Speaking to Media | Isabel Slone, fashion journalist
Next up in our Speaking to Media series is Isabel Slone, a journalist and culture critic known for her diverse coverage and “spidey senses” in anticipating when something is coming back in style. Want to be ahead of the curve? She’s got you covered! Her work can be found in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Playboy, and FASHION to name a few.
As a regular on the fashion beat, we were excited to learn a little bit about her beginnings, the best way to catch her attention with a pitch and how she has grown as a journalist through her inspiring career.
You’ve enjoyed a career with some incredible highlights (and bylines!) in a highly competitive industry. What has been your favourite story to cover so far?
My favourite story I’ve ever written hands down is the cottagecore trend piece I wrote for the New York Times just before the pandemic took off in 2020. It was really a case of “right place at the right time.” All of a sudden people were locked down and the idea of looking at pictures of meadows and pretending to live in an English countryside cottage really resonated with people. When I wrote it there were less than 100 videos on TikTok tagged #cottagecore. Now it has 11 billion views. It was my first time having a story go viral on that level and it was huge for me because up until then I had seen myself as someone who writes about niche things for a small audience.
How did you get your start as a journalist?
I was the kind of kid who would beg my mom to buy me teen magazines from the grocery store checkout line and then spend hours alone in my room hunched over turning them into collages. I was obsessed with magazines because they really stimulated my creativity and were the most important portal for learning about what was happening in the world before everyone was online. When I went away to school, I did an internship at Alternatives Journal, a magazine affiliated with the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment, where I was studying. I worked there every semester until I graduated, after which I moved to Toronto and proceeded to do internships at Worn Fashion Journal, The Walrus, Hazlitt… I really put the time in. After that I started freelancing in earnest around 2013 and supplemented my income by working at a shoe store. Now it’s been almost a decade!
How would you describe your personal style, both in your writing and fashion wise?
I would say I’m quirky, imaginative and individual. I tend to stick to my interests and what appeals to me, whether it has anything to do with the zeitgeist or not.
Where do you scope out emerging fashion trends?
I honestly just have a spidey sense. My timing isn’t always exact but I can always feel when something is about to come back — usually it’s because that item inhabits an awkward place in the collective imagination and looks wrong somehow juxtaposed against everything else that is currently popular. I started getting a hankering for extremely dangerous looking pointy kitten-heeled boots last year and while I haven’t managed to buy a pair, they’ve already ramped up in popularity enormously since then.
What gets you excited about a pitch?
If somebody has read my work and pitched me on a specific theme that I often cover, I’ll at least open the email. The best is when someone is able to contextualize their client within a burgeoning movement or trend, as I’ll rarely ever write a story just about a single brand.
When it comes to keeping up with the ever-evolving new media landscape, how do you stay on top of it?
I wouldn’t say I’m on top of it! I log into TikTok like every two weeks. But I follow tons of people on Twitter who do seem clued into those types of things so I just follow their lead. I think the best way to ‘stay on top of it’ is to just be true to your own instincts… You can’t really fake it so don’t even try.
Talk to me about a time when you covered a topic outside of your comfort zone. How did that experience contribute to your growth as a journalist?
I’ve written about everything from hybrid mortgages to interviewing celebrities. Nothing is really outside my comfort zone! I will typically take any assignment an editor sends me because I’m always flattered they thought of me, plus I want the money. Ten years in, I’ve only now reached the point in my career where I can finally say no to small assignments that don’t capture my interest in the service of working on more long-term goals.