (even for the senior managers).
This element of devotion to the craft is what stands out the most in everyone’s encounters. The message reinforces grace, with a commitment to unyielding quality. There was no cutting corners through connections to succeed in this game; or ‘winging’ it because you have a useful pedigree – at home or on your calf-skin handbag. Sure, those elements may make a temporary imprint, but fashion is a trade where your attitude and standards will be the only things to separate you from the next aspiring hopeful.
Clements’ guide is free of pomp and pretence, instead focusing on classic values upon which these leaders have built their enviable careers. If you are in it only for the front row or champagne, you have been warned – you’ll never cash in on the free ride that Clements and her friends are funding.