Brown Fashion Week got off to a flying start with a virtual interview with former InStyle editor Laura Brown. Known for her profiles of Michelle Obama, Janet Jackson and Hillary Clinton, Brown spent the hour giving students advice on navigating the world of journalism and the fashion industry.
The event kicked off [email protected]’s Fashion Week, which will continue with 18 more talks and conclude with a runway show on March 17 featuring the work of more than 30 student designers. Speakers in recent years have included Gwyneth Paltrow, Kenneth Cole and Olivier Rousteing.
The virtual event hosted over 300 attendees from Brown, RISD and Providence College. It began with an introduction by [email protected] Presidents Emma Rosenkranz ’23, Sydney Taub ’22 and Celia Heath ’22, and was followed by an interview, Q&A and a private post- event for [email protected] members.
Brown was interviewed by RISD senior Emma Noel, who started the conversation with a discussion of Brown’s rise in the world of fashion media. Brown opened up about her upbringing in Australia and the leap she made moving to London on a whim to pursue her interests.
“I really mythologized the magazines. I saw how they could make you dream,” she said. Magazines were “the only thing you had access to back then, and the images were so powerful”.
Eventually, Brown rose through the ranks and was able to create her own images, spending five years as editor-in-chief of InStyle. In this role, she conceptualized the magazine viral coverage of the first Native American Cabinet Secretary, Deb Haaland.
Before taking over InStyle, Brown made a name for herself as the editor of fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. There, she says, her interview style was greatly influenced by the profile she wrote about Janet Jackson — the first interview Jackson did after the death of her brother Michael Jackson.
“We had never met and I couldn’t believe (Janet) trusted me,” Brown said. “(The interview) is a very long game and, in the end, people will give you more if they feel a connection with you, if they also feel like you are a person.”
“What made me put my shoulders in the fashion is that I realized it wasn’t that smart,” Brown continued, lowering his voice to a stage whisper. “There are bright and talented people who are very smart, but a lot of behavior is not smart. Like, ‘I just spent all my rent on this jacket so someone might think I’m relevant tomorrow’ – that’s not smart.
Brown explained how she avoided these standards in the fashion industry by “not putting a lot of stock in this bad fashion movie behavior.” In fact, according to Brown, the best way to succeed in the industry is to avoid molding yourself to your common archetypes.
“You have to be enthusiastic and know that your personality is enough,” Brown said. “There’s nothing cooler than enthusiasm in my book because you bring people with you.”
“(She was) so very and obviously herself,” Rosenkranz told the Herald. “It was pretty inspiring that you could speak your mind and still hold some of the highest positions in (fashion media).”
Although not yet officially announced, Rosenkranz also wrote in a message to the Herald that two major fashion industry personalities will speak later on the show: Beverly Johnson, the first black woman to grace the cover of Vogue , and Diane von Furstenberg, the eminent Belgian designer of her eponymous brand. Rosenkranz added that the biggest name to crown the speaker series has yet to be revealed.