This week we speak to the incredibly talented James Anderson, who has over the years written for such illustrious publications as Smash Hits, The Face, Sleaze Nation and i-D Magazine. He’s also an Associate Lecturer in Fashion Journalism at Central Saint Martins and UCA.
How did you get your start in fashion writing?
Originally, I wrote about music, for magazines in the 90s such as SKY, Smash Hits, Top of the Pops, The Face… then I started to get a bit bored with that and around the early Noughties I shifted more towards writing about style and fashion – subjects which had interested me since childhood – for magazine or newspapers such as i-D, Sleazenation, Arena Homme Plus and The Independent and for some of the very early-era online magazines and retail sites…
Your personal style icons?
John Lydon (in the 1970s). The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Peter Berlin. Missy Elliot. David Bowie. Andy Warhol. Rupert Bear. Quentin Crisp. Poly Styrene. Michael Costiff. The Invisible Man. Leigh Bowery. Debbie Harry. Whippets. Greyhounds. Great Danes. Jordan (Pamela Rooke). Sylvester. Klaus Nomi. Julie Verhoven. Divine. David Hoyle. Pete Burns. LL Cool J (in the 1980s). Jean Michel Basquait, to name a few.
What are the difficulties involved with being a freelance writer?
Sometimes you’re just not in the mood to write…. but you have to force yourself to do it, regardless, as it’s your job and if you don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for you. It can get boring sometimes if you are working from home – or in my case, I get really easily distracted and end up watching trashy daytime TV programmes like Homes Under the Hammer when I should be working. You have to be really organised, constantly thinking ahead, looking for new stories, people and places to write about. And, on a practical level, you have to be totally hard-faced about money and about chasing up invoices, as some publishing companies – particularly in the UK – will try to delay paying you for as long as possible.
What are the pleasures?
You get to meet lots of interesting and talented people and find out what inspires them and makes them tick. You can to some extent set your own agenda, ie, you don’t necessarily have to work a straightforward 9 – 5 routine. There’s potentially a lot of variety in terms of what you are writing about – it changes all the time. You get sent a few nice freebies sometimes and invited to kooky parties and launch events or sent on trips to different parts of the world. Also, I guess it is quite a ‘thing’ to know that you are trusted enough to write something and for it to be published and then read by people all over the place who hopefully might in some way find it interesting or informative.
How has social media changed fashion writing?
I would say it has created a need for speed… people want information fast and they want it non-stop. And it has encouraged a hunger for popularity and ‘likes’. But fast and popular and non-stop doesn’t automatically mean something is actually good…
The most important quality needed to make a career out of writing?
First and foremost – to be able to write in a technically excellent way as well as with flair and creativity. Also a constant sense of curiosity and a love of researching and finding out about things. You need to be interested in what is going on now, and next, and what has gone on in the past, and you need to constantly devour information from all kinds of different sources. Basically, you need to be nosey! You need to be really disciplined about writing – as you always have to work to deadlines – and you need to be very self-motivated, persistent and determined. It is not necessarily an easy career, but it can be enjoyable and fun.
You can read more of James Anderson’s work on i-D Magazine