Hayley Phelan, Fashion Features Editor, Lucky Magazine
New York City
Interview by Laura Piety
A Rverie Conversation with Hayley Phelan, Fashion Features Editor of Lucky Magazine.
Lucky Magazine was founded in 2000 and immediately positioned itself as a pioneering print publication specifically focused on shopping. Indeed, their editorial treatment of content and products foreshadowed many of the online platforms that are seamlessly integrated into today's consumer psyche.
Fast forward to this summer, and the magazine is continuing to make waves, grabbing headlines for strategically jumping into the content and commerce ring in a more concrete manner. In August their parent company, Condé Nast, cemented a joint, spin-off venture between Lucky and the Santa Monica-based tech company BeachMint, adding further street cred to LA's Silicon Beach community. The Lucky Group, an independent entity in itself, will find its foundations in Josh Berman's BeachMint technology and Lucky's editorial voice, with a combined e-commerce destination to be rolled out in 2015.
While Anna Wintour will retain an advisory role, Eva Chen, the magazine's EIC (who has kickstarted Lucky's rebrand and represents a new generation of socially savvy, intelligent editors on the block) will become Chief Creative Officer of the Group. The magazine will continue to be published and keep their current readers a priority, rather than awkwardly funneling them to the new platform: "I don’t want her to be suddenly like, ‘Whoa, this is a magalog,’ or ‘Whoa, I’m being hit over the head to check out this shopping destination,"* Chen has been quoted in The New York Times as saying. However, they're undoubtedly set to capitalize on the magazine's unique viewpoint, pleasing both advertisers and customers as they provide a seamless journey through all chapters of the consumer experience.
Amidst this sea change we interviewed Hayley Phelan, Lucky's Fashion Features Editor about her foray into writing, climbing up the career ladder, and how instagram is a go-to inspiration for pieces.
Even as the commerce and content landscape continues to shift at rapid pace, it's important to note, as Hayley's interview suggests, that the core career tenets of getting experience, working hard and being forward-thinking will never change.
When did you first know you wanted to work in the fashion industry?
It didn’t happen in one moment—it was a gradual realization. My mother was, and still is, the most stylish woman I know—she has an innate sense for fashion and design. (I really don’t know how she does it—at 62, she still discovers up-and-coming brands and trends before I do). So, anyway, I grew up surrounded by that and it was hard not to be inspired by her. I was always interested in style even when I was a die-hard tomboy. In high school I actually wanted to become a fashion designer. Then in college I wanted to become a journalist and writer, though not specifically for fashion. But I happened to take an internship at Fashionista.com when I was in college and just fell in love with the industry. It combines both of my passions.
Can you talk about how you worked your way up the career ladder to land at Lucky?
I interned all throughout college—first at Nylon, then a small designer label, and then Fashionista. I was definitely drawn to working with smaller companies that would actually let me get my hands dirty. I guess that would be my one piece of advice - apply for internships/entry level jobs at the big titles if that is your thing, but don't rule out the smaller, more humble places either. The experience you’ll gain will be invaluable, even if no one you know has heard of the company.
After Fashionista, I graduated college and took a part-time job as Assistant Editor at StyleList. I enjoyed my time there but the position was part-time and remote so when my former boss at Fashionista (who is still one of my closest friends) told me about an open position at Teen Vogue, I jumped at the opportunity. I was ecstatic when I got the job.
Teen Vogue taught me a lot - and not just about writing and editing. It was also my first taste of full time office life and navigating professional relationships.
(It’s also where I first met my now-boss Eva Chen!). After a year and a half at Teen Vogue, I became News Editor, and then Senior Editor, at Fashionista. That’s where I learned the importance of multi-tasking, and writing and editing quickly. When I heard that Eva was taking over as EIC at Lucky, I knew I wanted to come on board. I reached out to her and the rest, as they say, is history.
What were the highs and lows of that journey?
The highs have definitely been the relationships—getting to learn from smart, ambitious women (and my former bosses) Britt Aboutaleb, Leah Chernikoff and Eva Chen—and the friendships I’ve built along the way. There hasn't been too many terrible lows but I do remember, when I first started out, being really intimidated by the industry. It sucked having to go to report on parties and not know anyone! Everyone seems like they know everyone and are 30 times cooler than you are.
But now I’m grateful for those situations—they taught me how to feel comfortable and confident even if I don’t know a soul.
What is your vision for the the Fashion Features department at Lucky?
Lucky is the magazine about shopping so the features sections is all about the coolest brands, products and people that inspire our wardrobes. I'm particularly passionate about showcasing women entrepreneurs and designers who are changing the industry with innovative apps, websites, and clothing lines.
Can you give us an inside look at process of commissioning and writing articles for the magazine?
The beginning of an article usually starts in my office, where our senior writers and I brainstorm ideas for what we'd like to see in the magazine. We'll get ideas from anywhere - Instagram, showroom appointments, conversations with friends and co workers. The I'll present the ideas to Eva who will approve them or think of ways to improve them.
She often has an idea for a way to approach the story that sharpens it just a little bit more. From there I'll assign to one of our writers or a freelancer (or myself).
How would you describe creativity and the power of words?
This is a hard question! It's not something that I think can really be described. Creativity is all about letting your mind go free, get inspired-- and words are about communicating that nebulous idea in the most precise and economical way possible.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It definitely depends on where we are in an issue-- just getting started or finishing up! Depending on that it might include editing, writing, market appointments, interviews, run-thrus in the fashion closet (where we select items to show on page), meetings in the art departments... And lots and lots of emails!
Style or fashion? And how do you define the two?
Fashion is what you wear and style is HOW you wear it. Both have the power to inspire me daily.
New designers to look out for over the next year?
Marques Almeida, Rosie Assoulin, Tome, Trademark, Nanushka.
What’s on your wish list for A/W?
Snakeskin booties, shearling jacket, teddy bear sweatshirt, colorful faux fur coat, classic Mac coat.
Advice for aspiring writers?
Work hard, write more, and be nice to your peers and mentors. If you're just starting out accept that you have a lot to learn, don't bristle under criticism or edits - - learn from it.
It takes time but don't get discouraged - if you keep at it, you'll get to where you want to be eventually.
For more information visit http://www.luckymag.com
Images courtesy of Lucky