On the eve of the launch of the Australians in New York Fashion Foundation, a chat with Laura Brown. For those unfamiliar with the name, Brown is the dynamo responsible for US Harpers BAZAAR's most press-worthy “cover coups” and conceptual editorials. Highlights have included a cartoon fashion spread depicting The Simpsons guided through Paris fashion salons by Linda Evangelista, Tyra Banks posing as Michelle Obama and the first interview with Katie Holmes following her wedding to Tom Cruise, with shots styled by Victoria Beckham. With Brown now also the public face of all BAZAAR's tv appearances, including a stint as guest judge on Bravo's The Fashion Show, her television franchise is building.
Describe your current position and what the job involves.
Laura Brown: I am the Features/Special Projects Director at Harper’s BAZAAR. I book our covers, conceptualise and produce our major pop culture/fashion portfolios, run the features department, coordinate our public relations strategy and represent the magazine on television.
How difficult was it to break into the New York media environment? Briefly describe the career trajectory which led you to your current position.
I left Australian Bazaar in 2001 and turned up here a week before September 11, so it was tricky. I knew precisely two people – one at The New York Post and one at Talk magazine (RIP). But that’s all you need if you’re passionate enough about succeeding here. I freelanced for a year, became senior editor at W, then to Details, then to BAZAAR four and a half years ago.
What do you know now that you dearly wish someone had told you when you first arrived in New York?
That just because everyone speaks English, it doesn’t mean they’re just like you! That, and a complete list of reliable doctors and real estate agents.
Best part about working and living in New York.
Working with people I never thought I’d meet, and seeing your ideas manifest themselves on a global stage. At the beginning of the week, never knowing how it’s going to end. And walking past the MOMA sculpture garden every morning on the way to the office.
Worst part about working and living in New York.
The size of apartments. My shoes are fighting for their life.
Where are you from in Australia and what do you most miss about it?
I’m from Sydney. Apart from friends and family – it’s the sea air from the harbour. I feel like I exhale when I get home, and take another deep breath to last me for a year!
What prompted you to participate in the launch of the foundation and how will it operate?
It’s just really gratifying for us to build a network of Australians who are really there for each other – alongside assisting the winner of the foundation prize, selfishly it’s been so encouraging to have that bedrock of people around. And anything to increase awareness of Australian design talent in New York is always worthwhile.
What advice would you give young Australians hoping to break into the New York media/fashion/beauty business?
Work hard – and keep focussed. I really believe that if you are passionate about something, and you’re good at it, you will do well. If you follow your interests, you will meet people organically that can help you achieve your goals. Don’t expect anything – there is such a culture of entitlement in New York, that kids who work hard are a breath of fresh air! Get a visa and get on a plane – I arrived here at possibly the worst time in history, and I’m still here.
Describe your typical day at Harpers Bazaar.
Wow, there really is no such thing as a typical day at BAZAAR. It feels often like we are making a film and are all producers instead of editors. The majority of time is spent coming up with concepts for stories – both written and visual – and finding the best teams to achieve them. Then it’s a matter of putting all the puzzle pieces together to achieve the most amazing result. Nothing like coming up with a crazy idea and having Karl Lagerfeld shoot it. The rest of the day depends on whether we are shooting something (I am on set often), on deadline to ship the issue, or coordinating our PR strategy. Then there’s the TV appearances! It is certainly not dull. I think my next job will be at the U.N.
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