Jessica Vince is without a doubt one of the loveliest women working in fashion. I’ve known her for a few years and always love bumping into her at events around London. She was made Digital Editor at Grazia Daily four years ago, at the age of 26, and somehow manages to juggle an insane workload and make it look easy. I asked Jessica if she would share her career story for the #My9to5 series, and am so happy she found time to take part.
Fashion – like many industries – can be deeply nepotistic, but Jess goes to show it is possible to work your way up from the bottom. She started out covering egg and spoon races for her local newspaper and now jets around the world interviewing the A-list!
How did you get your start in the magazine industry?
I’ve always absolutely loved writing. It’s my main passion in life, so I studied English Literature at University. After I graduated I wanted to have a bit of an adventure, so my boyfriend and I decided to drive to Africa. We went from England and drove through Europe, Morocco, the Sahara desert and all the way down to Ghana. It took us nine months in total.
When we returned home I approached my local newspaper with the story – sort of like, “a local girl goes off on a trek”. They were interested in the story and I told them that I wanted to write it. Amazingly they said yes, although I think they were quite dubious at first, and it turned into this big spread in the newspaper which I was crazy-excited about.
After publishing my article they asked if I wanted to work there for three months, because they were down a member of staff. So I went in and got a load of writing experience, covering cats stuck up trees, couples who’d been together for 90 years and all of the local dramas. I’d even report on egg and spoon races!
When did you make the leap into fashion?
I’d always loved fashion magazines, so I contacted as many titles as I could with links to everything I’d written at the newspaper, and eventually Glamour offered me work experience on their features desk. I worked my socks off in the month that I was there – making tea every five minutes and going out to get the team toast for breakfast – and at the end of the month they asked me to stay on and do a six-month features internship. Often it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
The six-month internship gave me the opportunity to write the You, You, You section, which is about 15 pages of lifestyle content at the front of the magazine, and I learnt so much from that experience.
Is that how you came to Grazia’s attention?
Well – this was around October 2008 – and Grazia had just launched their new website. They contacted me and I went in to help with bits and bobs. It was a very small website with no Facebook page or any social media, so it was a great learning curb. They’d say, “this week we’re sending you on a Photoshop course”. And a month later it would be, “now we’re going to teach you how to use YouTube”.
So slowly but surely I started to pick up all the key skills, and I was really passionate about everything I was learning. I never actually intended to get into digital, but I guess I have a natural affinity for it. Luckily it all added up and I was made Digital Editor of Grazia Daily when I was 26.
What’s your typical day like at Grazia?
There’s a slight structure, but obviously every day is different because you never know when Kim Kardashian is going to cut her hair or a big news story is about to break. I wake up fairly early, and immediately go through all of the news that broke overnight in the US. I check various sources, including Twitter, Facebook, Feedly, email alerts and Instagram.
Once I’m up-to-date with everything I draw up a list of stories that we need to cover. If there’s a super urgent breaking news story – for example, they’ve just named the new designer at Gucci – I’ll write and publish that there and then from home. That’s the joy of digital, you can literally do it wherever. Then I’ll start commissioning out stories to the team.
You must have to be seriously organised all the time then…
I have a flat plan for the website, and I’m quite meticulous about it. We try to post a new story every 30 minutes, which is pretty intense, so I’ll make a list of everything we’re going to cover and as soon as the articles are live I update the flat plan with a link to the piece. Then our social media girls go in and share everything that’s new. You have to be on your toes all the time. I’m used to the fast paced element of the job now, and I actually like the adrenaline rush that comes with it, so I don’t really find it difficult anymore.
What’s the coolest thing about the job?
Well all my friends are like, “oh my god, you get a constant supply of lipsticks”. But, honestly, I really don’t need any more lipstick. Obviously freebies are nice, but getting to meet and interview people who I really respect and admire is the biggest perk for me. I absolutely love Alexa Chung, and I’ve probably interviewed her about 20 times now. But I still get so excited every time, because she’s so lovely. Interviewing Kate Moss and Karl Lagerfeld were big career highlights for me too.
What’s the biggest story you’ve covered?
The Royal Wedding was an interesting one. Everyone was in the office and we had about five TVs on and did a live blog throughout the day. And, of course, when Kate Middleton gave birth. I was at my computer in the office, watching the TV screen where they just focused on that door to the Lindo Wing. We had the story all lined-up and ready to go, so the anticipation was killing me. When they finally stepped out it all exploded. We got the image, we could go live and suddenly everything went wild. “QUICK, TWEET IT, FACEBOOK IT, PUT IT ON GOOGLE+!”
Is Kate Middleton a big traffic driver for Grazia?
There hasn’t been as much interest in her second pregnancy. But when Kate was newly engaged, just married or pregnant with Prince George anything we published about her would immediately become the top story on the website. We have a Kate lookbook, with every single outfit she’s worn, and that is still one of the website’s top performers. But I have definitely noticed a wane in interest over the last year.
Those trends come and go though. For a while Cara Delevingne brought a massive spike in traffic any time we wrote about her, but that has also died down. So you have to be incredibly responsive and constantly think about who the new ‘It’ person is going to be.
How to you unwind after a long day?
I try and switch off as much as possible and not look at a screen – even if it’s just 10 minutes of Headspace. And I sleep quite easily, which has been my saving grace in this job. Sleep is so important! There have been times where I’ve been doing all-nighters for the Oscars in the middle of fashion week and have started feeling dizzy and unfocused. So a good night’s sleep is the most important thing.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
It’s really helpful to have some sort of mentor in your industry who you can look up to and go to for advice. An unofficial mentor of mine is Angela Buttolph, who was the web editor before me. It’s so simple, but she always said, “go for everything”. Always say yes, always give it a go. At the beginning I used to get really nervous about doing red carpet or interviewing celebrities, but she pushed me to do things outside my comfort zone and taught me how important it is to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Because the more you practise the easier it becomes.
What’s next for you?
In October I’ll have been at Grazia for 7 years. It’s been absolutely amazing, and I’ve picked up all these great skills and worked with an incredible team. But I feel like I’ve done as much as I can on Grazia Daily now, and for a long time I’ve had a dream of setting up my own website. So I decided to take the risk and launch my own site, Dressr. It won’t be live until the end of the summer, after I’ve left Grazia, but it will focus on the best style seen on Instagram. We’re living in an era where you can do a bit of everything and anything – and we the have the ability to self-publish – so it’s a really exciting time!
All photos courtesy of Jessica Vince