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(Instep, The News)

Does it pay to be a fashion journalist? Well, depends on what you want to be paid in!

Are you looking for a fat paycheck every month? You’re likelier to get rich digging graves!

Are you looking for career growth? Given that there are only a handful of dailies and (credible) glossies catering exclusively to fashion in Pakistan – most of their editors being the owners which kind of kills any credibility you’d want associated with your name – the odds of your being promoted in any are low. Better not to hold your breath!

Are you looking for respect? Uh…let me phrase this kindly: the intellectual snobs will make you feel two inches tall and the people you work with will prefer to regard you as part of the furniture. They’ll notice you when you have some clout but that clout will take years to come by.

Peace of mind? Get real…you’d find more peace in a roost of squabbling chickens!

“Does it pay to be a fashion journalist?” so many young kids drop this question in my inbox. Most of them girls, they want to know how they can get into the profession and what to expect from it. Most of them equate it to a quick pass to a fashion show, a life so glamorous. I hope I haven’t scared them off with my quips. It isn’t so bad…being a fashion journalist does have its benefits as long as you can fit the following criteria:

Once you’ve established the basics – reasonable control on the English language and of course basic knowledge of fashion – the first thing you need is a thick skin. Grow it if you must. You’ll need the extra buff to insulate you from the brainiacs who’ll think you’ve absolutely wasted your life indulging in a frivolity. They’ll keep throwing social service and philanthropy in your face, rubbing it with the World Food Program for Underprivileged Children while you write about spending thousands on the perfect outfit for your sister’s wedding. Sigh! It’ll take you a decade to convince them that you have a serious job, even if it does entail documenting hemlines and hairstyles.

Ha…it’ll take you a decade if you manage to last a decade, that is. Once you register on the radar, hundreds of ‘IT’ sharks will start swimming around you on a feeding frenzy. People who’ll never admit that they need media coverage will start indulging you, trying to gently brainwash you into thinking like them, writing for them. Some will have a hypnotic influence and others will be as subtle as sledgehammer. Will you be able to resist the lure of free clothes? It’s the 101 of ethical journalism and your life will become as simple as a web of desire. If you do manage to hold on to your ethics, you’ll probably start blowing your pittance of a salary on clothes. Mentally prepare yourself for bankruptcy and warn your fathers or husbands before hand. Note: rich husbands do come in handy.

While all this happens you will have to put up with gender benders: the most manly of women and the most effeminate of men (barring a few from whom I immediately seek humble apologies). You will get used to air kissing and backstabbing, limp handshakes, loud music and the thick clouds of smoke. All journalists smoke, it comes with the package, and in fashion you’ll need to get used to all sorts. The kind that you puff out and the kind that rises from burning egos, jealousies and what not. Even if you resist puffing on it yourself, you will be living it up with chimneys. Beware your respiratory health and put the doctor’s bill on your already high monthly billing.

You’ll have to take extra care of your ears too – most people in fashion (who love to hear the sound of their own voice) talk a bit too much. You will run the risk of spending hours on the phone, giving monosyllabic replies to someone you called to get one small quote from. You’ll have to practice the art of cutting off: “I’m sorry I can’t hear you, we have a bad line…hello….helloooo” Click. It pays to have children as you’ve probably already mastered the art of blocking out undesirable noise. Note: make sure your publication’s paying your phone bill.

But suppose you do manage to master the language, grow a thick skin and build a strict wall of ethics around yourself. Suppose you do get past the thick clouds of smoke and the lure of luxury. That’s when you’ll start enjoying fashion journalism.

That’s when it’ll start paying to be a fashion journalist and that’s when you’ll be able to look down at your intellectually snooty friends and scoff at them for not knowing what Prada’s latest collection looks like! They will envy you, I kid you not, for you will be privy to next season’s trends while they’ll be following a year or two late. Everyone loves beautiful clothes and those who say otherwise lie. You, in your new glamorous skin, will be queen of fashion. No, sorry (take note never to use the world ‘queen’ in fashion, not unless you mean it as an insult) you will be the high priestess of fashion.

Ah, the joys of sartorial superiority hath no comparison and you will be privy to that feeling of euphoria.

Other than the obvious, fashion journalism will give you the luxury of having a life beyond work. It isn’t 9 to 5, it isn’t a desk job and its busy dates come and go in spurts. Come fashion week ad you will be spending your evenings at shows and your days writing about them but come summer, for instance, and things will head for sleepy hollow. Pakistan’s fashion scene is still nascent and very manageable. You’ll be able to ace at it with just a little discipline in tow.

Does it pay to be a fashion journalist? Truth be told, despite everything, it does. Especially if you’re following a dream because where there is passion, nothing else matters…certainly not career growth or salary slips. What matters is what you write and what you change, in every little way no matter how tiny your niche be.

It does pay to be a fashion journalist and this is a great time to jump onboard – whoever is interested to know – as fashion is growing in Pakistan, despite all odds and with it so can you.

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