Working at – An Interview with Leisa Barnett

I’ve always believed luck favours the prepared. The tricky thing about luck is that you have to be able to recongnize the opportunity and go for it – take a risk. Leisa went for it and ended up working for Vogue!

What got you interested in fashion?

LB – I had a pretty low-key upbringing in the North East of England, and I was the girl who got laughed at because I didn’t have “real” Adidas tracksuit bottoms for PE – I had the cheap ones off the market, with two stripes instead of three. I have always loved dressing up but it was really only when I went to university and a friend introduced me to Vogue – which I had always known about, but had never realised could be for people like me – that I started paying a lot more attention. I worked weekends at Wallis and pretty much all my wages went back into clothes. And shoes. Shoes are my weakness.

Where did you go to school?

LB – I went to a regular comprehensive in Stockon-on-Tees, where I grew up. I loved languages and always wanted to be a writer.

How did you start working at

LB – An insanely lucky break. I lived in Japan teaching English for two years after I graduated (with a BA Hons in English from the University of York), and when I came back to the UK in 2005 I moved to London, where I took an admin job to pay the rent. Every year I’d thought about entering the Vogue Talent Contest, the annual competition the magazine runs to promote young writers, but never quite done it. That year I was at a bit of a loose end and just went for it. I remain shocked that I won. That got me a month’s work experience on the magazine, who have always been amazingly supportive of me, and I did a little freelance work around the company following that until the opening at VOGUE.COM came up.

Is fashion as cut throat as everyone says it is?

LB – I can only speak from my own experience, which has been an incredibly privileged one. I don’t know about cut throat, but just like any competitive industry, it can be tough. It might look easy and glamorous, but it’s intense; everybody works very, very hard. But the upside to that is that everyone really wants to be doing it, so they’re willing to put in the hours and the effort, and that’s an inspirational environment to work in.

What is the best thing about your job?

LB – Feeling that you are literally at the cutting edge of everything that’s happening in the industry. When something major happens, we can get a story live on the website in less than 20 minutes. It is such a thrill to be the first to break news then see it picked up by all manner of other sources. Of course, that extends to supporting young designers, too; it’s great to be able to write about someone relatively new then watch their business grow season on season. I get to go to some pretty nice parties, too – but that’s a bonus, and I always remember that it’s work.

What is the biggest challenge you have at work?

LB – Time. I always need more of it. Because we turn things around so quickly, there’s no time to sit back and reflect on your achievements – before I’ve finished one thing, I’ve already got to be halfway through the next. It’s madness when show season is thrown into the mix. But a thrilling, delirious kind of madness.

What has been your best fashion moment?

LB – There have been a million. Most recently, it was meeting Stefano Pilati when he came to London for his Sunday Times Style lecture with Colin McDowell. I am a huge fan of his work at YSL and to hear him speak in public, then catch up with him over drinks afterwards – in the Connaught Bar, no less – was pretty much my dream evening. I had an “I need to pinch myself” moment in the cab on the way home.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into the fashion industry?

LB – That’s a really tricky question for me to answer as I went down such an unconventional route. The one thing I regretted not having when I started out was enough technical or historical knowledge, so a fashion course would be the obvious place to start. But above all, I’d say it’s like anything; know your stuff, put in the time, learn who is who, and be willing to start at the very bottom and work your way up. I came to VOGUE.COM first as a show coordinator, requesting catwalk tickets, then moved on to coordinating the video content across all of the CondeNet UK websites before my current job – the one I wanted – came up. If you can get your foot in the door, it’s all good, so be prepared to readjust your short term expectations for long term benefit.

Who is your fashion icon and why?

LB – I’m not sure I really have one – though somewhat predictably, I went through a phase of being obsessed with Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s when I was younger, so I guess I err towards the chic and neurotic.

Leisa’s photo was taken by Michael Gray.

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6 comments on “Working at – An Interview with Leisa Barnett

  1. Make Do Style
    January 6, 2009 at 19:19

    Loely interview!

  2. mi Fashion blog
    January 6, 2009 at 21:21

    A very inspiring interview – it’s good to see Leisa got where she is today not by nepotism but hard work and talent. Good on her!

  3. stylereader
    January 7, 2009 at 11:11

    lovely interview, well done Leisa!

  4. Stephen Tyzack
    January 7, 2009 at 12:12

    My friend Leisa!!

    Although you make me insanely jealous, it’s so refreshing to hear your story and to confirm to all those doubting it that it is indeed true!

    You have without a doubt worked very hard to get to where you are now but it is so inspiring to know that a genuine interest and passion for what you do, together with good old hard work can indeed pay off! Well done!

    Much love!! Stevie! x

  5. Chic
    January 7, 2009 at 20:20

    That was nice of Lesia to give you an opportunity for an interview. She seems to be a very humble girl.

  6. simon
    January 7, 2009 at 22:22

    It was great to hear that this ”cut throat” is a myth or perhaps used at places where people are less professional.

    My experience is that when being around a more professional level a more earthy and grown up attitude are being used. People with power in fashion in London that i met are very inspiring, earthy and polite.

    Well done Lesia and all my best. thx for a great read.

Comments are closed.