The fashion industry is a hungry beast and beyond its glossy facade are people who work tirelessly behind the scenes. But what is it like to be in the thick of it as an editor for a top international publication in one of the major fashion capitals in the world?
Kiwi Olivia Fleming is doing just that. She’s the Senior Features Editor for Bazaar.com and has been based in New York for the better part of ten years.
Sonia Sly spoke to Olivia for an episode of My Heels Are Killing Me to find out about working in NYC and her label Olivia Kane Jewellery.
The highs and lows of a New York dream
“[Living in New York] is a dream many young people have [and] when I graduated [from] college I didn’t want to follow the pack,” she says of her other friends who were doing their OE’s to the UK.
“The women that I work with are amazing [and] I constantly pinch myself,” says Fleming talking about the role she’s been in for the past two years.
As part of her job, Olivia is a regular attendee at New York Fashion Week. But recently, there has been a shift in mood at the shows with big-name designers choosing not to put their collections on the runway.
Fleming says the excitement and spectacle of Fashion Week has faded.
“It’s becoming less and less relevant as the internet has enabled people to access images straight away, [so] no-one really cares anymore [and] it’s really expensive…there’s this air of, why do we do this?” she says.
As an editor for a top publication, Fleming has the opportunity to go one step further - touching the clothes and looking with an even closer eye during press appointments. There she can talk to the designers and experience the collections more intimately.
The senior editor works with a team of 12 in what she calls ‘a supportive environment surrounded by talented and smart people'.
But that hasn’t always been the case.
Fleming’s fashion career started at New Zealand’s Fashion Quarterly, run by Bauer Media (formerly ACP), where she was based in the publication’s New York office.
That is, until the recession hit in 2008. The office folded and Fleming made a move to Australia where she worked for a women’s magazine.
But although she loved the job she was waiting for the right opportunity to return to New York, which she did in 2011.
On her return, starting from the bottom was the only way to get back into the industry. She picked up an internship at a fashion publication which opened her eyes to a world she wasn’t prepared for.
“I saw a very ugly side to the fashion industry that I had no interest in taking part of [and] it [was] everything you can imagine from The Devil Wears Prada,” she says.
Fleming had become accustomed to a work culture in the Australian and New Zealand fashion industry that was fun, creative and collaborative.
“I moved to New York [and] it was a lot more cutthroat [with] clear hierarchical divisions in terms of treatment of interns.”
She wasn’t treated badly herself but found the environment toxic.
“I witnessed some really horrible things and decided two weeks later that I never wanted to work in [New York] as a stylist.”
She quit the role two weeks later, despite describing it as a role that “a million girls would kill for”.
She says staying true to herself was more important, and it turns out that it was the right decision.
She left to study journalism and returned again to New York. Today, you’ll find her covering stories across lifestyle and fashion including this fascinating story about female filmmakers reinventing adult cinema.
Not one to sit around, she also runs a line of fine, cruelty-free jewellery under the label Olivia Kane Jewellery.
Launched in 2015, the label produces one of a kind precious and semi-precious stones, using recycled 14K rose gold, 14K yellow gold and sterling silver, all handmade in Brooklyn, New York.
“I don’t want to contribute to any more mining in the world", Fleming says.
“In New York, there’s a fabulous jewellery district where there are the most incredible artisans...it’s really magical.”
Fleming’s jewellery is made in the same district and she works closely with a metalsmith who translates her ideas.
One of the key drivers that propelled her to start the label wasn’t just her love of jewellery, but also access to contacts - getting exposure is half the battle for new labels entering a competitive market.
“When I launched brand the thing that I kept finding was people asking how do I get press [and] how do I get into retailers...those were two things that I had access to,” she says.
Listen to the podcast to find out Olivia's secret to balancing her jewellery line with journalism, writing about her search for the perfect wedding dress and the lowdown on New York Fashion Week and the importance of being surrounded by inspiring women.