I’m Robin Givhan and this is how I made it.
When I’ve had people come to me and ask me about, “how do you become a fashion writer? How do you get your foot in the door?” And they’ll often talk about how they’re talking fashion merchandising classes and fashion this class and fashion that class. I would say that’s great. That’s like the whip cream and the cherry on the banana split. But your reporting ability and your writing ability, that’s the substance.
I mean, when I started, I knew nothing about this industry. Everything that I know about this industry came from reporting.
The fashion editor for the Washington Post moved on and everyone in the industry was talking about who’s going to be the new fashion editor at the Post. And a very good friend of mine, who I have worked with for a while, photographers based in New York casually asked me if I had raised my hand for the job. I said, “No, no, no. I’m sure they want some industry insider.” She said, “Oh, I think you should apply. It would really be a good exercise.”
After the second interview in Washington, I have then gone with my parents to visit my grandmother, who lived in Mississippi at that time. The land of no cell phones, no voice mail, I was completely incommunicado.
So when I came back, there were like three messages on my voicemail from the Washington Post with the last one from the editor going, “Where are you?”
So when I called her back, it was great. I was thrilled. It was a no-brainer. I was like, “Yeah, of course, I want the job.” I think I found my voice as a fashion writer and I found a sensibility that I think really spoke to, specifically to the Washington audience, but I think also to a broader audience that is not necessarily the same kind of person who’s going to be reading Vogue magazine.
In 2006, I was sitting in my little cubby hole of an office in New York, because I was working out of the New York office at that point when I found out that I had won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.
And I know any journalist, initially they’re going to lie to you and say, “I never think about this,” but in the darkest recesses of their little sort of reptilian brain, there’s this little tiny spot where they’re going, “Oh, wouldn’t that be cool?”
When I found out, I was just completely floored. Probably one of the most gratifying things after winning was I got such an outpouring of support from the industry, mostly women because with newspapers, it’s mostly been women who’ve covered the fashion industry. Several of that, I’m sad that they were so thrilled and felt that it had elevated them in the eyes of their own newsroom because so often, fashion, even though it’s a billion-dollar industry, it’s still seen as this kind of women’s concern.
My success is a combination of being really blessed and really lucky and working really, really hard. I always think that I am one of those people. I just keep my head down and work. And any of the other stuff, you know it’s fun but that’s not what I do.
The most exciting thing about my job is discovering the great new story. I mean that’s always it, whether it’s a new designer, a new business, a new trend, a new scandal. I mean, it’s always discovering the great story to tell.
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