On Tuesday 27th May 2014 Magdalen Auditorium was brimming full of Oxford's most fashion conscious students, as Oxford Women in Business welcomed Serena Hood, Executive Fashion Editor at British Vogue to speak.
Knowledge is key
Despite always loving fashion, Serena began her talk by reassuring the room that it only dawned on her during her final year studying History of Art at the University of Georgetown that it was a career in this industry that she wanted to pursue. After securing a coveted internship at Elle magazine, Serena began to apply for jobs in New York City. With regards to applications, Serena stressed that focus is key to demonstrate that you understand how the industry works, and with this in mind she applied for an internship in merchandising at Marc Jacobs.
Commit in order to impress
Serena stressed dedication as a key factor to success, both sharing her belief that you should be the first to arrive and the last to leave in your office, and advising that it is important to stay in a position for at least a year to demonstrate that you are willing to dedicate yourself even if you know that you are not in your dream position. For this reason, Serena advised the audience to "make yourself indispensable and do the best job in whatever is handed to you – making coffee creates opportunities."
Take every opportunity (and ask for them if they don't arise)
Describing her following job as Assistant Merchandiser at Marc Jacobs, Serena stressed the importance of knowing what you want to achieve within a position; after a year of hard work she asked for progression and was rewarded with the role of Merchandiser. Her career then took her to American Vogue, landing the coveted role as Fashion Assistant, a position which she describes as an 'education in fashion.' It was her prior role at Marc Jacobs that she really appreciates, however, stressing that you need all the experience you can get before working at somewhere as fast-paced and demanding as Vogue.
Don't be afraid to take risks
After a few successful years at Vogue including a promotion to Accessories Editor, Serena decided it was time to move across the Atlantic. Despite having no job secured and no home, she took the plunge and moved to London in summer 2010, a decision which she called the start of a 'new chapter.' Serena admits finding it much harder than she expected to find a job that suited her back in London: despite impressing the Managing Editor at British Vogue at the time, the only positions available were as assistants, something which Serena felt she had outgrown during her years in the US.
Network, network, network
Serena therefore realised that the key to success was to make herself known in a country where she had no contacts. Every mealtime is an opportunity: in her first week at Armani after gaining the position of Press Manager, Serena recalls meeting someone from every title Armani invested in to begin to build up her network of contacts once more. While Serena enjoyed this post, she identifies helping on an Armani shoot for Rihanna as the moment that she realised that she was missing the creative role she had held in America.
Where is she now?
After making this realisation, Serena gained the position of Executive Fashion Editor at British Vogue, a role which merges editorial and brand awareness, two of the skills she has developed throughout her career in fashion. Discussing her current role, the two aspects which Serena really stresses are teamwork and problem-solving. As Executive Fashion Editor it is her responsibility to ensure that the brands advertising in British Vogue are being accurately represented throughout the publication, something which requires a lot of collaboration with every department, from features to food. However, Serena is keen to stress that one of the beauties of working at a publication like British Vogue is that, while important, advertisers do not dictate content.
Serena ended the talk with a sneak-peak of A/W 2014 trends, insider knowledge which I'm sure will be treasured by the lucky members of the audience.
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St Hilda's College