Role Call | Tilly Macalister-Smith, Fashion Features Editor

Tilly Macalister-Smith, fashion features editor of MatchesFashion.com, says when you are working across different media forms for a company that is growing rapidly, you have to be flexible, passionate and maximise every opportunity.

Tilly Macalister-Smith | Source: Courtesy

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. In a new series that coincides with the launch of BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent, we highlight some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them.

LONDON, United Kingdom — Tilly Macalister-Smith is the fashion features editor of MatchesFashion.com, a multi-channel luxury retailer comprised of a global e-commerce business and 14 stores across London. A graduate of Central Saint Martins, Macalister-Smith worked at British Vogue for five years, primarily on fashion features, and was eventually made acting fashion editor of British Vogue‘s website. In early 2013, she left Vogue to join the MatchesFashion.com team to work on the retailer’s online editorial content and special projects.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

TMS: I’m the fashion features editor at MatchesFashion.com. We have a weekly digital magazine, The Style Report, which goes live every Wednesday, and a seasonal print issue. My time is primarily spent writing, commissioning and editing fashion related content, such as designer interviews and trend features, profiling interesting creatives and coming up with ideas for stories for upcoming issues. I work closely with our fashion team and the men’s team – Simon Chilvers (men’s style director) and I occasionally pass the baton if it makes more sense for one of us to pick up a story. I also work with the buyers, the social media team and the press team so that we can work holistically on what’s happening in the business when necessary. On top of that, I’m involved with additional projects, such as events with designers, attending brand meetings and appointments, shooting sittings, developing new video content and overseeing the product copy team.

BoF: What attracted you to the role?

TMS: I’d always had great admiration for the MatchesFashion.com team, in terms of [what] they were doing and how they operated – directional and considered. I always felt their fashion offering was at the forefront of what was happening globally, especially with regards to championing new talent: they always had interesting stories that we would pick up on at Vogue so it felt very natural and credible. Omni-channel editorial was becoming more prominent (there have been many more industry moves globally over the last 12 months) and I was drawn to the developments in that part of the industry. When I joined, the editorial team (as it is today) was a brand new venture for the company, and so there was scope to really contribute to shaping the new content, as well as understanding how the business works as a whole.

BoF: What is the most exciting project or initiative you have worked on?

TMS: We’ve just completed filming a series of designer interviews in Paris, London and Milan. We wanted to give a personal and ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight into certain designers who were either in their first couple of seasons or had extraordinary collections that we thought would benefit from telling their story on film. It’s really important for readers/viewers/shoppers to understand when they see a dress from a new designer, such as Caterina Gatta, who is based in Rome and has just produced her first exquisite collection, alongside a Givenchy or Balenciaga dress, what her point of difference is. Gatta’s production is labour-intensive and borders on demi-couture; many of her dresses use three layers of expensive silk hidden in the lining to give them shape and they are all beautifully finished – details you may miss from just looking at a photograph of the dress.

It’s also satisfying tackling the most newsworthy stories of the season for our print magazine, such as Alexander Wang’s debut collection for Balenciaga, or Joseph Altuzarra on the announcement of his Kering investment.

BoF: How is your role changing? What are the forces driving this change?

TMS: The company has grown phenomenally over the last year, and with it, all of our job ‘remits.’ You need to be prepared for the idea of your job ‘description’ to go out the window when you’re working a) for a company that is growing so rapidly and b) across weekly digital content, seasonal print, video, email, press events. The factors driving this growth are both internal and external, from the vision of the CEOs to the growing demand from new global readers and shoppers.

BoF: Tell us about a time you failed and how you learned from it.

TMS: I think it becomes characteristic when you work with such an agile and responsive team that you don’t really view anything as failing – there’s always a way to make a project work! There’s a continual dialogue about what we can do to make stories more engaging and we’re always brainstorming new or dream commissions. Touch wood, I’ve yet to forget to switch the Dictaphone on!

BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?

TMS: Clear your diary, it’s busy! You get used to maximising every opportunity. For example, when I travel to New York for the shows I will also set up a couple of key designer interviews and shoot a couple of sittings, and when I travel to Paris, we’ll film a few designer videos. For certain things, you have to work with a very short lead time so you have to be flexible and responsive – you might have worked for weeks on a big designer profile, but if that designer has had production issues and is not able to deliver their collection on time, you need to hold the story and publish something equally impactful or newsworthy in its place. It’s not just about pushing content live, you have to consider what else is in the issue, making sure it still feels balanced and has a variety of pace to the stories. You have to be passionate about delivering the best editorial content under pressure.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

To explore exciting fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers, the global marketplace for fashion talent.