May 15, 2009
career karma – Truc Nguyen
Truc Nguyen graduated one year ahead of me in the fashion design program at Ryerson, and covered fashion for the school newspaper, and went on to get an academic degree. Truc’s work ethic and ambition has always impressed me – she went on to work in magazines both in Toronto and in New York City, where she lives now and works as an editorial assistant for Teen Vogue.
Truc and I couldn’t be more different in character – where I tend towards freelancing and a relatively unstructured lifestyle, Truc is at home in the hierarchy of magazines. Yet we both have an abiding fascination with all aspects of the business of fashion and our differences make for some fascinating conversations whenever we happen to be in the same city.
I asked her about how her background relates to her current work, and what she has in mind for the future.
Does your experience as an academic somehow inform your career in editorial, or vice versa? How?
I did my MA in Communication and Culture after doing a Fashion Design degree which was very applied, and in between internships at Marc Jacobs and Vogue, and it was a bit of a culture shock but a great experience because reading all of the fashion theory out there really helped me understand the broader cultural implications of the business of fashion. Doing my MA really helped me acquire the historical context and vocabulary with which to critically analyze the fashion work that I see, instead of just merely appreciating its aesthetics. At the same time, the worlds don’t necessarily overlap very well, especially when you’re debating Veblen’s theory of conspicuous comsumption with Marxists in graduate seminars and trying to subtly hide your Prada bag under the table!
Ultimately though I believe that it’s all related, all of my diverse and seemingly contradictory work experiences. For example, a few days ago one of my directors mentioned that she wanted a houndstooth tote bag for a shoot at 6pm, and I had to source one by the next morning…that’s when my research experience from working at the Toronto Public Library for 5 years helped, as did my familiarity with sites like Etsy from my days working in home decor at Vogue Living, and within one hour I had three options coming in from Brooklyn, Chicago and Conneticut. A lot of my experiences and skills from the academic world have proved transferable to the working world, and vice versa.
What are your favourite magazines, websites and blogs?
I try to check out WWD.com every day at midnight to get an early start on the news that everyone will be discussing the next day, and I’m obsessed with the New York Times, and not just the Style section! I also check my Google reader compulsively, and my favorite blogs on there are Fashionista and Jezebel, because the writers are so intelligent and you can tell that they love the fashion world but aren’t above viewing it with a critical eye and asking the tough questions. I also think that nymag.com and Refinery29’s The Pipeline does a really good job with covering the indie fashion scene and things happening in New York. In terms of magazines, I always try to read Teen Vogue, New York, the New Yorker, Marie Claire, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and Real Simple.
You started as an intern and have since moved up to supervising interns. For those who also dream of a career in magazines, how would you recommend getting the most out of an internship? What are the qualities of a great intern?
This is the key to success as an intern: work hard! It sounds simple but from personal experience it’s so easy to go from that bright eyed and eager stage from when you couldn’t believe that the assistant from wherever called you and your dreams are about to come true…to annoyance that you have to go on yet another a Starbucks run. It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re schlepping stuff around Manhattan on the subway and it’s 90 degrees, but you have to try! Also, try to do your research as much as possible. There is so much information available now on the Internet that it always amazes me when certain students that I interview are suprised to find out (for example) that as a fashion closet intern you wouldn’t be doing any writing for the magazine! Knowing yourself (your strengths, weaknesses and long-term goals) and having done that research will help you make sure that it’s even the right internship for you in the first place, which will go a long way in motivating you to work hard in the long run.
I’ve had some amazing interns, and what’s interesting is that they’ve all been so different in terms of their strengths and their personalities. The common threads have been intelligence and kindness combined with a desire to learn and the willingness to make changes to accomodate the differences between their working style, mine, and that of the other interns and editors. They never make the same mistake twice, aren’t afraid to ask questions, and are not only able to follow instructions precisely but able to problem-solve on their feet when those instructions don’t work out!
What are your ambitions?
Tough question! There are so many ways that my career and life could unfold over the next few years, and while becoming a market editor is definitely a goal for the next few years, I could just as easily see myself doing a PHD in Fashion at Cornell or even RMIT in Melbourne in the next decade. A good friend and I have also been talking about doing our own fashion line for years now, which would really be fun.