Indya Brown, The Cut's Fashion Media Maven
Brown talks the ins and outs of working in fashion.
Interview by Annie Blay
From, Interning at Elle, Burberry and Harper’s Bazaar to heading up Fashion Partnerships at New York Mag’s The Cut, Ind ya Brown is a certified fashion media Maven. Surprisingly, Indya didn't always want to work in fashion, but now she’s styling shoots, meeting with designers and helping to create fashion content at The Cut, while rocking a pair of Adam Selman cat eye sunnies.
We sat down with Indya as she dropped some gems on finding your place in the fashion industry and the lack of diversity behind the scenes.
You studied East Asian Studies, Political Science and Japanese in College. How did you go from studying that to ending up in fashion?
Inya: For so long I had been focusing on straight academics and for the longest time I thought I wanted to be a doctor or involved in the medical field so in college I thought I was going to studying biology.
But sophomore year I decided I don’t really want to do biology, so that's when I made the switch to start exploring things that I actually had an interest in and fashion was one of them because I loved trying on clothes, knowing trends and looking at what people around me were wearing. So I decided I wanted to be in fashion and the best thing was to just try a bunch of different internships, so I started at Harper’s Bazaar.
At the same time I realized, if I don’t want to have a degree in biology, I might as well study something I have an interest in. We didn’t have a fashion program at Barnard so I just picked other things I really loved learning about which was political science, East Asian Studies, and Japanese.
Having interned at places like Harper’s Bazaar, Burberry and The Cut, what is the most transferable skill that you have been able to use at a traditional print magazine, a fashion brand and now a digital platform?
I: In the fashion or beauty industry, yes you have to have talent but it comes down to being good at juggling multiple projects at the same time. Whether I was at Bazaar or Burberry or Elle, I was under a time crunch where I had to get a sweater in for a photoshoot or I had to clear a pitch in 10 minutes and present it to the boss of the company. So you have to be able to perform under pressure or at least believe that you’ll get it done, so that’s one skill.
Another is to know how to communicate with people. Communication is so key whether it’s your colleagues or publicists that you have to work with. It’s knowing what to say, what not to say. It also knowing too, who the important people in the room are and maybe I need to make a connection to them or talk to them or just show my face and introduce myself.
Having a good perception about other people’s personalities and just being an easy person to talk to and a cordial person has really paid off because you may not get along with everybody but stay on good terms as best you can and don’t write anyone off because that person that you maybe interned with, may be your boss two years from now. So definitely don’t burn any bridges.
And also too just be a hard worker. When you’re a hard worker it definitely shows. You don’t always have to be the last one leaving the office but you definitely want to show to your boss and your colleagues that you’re a hard worker because they will take note of that and they’ll remember you next time they’re working on a project or doing a review. If you really love what you’re doing, it won’t be hard to work diligently.
Working in fashion has become very glamorized, but what is the one thing that took you by surprise or that you underestimated about working in fashion.
I: I underestimated how involved you have to be. It’s definitely not just staying updated on what’s going on, on the runway. It’s knowing who the relevant celebrities are, it’s knowing important people on Instagram, what are the trends that people are talking about. You just have to stay on top of the news and what’s going on because that’s the best way to come up with creative ideas and to get stories that a lot of fashion people don’t typically write about. People want to know what’s going on all over the country, not just in New York. So I definitely underestimated how much you have to be in-the-know and how much work it takes to, carry out a project or shoot. You have to call in clothes, get the models, talent, you have to write the article sometimes, help with closing issues with print. So there's a lot that goes into the simplest spreads or articles you see online or in the magazine.
One thing I love about The Cut is the Humor and the Wit and how relatable it is. How do you translate that brand voice into fashion stories and content?
I: Well one, you have to have strong leadership and a lot of it comes down to who the reader is and what they stand for. I think sometimes magazines just want to use pretty pictures and like just things that are trendy, but at The Cut, we more so speak to our audience. Does the content follow our mission statement, does this follow our aesthetic. So you have to keep that in mind before you even start thinking about ideas. Who is The Cut reader, where does she like to shop, what do they like to do? And then we envision it from there on and the content evolves from those types of conversations. And I’ve learned the brand identity and voice from just being here for so long and learning what we typically do, what we like, what we don’t like etc.
Well so how do you make it so that the content stands out and is original?
I: So like if Elle is doing a shoot with Madonna and we’re doing a shoot with Madonna, we might do chiller clothing because that’s our style or we might do something whimsical where we shoot Madonna at home in her underwear. And it’s also about not being afraid to push boundaries and to try new things.
There are really only a handful of successful black women in the industry. How do you feel about that state of diversity in fashion on the editorial and behind-the-scenes side?
I: I feel like there is so much more room to grow and increase diversity across the board. We are making strides because when I first came into the industry there really weren't a lot of black editors and a lot of the same black editors that I look up to now are the same ones that were there when I interned. So there's definitely room for more faces on the scene. But it has to come from a place where you make an effort to do this because it’s so easy to kind of say yeah, I want diversity but not walk the walk.
What are a few things that are always in your bag, never leave the house without?
I: I would say lotion because I have a thing with dry hands. A great pair of sunglasses for sure. I love sunglasses. I’ll throw a pair in my bag and forget that they’re there and pick up that bag later and be like oh, these sunglasses I love. My go-to pair right now, I love these clout glasses, they just go with every outfit. Also, the Adam Selman and Lespecs glasses and those look good with everything.
Keep up with Indya’s stylish life on her Instagram @Indyabrown