Do you dream of working with all things fashion? Distraction gives you the real scoop from UM alumni Jonathan Borges about how to break into the industry. Borges graduated from the university in 2013 and interned at Ocean Drive magazine, Condé Nast, Refinery29 and Harper’s Bazaar before accepting a position as a freelance fashion assistant at W Magazine. Check out our interview to see if the The Devil Wears Prada gets it right about the fashion world.
Distraction: What is your role at W Magazine?
Jonathan: I’m basically a fashion assistant, so I work in the fashion closet organizing all of the clothes that come into the office for upcoming photo shoots. A fashion assistant’s job is primarily to make sure we’re receiving and returning the samples on time, but we’re also in charge of managing interns, making lookbooks, helping the editors create story boards, organizing the clothing racks by shoot, and overall just being really organized.
Distraction: Why do you think you were chosen for this position over other candidates?
Jonathan: Well, an editor at Harper’s Bazaar, where I used to work, recommended me for the job. The fashion community is actually quite small, so a recommendation goes a long way. But other than that I work very hard and I’m not above small tasks, so I think that helped. I also interned a lot, which is my biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to go into fashion and magazines. Intern as much as you possibly can.
Distraction: How do you think your experience at UM influenced your desire to pursue a career in the fashion industry?
Jonathan: It was all thanks to both Distraction and Ocean Drive, where I interned. I have an obsession with magazines and read everything from Vogue to The New Yorker to Fast Company, but I slowly realized that I enjoyed fashion and lifestyle publications more than anything. At Ocean Drive I had the opportunity to assist on set at photo shoots, and at Distraction my editors and I basically had free range to develop our ideas, and a lot of the time they were fashion-related.
Distraction: Was there anything you were unprepared for when entering this field or position?
Jonathan: I wasn’t prepared for how much work it actually is. We work very long hours, usually 8 a.m. to around 9 or 10 p.m., sometimes later, and at first it’s a shock. You eventually get used to it and learn to have fun, but it takes time.
Distraction: What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?
Jonathan: I’ve learned a lot of lessons but I think the one most relevant to students is to work hard, be really, really nice, and always keep in touch with your former bosses. Most of the opportunities I’ve come across after graduation have been because of word-of-mouth. So and so is looking for an assistant and so-and-so just so happened to recommend you. Like I said, it’s a really small community and everyone knows each other. Your reputation goes a long way, so if you’re nice and prove to be an asset to the team, you’d be surprised at how much people are willing to help you.
Distraction: What is a typical day like?
Jonathan: Some days are crazier than others, but typically we’re constantly busy, checking in and returning samples. Sometimes you’ll have to run across town to pick up the garments if the messengers can’t get there quickly enough. After a while you’ll have the opportunity to go on set and help the stylists, which is really fun. Usually you’re in the closet running around, though.
Distraction: What’s the best perk?
Jonathan: For me it’s knowing, months in advance, who’s going to be in the magazine. Now that fashion month is dying down we received our shoot schedule and I already know who’s going to be on the May cover, which is kind of awesome.
Distraction: Have you experienced any moments reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada?
Jonathan: Absolutely. Most people in the fashion industry are incredibly nice, unlike that movie, but some of the moments in the film do come to life. There will be crises each week and as an assistant you have to figure out how to deal with it. When I was working as an assistant at Harper’s Bazaar, I remember freaking out because I needed to find “large, colorful, chic umbrellas ASAP”. So, that was that.
Distraction: Any plans to write a tell-all book?
Jonathan: I always joke that I’m going to write a memoir. I’ve definitely have had some book-worthy experiences.
Distraction: What is your one office must-have in order to get through the jam packed days?
Jonathan: Candy really helps. It’s always good to have a mini-Snickers or something when you’re stressed. Contrary to popular belief, fashion people love to eat.
Distraction: What is the trend taking over the fashion world?
Jonathan: I think sweatshirts are having a moment right now. If you look at street style blogs, the big models, like Cara Delevigne, Karlie Kloss, and Joan Smalls, are always wearing a Givenchy hoodie or a fun Brian Lichtenberg “Homies” sweatshirt. I really want one from Kenzo.
Distraction: What one piece of advice would you give to Miley Cyrus about her fashion choices?
Jonathan: Keep doing what you’re doing. I really am obsessed with Miley and, even though she can be somewhat distasteful at times, she’s a marketing genius. She’s already been on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar and Rolling Stone. I think she’ll keep blowing up. And actually, whenever you Google her, she has great style.
Distraction: Any insight about upcoming trends?
Jonathan: I have to save all the SS14 runways shows for work, so I’ve actually been able to keep up. I think sweatshirts will continue to be a big deal. There are a lot of notions of female empowerment – at Prada, Rick Owens, Gucci, for example – and that’ll probably come through in fashion magazines. A lot of designers chose to show flats instead of heels, so I think girls will be happy about that. At Alexander Wang and DKNY, and some other New York shows, we saw a lot of incognito, ‘90s-type logos everywhere, so that might become a thing.
Distraction: How do you think W Magazine remains relevant when printed magazine readership (especially in the fashion sector) is declining?
Jonathan: I don’t think fashion magazines are going anywhere any time soon. But I think what the editors realize is that everything in each issue has to be beautiful and the best of the best. If you want up-to-the-minute fashion news you go to Refinery29, Fashionista, The Cut, and WWD, but if you want absolutely gorgeous images, then you pick up a fashion magazine.
Distraction: Any other advice or wisdom you’d like to share with students interested in pursuing a career in the fashion industry?
Jonathan: Always be bold. I’m actually pretty shy, but I’ve never been afraid to introduce myself to an editor and ask for a meeting. Look into informational meetings and ask people to go out for coffee. I just reached out to the editor-in-chief of a magazine, just because I really want to meet her, and she agreed to meet with me next month. Like I said, it’s a small industry, so if you work hard and smile a lot, you’ll be fine. Oh, finally, use Twitter, LinkedIn, and social media to your advantage.