Interview With An Editor: Laura Brown, Editor In Chief Of InStyle Magazine
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Laura Brown is possibly the coolest and best-known magazine editor in the world right now. And yes, that’s including Anna Wintour. The hilarious, social media-savvy, Australian-born Editor-in-Chief of US Instyle has 302,000 Instagram followers, all of whom eagerly await her next cover announcement, celebrity video, or selfie with a kangaroo.
Prior to InStyle, Brown worked at a number of revered fashion titles, but spent the majority of her career at Harper’s BAZAAR, where she worked as editor for over a decade, producing iconic covers like Rihanna wearing a gold swimsuit and reclining in a shark’s mouth. Since moving to InStyle, she has applied her trademark tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and intuition for all things zeitgeist-y to every single cover, from placing a goddess-like Serena Williams on the front of the magazine’s ‘Badass Women’ issue, to having late-night hero Stephen Colbert pose in a playful pin-up shoot for a subscriber cover.
Named one of fashion's 500 most influential figures by Business of Fashion and admired by readers and cover stars alike, New York-based Brown is widely hailed as a great innovator who is willing to relate to her audience on a level her predecessors traditionally have not.
This writer can attest to this fact – having once been overwhelmed by Brown’s ability to make fashion fun and gain respect without trading on superiority or exclusionary language, I slid into Brown’s Instagram DMs to shower her with admiration. Her genuinely chuffed (almost immediate) response? “Aw mate!!! Thank you so much!”.
Forget the haughty, sunglassed magazine editors of years past – Brown is a new breed of fashion leader. And her down-to-earth approach is selling magazines (InStyle’s print readership is around the 7 million mark). To get to the crux of what’s made her career trajectory so impressive, we asked the guru herself to answer some probing questions. Keep reading for life on Laura Brown’s terms.
What was your first job in the magazine industry and what did it teach you?
My first job in the magazine industry was an assistant, obviously. I learned to get the bagel, and that’s a metaphor “just get the bagel.” And the more you get the bagel, the more you’re around people who want the bagel and you have more… intimacy, sounds weird. But you have more familiarity with people, so I’d say start from the ground up. And then I started actually working in production chasing people to make their deadlines, that was fun—not.
What's the one piece of career advice that's helped you the most?
I would say it’s a variation of don’t take no for an answer. Because, ‘don’t take no for an answer’ can turn you into a stalker, so don’t do that. But if there’s a way to think around something or make something more persuasive or make something more appealing to people, go for it. Don’t be passive.
What's a professional quality that didn't come naturally for you?
Shutting up in interviews. A good interview comes from a great conversation, but I realized that it doesn’t have to be me doing all the talking.
If you can, sum up your approach to the workplace in a sentence.
Underthink it. That is my life philosophy, completely.
What's been you career highlight?
I’d say two things. Being made Editor in Chief of InStyle Magazine. And two, having all access to Australian marsupials via the fact I am Editor in Chief of InStyle Magazine and have a decent social media following. So somewhere between fashion and koalas.
What's something you feel is lacking in today's media industry?
I think what is lacking is a sense of inventiveness. I think people are very afraid right now of what they see to be challenges to print, but we need to have an imagination. We need to be clever and reactive. And I’m sort of surprised that it seems to be less demonstrated then it used to be. We work very hard and try very hard and do a lot over here. And I wish that for everyone.
What's one thing you have refused to compromise on?
Being decent. Being decent to people and fair to people. I’m not about getting a jabby quote when you’re walking out of the room. If you build relationships with people, you develop a sense of equity and then they show up for you. Be nice, be clever, and be decent.
In an ever-changing industry, what are the key challenges you face daily and how do you handle them?
Oh god, waking up? There’s a very performative element to be Editor in Chief. You are a host as much as you are an editor. It’s balancing and maintaining my own energies, also motivating your staff and being pleasant and expecting to get the job done. But the great parts are having ownership of your work and seeing it go out into the world, and that is the most gratifying thing of all.