It’s been a minute since we’ve had a Breaking into Fashion Interview, but I thought I’d kick our informative series off again with Elle.com‘s Senior Fashion Editor, Nikki Ogunnaike.
The Nigerian American University of Virginia graduate majored in Sociology and Minored in Media Studies, and got her start in fashion as an intern at Glamour Magazine. She followed her first experience with internships at Harper’s Bazaar, Elle.com, and Vanity Fair, before nabbing a job as an editorial assistant at In Style.
After 3.5 years at InStyle, where she was promoted from editorial assistant to assistant editor, she moved over to Glamour.com, where she was their Senior Digital Style Editor for 4 years. Now, as Elle.com’s Senior Fashion Editor, she writes and edits 2-3 articles per day, goes on market appointments, meets designers, and visits showrooms, all the while curating intelligent, thought provoking content.
Nikki Ogunnaike and Serena Williams
She chatted with us in between meetings to give you aspiring journalists a few tips on how to break into the industry.
Interning is key. To get an internship Ogunnaike says, “Be resourceful. I don’t think everyone gets handed an internship. If you can prove that you can bring something else to the table and prove that you’re hard working, utilize whatever connections you may have, may that be looking on the job posting boards of your college or staying in touch with someone who knows someone who may be able to get you an internship. I think that’s first and foremost how you break into fashion.”
She continues, “Once you get your foot in the door, I think it’s really about producing the best work you can produce. Not everyone is going to be a star. This job may seem glamorous. It’s not about being glamorous. I don’t want to be an Instagram star, I don’t want to be a reality star, I’m an editor and a writer first and foremost. I produce the best work that I can. I think that hiring managers and editors see that in me. It’s also about reading and digesting other people’s work. Read the New York Times, read the Business of Fashion, and also read Complex and People. Read, read, read, study your craft and study your trade. I think that’s how you stay in the industry.”
Her tips for being a good intern? Be resourceful. She explains, “Most interns want to ask their boss how to do something. Don’t. Look to your fellow interns for help. Provide solutions. Make an editor’s job easier rather than making it harder. She adds, “What makes a good intern is what makes a really good assistant. Solve problems on your own. People also underestimate how far you can go by being nice. The nicest people last the longest. I pride myself on being a polite and nice person.”
Indeed. For women of color, she offers, “Oftentimes people think it’s easier to not be apart of the group or the pack. I think it’s incredibly important to support your fellow editors of color in this industry. You guys are the only people who know what each other is going through. Don’t compete. By coming together and traveling as a pack, that support will take your further.”
Lastly, dressing the part is key in the fashion industry! For style guidelines Nikki says, “Look at what your boss is wearing. Or what editors who have made it in the industry are wearing. Not what they’re wearing during Fashion Week. But what they’re wearing on a day to day basis. Follow that rule and that guideline. If you are just breaking into fashion, invest in pieces that will last a really long time. They don’t have to be the flashiest pieces, but rather things that you can carry from season to season. There are hidden gems at places like Aritzia or Kate Spade or GAP. People want to be able to wear crazy labels, but that comes with time. Err on the side of caution, and buy things that will last you season to season.”
Sound advice! Follow Nikki’s work at Elle.com and keep apprised of her stylish moves at @NikkiOgun on the ‘Gram.
What do you think of her words of wisdom?
And who should be next?