Founded in France in 1945, Elle is one of the largest and best selling fashion magazines in the world. I interviewed Elle’s fashion Director, the warm, friendly and straight-talking Anne-Marie Curtis. She has been working at the publication for over then years.
When I asked her if fashion was something she had always wanted to do, I was surprised to find that her journey to become Fashion Director didn’t start as one might think.
Curtis grew up in Essex. She attended a convent school and was cut off from all things fashion, At 15, she discovered a brochure for the Central School of St Martins and, to quote her exact words, “That was it, I just flipped.” On track to study English, she discovered that fashion was something she could do for a living. After studying Fashion at Trent Polytechnic she turned her attention to styling. From there she gained experience at smaller magazines and went on to become one of the founding members of Wallpaper magazine. In 2004, she joined Elle.
Envisioning a Devil Wears Prada-style office, I was curious to know what the average day is like working at Elle. Again, the reply wasn’t what I expected. Essentially, there is no average day. The variety of duties is immense – sometimes you’re in the office brainstorming mood boards, other days you’re being shown collections and other times you’re shooting the next editorial. Less than half the job is office-based.
When asking about where Curtis gets her inspiration from, again, it all came down to variety. The main source is, of course, the catwalk: taking the big trends and then “translating” them to the reader. Photography, art and film are all other sources of inspiration. The best shoots, she tells me, are those using influences outside the fashion world, stepping outside of the box. Talking about stepping outside the box brought me to think about the digital age and the relevance this has for fashion. It is, according to Curtis, a huge one. “Fashion is a reflection of the times we live in – we can’t just stand still and ignore the changes around us.” Nevertheless, she was firm in her belief that print magazines will continue to survive. “The magazine, she tells me, “is about the dream. It’s about having something tangible in your hands. It’s an experience. It’s magical.”
Hearing comments like this, it was impossible to miss Curtis’ enthusiasm for what she does. Here is a woman who loves her job. One can hardly be surprised; shooting celebrities, compiling a 30-page spread for Elle’s 25th anniversary and travelling to the most exotic places in the world isn’t exactly your everyday nine to five job.
I asked what advice she would give to any one interested in going into journalism more generally, including news, sport, and of course fashion. This time the answer was clear and could be summed up in one word: passion. Above all you need to be enthusiastic, willing to learn and driven in looking for as many opportunities and as much experience as you can get.
As the interview was coming to a close there was one niggling question I still wanted to ask. As someone immersed in the world of fashion, who sees the most gorgeous and beautiful clothes on a daily basis, what is her number one fashion rule? As one might imagine, her open- minded approach gave me no rigid answer; as the old saying goes, fashion has no rules. “It’s about finding your own style, feeling confident and empowered. Being playful and fun and not taking things too seriously.” Clothes are something to be loved; they are your friends, she tells me.
Thanking her again for her time, I reflected upon how my new Topshop dress was indeed a much cherished friend of mine