Since starting her career at Elle magazine and working her way up the ladder to the fashion bible, Vogue, Susie Forbes has learned a thing or two about what it takes to survive (and thrive!) in the ever-changing world of print and digital media. On 25 February, she joined OxWIB for a conversation about succeeding in this fast-paced industry.
One of the first lessons Ms. Forbes learned during the early stages of her career at Elle was how to make herself stand out. She realized one couldn't achieve this simply by offering run of the mill pitches at editorial meetings. She recognized that the key ingredients to success as a young writer -- a strong work ethic and lots of flexibility -- allowed her to build relationships with her coworkers and made her stand out to her superiors. She quickly moved through the ranks at Condé Nast.
Yet her career was not without its challenges. After leaving her position as Deputy Editor of Vogue to take the helm of the newly launched Easy Living magazine in 2004, Ms. Forbes found that though the new magazine catered to a group of women that other publications often overlooked, the demand for such a magazine was not strong enough to support Easy Living. Using this as an example to OxWIB members, Ms. Forbes challenged budding entrepreneurs in the room to always ask, "There may be a gap in the market, but is there a market in the gap?" Unless there exists enough demand for the product one is offering, it does not matter how revolutionary or groundbreaking that product is.
In her latest role, however, Ms. Forbes has found a gap that does have a market. The Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design gives a new generation of students the opportunity to gain the skills and experience necessary to find success in the fashion industry. There are, of course, a number of prominent schools in the UK where students can learn the art of fashion design, but that is only a very small part of the industry. The Condé Nast College places an emphasis on honing the skills of future marketeers, PR professionals, stylists, and journalists. Ms. Forbes said that the college is purposely broad in its vision, so that students can create the path they need to succeed.
Ms. Forbes offered one final piece of advice to OxWIB members. When she took on her role as founding editor of Easy Living, she found herself wanting to emulate her boss at Vogue. Having worked for such an impressive, able person, Ms. Forbes wanted to follow her example, but she found that what worked for her former editor did not work for her. She encouraged OxWIB members not to copy those we admire, but to recognize the unique skills that each of us bring to the table and be the leaders we truly are.
Green Templeton College