For our second installment of our refine your work style series with Refinery29, we caught up with Style Features Editor, Leeann Duggan. Read on for expert advise on how to land, and keep, your dream job. (And in case you missed Editor in Chief Christene Barberich, check out what she had to say!)
DVF: For so many women, Refinery29 is a dream job! Tell us more about what you do and how you landed your position.
Leeann Duggan: I am the Style Features Editor at Refinery29, which means I write 3 to 4 posts per day on the latest fashion news, style advice, and runway reviews. I also get to interview celebs and style icons, from Carrie Brownstein and Zoë Kravitz, to my favorite, up-and-coming designers, which still blows my small-town mind. It’s literally my dream job. I moved to New York with no contacts — I didn’t even have a fashion-related degree! But, I knew I wanted to work for Refinery29, and I wrote, wrote, wrote for my own blog and freelance publications, until I finally made it. I landed my position by applying to an R29 editing job I knew I wasn’t qualified for — and using that chance to pitch myself as a writer, instead. My number one piece of advice is to know exactly what you want to do, and don’t be so afraid of rejection that you never put yourself out there. If you’re dedicated enough, and committed to excellence, someone will eventually give you a chance.
What advice do you give recent college graduates and other candidates hoping to make it in fashion?
Find a way to do the work you want to do now — even if you have to do it for free. When I was just starting out, I styled friends’ photo shoots for free, and wrote 10 posts daily on my fashion Tumblr. It was great practice learning to use my voice. Read everything you can about fashion — and not just on the Internet, either. Lots of people know what happened last year, but knowing about fit, fabrication, and designers who mattered 30 or 50 years ago will truly set you apart. Finally, have interests besides fashion. If you’re going to do this for a living, you need to have something to say besides “I like these clothes.” A working knowledge of design, film, and art history will make your writing so much richer.
What is the one key wardrobe piece you recommend for interviewing?
A great-fitting, knee-length pencil skirt is flattering to every body type, and looks effortlessly pulled-together with your favorite blouse and a trench coat or cool, asymmetric-zip jacket.
Refinery29 is obviously a creative environment. What would you recommend to women interviewing in a similar environment. In other words, how does one look polished, but not too boring?
It’s all about making your style work for your workplace, and adding some life with colorful bags and accessories. Just remember, some of the old-school work wear rules no longer apply. Even a simple, retro-style sneaker like a Jack Purcell can look so fresh with a wide-legged trouser and tucked-in shirt. Our Style Editor Annie Georgia Greenberg is the master of wearing Sambas with a trim, navy suit — and it looks amazing.
How would you describe your work style? How does it differ from your personal style, or what you wear on weekends?
At work, I aim for a slightly more conservative take on my favorite pieces and go-to silhouettes. For example, I love to wear kooky-colored prints, but for work, I keep my printed pieces a little more neutral. I love a good miniskirt too, but for work, a knee-length pleated skirt has the same, retro-flirt vibe — without getting you any side-eye from the HR department.
What is the biggest mistake you see applicants make that you can help our readers to avoid?
Bad spelling and grammar! You wouldn’t believe how many resumes and cover letters are so riddled with errors, they’re difficult to understand. Run any communication to a potential employer through a spell-checker — better yet, have your most nit-picky friend or professor give it a read-through. Talent is important, but we want to see that you care about the details, too.
Summer is just around the corner and fashion offices everywhere will be filling up with interns. What advice would you give an intern hoping to make a lasting impression?
A “make it work” attitude is so essential. An intern who can tackle a not-so-inspiring assignment with curiosity, enthusiasm, and — most importantly — find an interesting angle, will definitely get attention. And, don’t be afraid to pitch your own ideas, too. A writer who can source their own, fresh stories is a total gem.