Meet Lisa Cohen, the Senior Fashion Editor of GQ magazine for the past 25 years. She was more interested in her job at a menswear store than her classes, and it turned out quite well! On a more personal note, my Aunt Lisa has amazing style and always looks perfectly put together – in an effortless way. Despite the fact that I’ve never seen her in a dress in twenty one years, her fabulous variation of black or white sequin pants and/or top make up for that. She has some great advice for all of us who are dying to work in that Conde Nast building one day…
How does a fashion editor fit into the process of creating a fashion spread?
At GQ, there would be no fashion pages without the fashion editors. We are responsible for everything from the original concept of the shoot, to pulling the clothing, to the styling of the clothing in the office and then finally to the actual photography shoot… where our editors are also the stylists on the shoot. At GQ, not one fashion page is done without a fashion editor from our team overseeing the entire process from beginning to end.
What did you study in college and did you know you wanted to work in fashion?
I actually studied business administration in college but I worked at a men’s clothing store in D.C. during college and found I had much more interest in my job than my studies. I loved menswear and felt I had a natural feel for it. It was back in the 70’s and at work we were all obsessed with GQ. It was my dream back then to eventually work for the magazine. Who knew that would or could actually happen?
Describe a typical day of work.
At the magazine, our day may consist of any or all of the following. We are either in “planning meetings” where we actually come up with each and every fashion story. Once the plan for each month is planned out, it is then the job of the fashion editors to hit the market and showrooms to find all the clothing that will make the story come to life. After a team of editors does the market work, we set up a “runthru.” A runthru is when we style the looks and try them on a model to see how we like each look. You never really know how it will look from the hanger, so we like to see it on before we actually commit to it for the shoot. The final step is the shoot day where an editor is present to style each look on set. So every day is different but it usually revolves around one aspect mentioned. Also, at the beginning of each new season, we go to the fashion shows and meet with many designers to discuss the trends of the season and from those trends, come our story ideas.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the creativity and I love being a part of something that begins as blank pages and ends up chock full of beautiful pictures. I also love that we work as a team, as the creative process is always better when it is a collaboration. My team has been together a long time and you can really only love your job when you enjoy the people you work with and are inspired by them.
How would you describe your personal style?
As many people in the menswear end of fashion, I am classic with a twist. I am not an overly trendy dresser. I know what works for me and I stick to it. Not one to jump on every fad. I could wear jeans and khakis every day to work. Although I am pretty classic, I will do something that makes the look my own. I like everything shrunken and really fitted.
My fashion icon??
Probably Jackie O, Lauren Hutton, Grace Kelly, Jane Birkin…. that kind of woman. Strong, confident and elegant at the same time.
My favorite article of clothing?
Impossible to limit to one…my faves would be…the perfect blue jean, shrunken leather Prada motorcycle leather jkt, old Helmut Lang fitted jean jacket, white j crew jeans, anything military, my beat up Chanel flats…I think every great wardrobe has to be built on the perfect classic pieces and you build from there.
What did you wear in college and high school?
I had the same style even in high school. I guess I was a little preppier back then. When I was in college, Frye boots were the thing to own and I wore them everyday. Wish I still had them. I never dressed up for school. Not a “dress up” kind of girl…. which is why menswear works for me.
I think everyone needs to find their look and stick with it. Not to say you can’t experiment with new ideas, but wear what works for you. Don’t feel like you have to jump on every trend every season. Ultimately, if you feel good in something, you will wear it well. Nothing worse than being self-conscious. Confidence goes a long way when pulling off a look.
Tips for anyone looking to break into the fashion industry?
Well, if you are working for this newspaper, that is an excellent start. The next step is getting a summer internship either with a magazine, a fashion PR company, or work for a designer. Internships are invaluable for breaking into the business and giving you a great glimpse of the fashion world. It is not always as glamorous as it may appear. It is often very hard work and very long hours. But once you get your foot in the door, work hard, have a good attitude and don’t complain. You only have one chance to prove yourself.