Lisa Armstrong’s rise through the ranks at British Elle, Vogue, The Independent and The Times, to the revered post of fashion editor at The Daily Telegraph, was not the career path she envisaged from her bucolic ‘fashion-free’ childhood in the Devon countryside. Today, Armstrong is an authority on fashion and how to wear it, but there was some experimentation along the way – exasperatedly, she recalls when living in Paris as an au pair, she spent her salary on an entirely mauve wardrobe.
Her break came when then editor of Elle, Sally Brampton, spotted her freelance writing while she was working at a small London fitness magazine after graduating in journalism from City University. She joined Brampton’s team, editing the arts section, but her attention was soon diverted: ‘I was mesmerised by the girls in the fashion department,’ she says. ‘They wore outfits by these wonderful Japanese designers that I’d never heard of and they were always flitting off to Marrakech or some exotic location.’ The passion that was to shape her career had been ignited.
‘Fashion has become such a big part of popular culture. Twenty years ago, if I said, “I work in fashion,” the response I would get would be, “Isn’t that boring?” or “Didn’t you get a degree?” It was so patronising. Now, if you sit at a dinner party and you say you haven’t heard of Christopher Kane or Miuccia Prada, it’s like saying, “Who’s Damien Hirst?” I don’t own a Hirst, but I’m intrigued to know about him and his work and I think other people are the same with fashion.
‘My job is writing about fashion, and so I think I should look the part. I don’t think people expect a books editor to write books necessarily, or the motoring correspondent to own a Porsche, but for some reason, fashion editors are expected to live the part. However, working at a newspaper means I have to take serious meetings with the news editor and the editor-in-chief, so I have chosen not to dress like a fashion editor in a bubble because I think that’s right for the paper. I’m quite classic naturally.
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