Vogue is easily the most renowned magazine in the fashion industry, while its editor in chief, Anna Wintour, is the most powerful figure of them all. Part of that allure stems from a masthead dotted with prestigious people, including a real-life princess and the children of famous actors. And judging from the employees’ luxurious Instagram snaps alone, one could easily assume that it’s a pedigreed fairy tale.
Yet it’s hard to imagine such success coming from an office environment that is totally insular. Could the popular opinion—that Vogue is a place for the wealthy, Ivy League–educated and beautiful alone—really be true? Does lacking an upper-class pedigree really hinder your chances of working for the magazine? In the hopes of finding some answers, I decided to investigate the various backgrounds of Vogue’s current staff.
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The short answer is that, no, a blue-blood lineage is not required. But there are certain prestigious commonalities among the majority of Vogue staffers. For starters, most employees were raised upper-middle class, if not part of a wealthier tier, and have attended a well-regarded school like New York University or Georgetown, if not an Ivy League. Super-successful parents are the norm, with covetable jobs in both creative and business fields, including investment banking, filmmaking, hospitality, and fashion photography. More than half the staffers I researched interned at Vogue or another esteemed fashion magazine prior to working there, and it was more common than not for these experiences to take place right out of college. From the pool of staff considered for this piece (37 people), more than half appear to have married parents, with the majority hailing from New York, California, or Texas.
However, there are a few outliers on staff who prove to naysayers that you can land a job at Vogue for reasons other than prestige. Consider Virginia Smith, the esteemed fashion and accessories market director, who grew up in Texarkana, Arkansas, and attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas for college. Rather than slipping into Vogue at a young age on the recommendation of a parent or well-placed friend, Smith really worked her way up in the industry to get there. After a one-year stint at the Fashion Institute of Technology, she went on to intern and then work at Anne Klein for several years before transferring to Calvin Klein, where she would become the vice president of public relations. It wasn’t until after gaining that solid experience that she moved to Vogue—no fancy family background necessary—where she has been for eight years.
Nick Remsen, one of the magazine’s main fashion writers, is another example of someone sans pedigree who has managed to make it big at Vogue, though he does hail from a small town outside New York City called Locust Valley, considered to be one of the wealthiest in the nation. That said, he cites a fluke first internship during his time at the University of Miami—working for designer Tomas Maier—as one of the main reasons for ending up where he is. Once the internship ended, he went on to study journalism at Central Saint Martins, which he joked about in an interview, saying, “I think I got in to CSM through luck, the fact that my tutor laughed when he read an old blog I’d had going with a friend back in the States, and the fact that they probably needed a boy on the pathway.” He went on to earn his stripes working for Style.com and T Emirates before joining Vogue.
Sally Singer, the magazine’s creative digital director, also transcends the stereotypes. Singer grew up in Oakland, California, with her mathematician father and psychologist mother, believing she would follow in their footsteps and work at a research institution. “I didn't know anyone who worked in fashion; I didn't know how people got their jobs in magazines," Singer has said. Before graduating from UC Berkeley, she even took time off to pursue beauty school, which she gave up when she realized she was “wasn’t great at haircutting.” Instead, she ended up turning to a popular Vogue stomping ground, the graduate school at Yale, which led to a career in book publishing. Much to her surprise, British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman eventually asked her to join her team, a transition which led to an unexpected but storied career in fashion journalism that resulted in Singer's current position.
These are just three examples from the current staff, given the information that’s readily available, but it’s safe to assume there are—and have been—more. So ultimately, while a lot of Vogue staffers seem to live a privileged lifestyle, especially with today’s onslaught of in-your-face social media, it’s heartening to learn of staffers who have made it to the most prestigious magazine in fashion based entirely on the content of their résumés.
What do you think of the results? Sound off in the comments!
Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years by Alexander Vreeland ($34)