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Role Call | Gabriele Hackworthy, Editorial Fashion Director

Gabriele Hackworthy, editorial fashion director at Net-a-Porter and fashion director of Porter magazine, says "Learn what you can about art history, design and photography, as these reference points will be your greatest tools."
Gabriele Hackworthy, editorial fashion director at Net-a-Porter | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Kati Chitrakorn

There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

LONDON, United Kingdom — Gabriele Hackworthy is the editorial fashion director of Net-a-Porter and fashion director of Porter magazine. After graduating from the Sydney College of Arts, she was appointed fashion editor at Marie Claire Australia, where she worked for five years, before joining Vogue Australia in 2002 as the title's fashion director. In 2003, Hackworthy moved to New York to become fashion director-at-large of Vogue Japan, before relocating again in 2005 to London, where she would work for both Vogue Japan and Vogue China. In 2010, she joined Harper's Bazaar UK as fashion director, succeeding Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou. Hackworthy joined the Net-a-Porter Group (now the Yoox Net-a-Porter Group) in January 2013. She works closely with editor-in-chief Lucy Yeomans in the newly created dual-role of editorial fashion director and fashion director.

BoF: Please describe your current role.

As the editorial fashion director, I am responsible for leading both print and digital fashion teams to create the fashion content across Net-a-Porter’s magazine brands: the weekly digital magazine, The Edit, and the global print magazine, Porter, which is published six times a year. This includes everything from covers to fashion stories, celebrity profiles, at-home features and travel and beauty stories. I am also consulted on wider business activities such as buying, marketing and social media.

BoF: What attracted you to the role? Did growing up in Australia influence your interest in fashion?

I wanted to build on my 15+ years of experience in luxury fashion publishing by becoming more involved in retail, e-commerce and the digital side of the fashion industry, while continuing to work on a print magazine. In this role at Net-a-Porter, I have a complete 360 degree view of the industry and, I believe, the best of both worlds.

Growing up in Australia forced me to seek out fashion inspiration and gave me a real hunger to look internationally at what was going on. I became obsessed with fashion and magazines from a young age. I bought my first international edition of Vogue in 1986. As a young girl, the clothes and the photography blew my mind and I knew instantly I wanted to be part of that world. I still have the issue in my library.

BoF: After serving Vogue Australia as fashion director for 3 years, you joined Vogue Japan.

I left Vogue Australia because my fiancé was in New York City, so I moved for love, not my career. Vogue Japan were looking for a New York-based fashion director to commission their international fashion content, so I applied for the job and got it! A few years later, I was asked to be on the launch team for Vogue China as fashion director-at-large and creative consultant. China was on the brink of cultural change, not just in terms of fashion, but music and art. I would travel to China regularly to work with the local team there. When visiting Beijing and Shanghai, I would visit every gallery and artist community, go to see punk bands and drag shows and made the junior editors take me to nightclubs to discover local street style and underground fashion. For two years, I was the fashion director of two Vogue titles (China and Japan) simultaneously until I went on maternity leave, at which point Condé Nast split my role and Anna Della Russo assumed by duties at Vogue Japan.

Logistics and production are as important to the success of a shoot as the model, photographer and styling.

BoF: How did the two roles differ?

Having been the fashion director of three Vogue titles — plus Harpers Bazaar UK and, now, Porter — I can say that the role of a fashion director doesn't change that much across titles, in terms of what I deliver and my work process. What changes is my creative vision for the title, based on the brief from the editor-in-chief. At Vogue Japan, the readers wanted to see conceptual fashion. They embraced esoteric ideas for fashion shoots and preferred western models and international photographers. The editorial direction for Vogue China was more nationalistic, as Angelica Cheung, the editor-in-chief, wanted to champion new Chinese models and photographers. At Vogue China, I had to educate as well as inspire the readers with more literal fashion stories.

Porter magazine is very different. We have one set of editorial content for a global luxury fashion-loving audience, which means I need to think globally about casting, styling, the locations we use and also take into account different cultural sensitivities.

You can shop every page of Porter magazine, which means I am more conscious of only shooting product that will be available for our readers to buy. It’s common practice for fashion magazines to shoot vintage or runway looks that will never be retailed. We don’t do that at Porter as it doesn’t service the reader. For The Edit, Net-a-Porter's weekly online publication, the fashion approach is faster, broader and more varied. We have 52 issues a year and shoot mostly celebrities for the cover stories. The logistics alone of dealing with this level of talent requires a completely different fashion approach.

BoF: Are you more involved with the styling or editorial aspect of Porter?

Both. I oversee the commissioning of all covers and fashion stories, which means I give creative and fashion direction to photographers and stylists. Meanwhile, my seasonal fashion report will inspire other parts of the magazine such as features, arts and beauty. We rarely discuss an editorial idea without linking it back to fashion.

BoF: Being responsible for those fashion reports, how do you identify seasonal trends?

I attend all the shows, pay attention to cultural influences, the arts, music, film — and from this, I pick apart the runway looks and create “moods” of the season. We don’t talk “trends” at Porter. We believe style is timeless and fashion is about personal expression, so we aim to provide our readers with an authoritative curation rather than a dictation of the latest trends. Our mission is to speak to her wherever she is in the world, six times a year instead of the traditional 12, and seasonally rather than monthly. We focus on featuring “buy now, wear now” products.

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

Study some discipline of art or design. A fashion design degree is a great foundation to becoming a fashion director. Do as much work experience and intern as often as you can. I was offered my first job as a fashion assistant while still at university studying and I hire most assistants at Porter from our intern program. Know the fashion industry inside and out, and learn what you can about art history, design and photography, as these reference points will be your greatest tools. Have a vision and be knowledgeable. A strong fashion and styling sense can be learnt over time and the longer you do the job, the better you become at it. Diplomacy is an important quality as the fashion world can be very political (I often joke that I could work with the UN!) And, lastly, it's important to be organised and methodical, logistics and production are as important to the success of a shoot as the model, photographer and styling.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.

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