The Interview: Hello Dolly

talks to the Editor of Vogue online, Dolly Jones, about creating Vogue’s digital presence, the rise of LFW and the life changing powers of fashion

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After graduation Dolly Jones had little to no idea about what career she wanted to embark on, a situation the majority of student readers will identify with. Equipped with a History of Art degree from Manchester and an inclination for writing, she set off for London for a stint of work experience on The Daily Telegraph. Bitten by the journalism bug, Dolly chose to forgo the time and expense of a year-long course, signing up instead for a three month intensive periodicals qualification. Afterwards, she “wrote to every magazine in the land, and Vogue was the one that replied.” A brief internship with the iconic magazine and a position as an editorial assistant (then a minor role, now a job highly coveted by all graduates looking to get on the publishing ladder) led to an offer to become a news writer on the newly established Vogue website. At first Dolly admits she was “too scared” to jump at the opening but, not wanting to miss out on an opportunity, she worked up the courage to accept the role. That was in 1999 and, in her own impeccably modest words, she “never left”; Dolly is now British Vogue’s Digital Editor, spearheading a dedicated team of writers and editors who work tirelessly to bring everything on trend online and to the masses.

Back then the internet presence of the media was still in its infancy. Writing for a website wasn’t seen as glamorous or covetable; “everyone thought the internet was totally un-chic.” The sleek, beautiful face of modern-day Vogue.co.uk is “completely unrecognisable” from its early years, when there “used to be only one or two stories put up a day.” Despite the multiple face lifts, the Vogue website’s ethos has stayed true to itself. “We wanted to open a window into the fashion world,” explains Dolly. Realising they could never do the legacy of Vogue justice by simply re-creating the magazine in a digital format, Dolly and her team strive instead to create “a little bit of Vogue” in cyberspace, opening up a world of shows and fashion news that had previously been closed off to all but a select few.

Opening that window turned out to have open the floodgates for public interest in the inner workings of the fashion industry. “The more we put up, the more people wanted it,” elaborates Dolly, “although there wasn’t much competition at first, we always aimed to be the premier fashion news outlet.” Like any good business, there has to be a market for the brand. “You have to need a product,” she explains “and we tap into that appetite for fashion knowledge.”
Feeding the voracious appetite for breaking fashion news whilst simultaneously translating the iconic Vogue brand into the digital arena is, obviously, not without its challenges. Technology is constantly evolving at break-neck pace, fuelling the race between media outlets to be the first to break a piece of news, and the competition between fashion magazines is no less fierce. In order to stay in the vanguard Dolly knows that you can “never get complacent. The main thing is it’s important to be agile. You have to know how to translate your brand across all the mediums, from computer screen to iPad.” It’s a precarious act when the digital world is “constantly in flux, with everybody tweeting constantly, creating brands of themselves.” Although the pressure is always on, Dolly knows that the rewards are worth the challenges; “the consumer is closer to their products now than ever before.”

The job also comes with a delicious array of perks. When I spoke to Dolly she was in transit between Milan and Paris, in the midst of the glamour and barely contained chaos of bookended international fashion weeks, a “brilliant, amazing and exhausting whirlwind.” Dolly assures me there is no such thing as a typical day in the office, each day bringing a different “spectrum from the mundane to the exciting. You leave your desk and when you come back something has changed. New designers pop up all the time. It’s never the same – that’s probably why I’ve stayed so long.” One minute she is trawling through her email inbox, the next meeting with designers and attending fabulous events. Parties and shows are the stuff that every aspiring fashion intern dreams of, but even an editor has the occasional pinch-me moment. Attending Alexandra Shulman’s (Editor of British Vogue) London Fashion Week party dressed in a Matthew Williamson dress, modelled by Cara Delevingne on the catwalk was one of them. “There are moments like that when you just think ‘this is the best job in the world!”

Fashion has always been a pleasure for Dolly. Her first, although perhaps not formative, memory of fashion, is a vivid recollection of her mother “carrying me on her shoulders, and she was wearing this huge, bright yellow, shaggy afghan coat. Unfortunately she didn’t keep it, although I’m not sure I would have worn it. It was a very bright yellow.” What you wear is important because it’s all about “communicating the kind of person that you want to be.” Describing h
er personal style, Dolly admits “I normally dress quite soberly and I don’t actually shop that much – I’d go broke very quickly if I did!” However, she will be allowing herself just one treat: “a Lanvin handbag will be my new best friend for the entire winter season.” Dolly strongly believes that fashion has deeply transformative and self-esteem giving powers. “However nervous you are socially, one key piece can make you feel confident. Fashion can change your world, that’s what makes it so compelling and addictive.” Mixing business with pleasure always makes for an exciting life, and Dolly is passionate about the business of fashion, particularly British fashion. Her enthusiasm is palpable as she describes to me the energy and talent of the London fashion scene and its protégées. In recent years, London Fashion Week has risen through the ranks to become an unmissable fixture on the diaries of the international fashion set. “In the last five years LFW has become very powerful,” she assures me. “No one could miss it now. However important you are, you have to come to London.”

Dolly believes this ascension is down to a perfect storm of ideal creative conditions. “British fashion has been unconstructed by commerciality,” she explains “We have brilliant fashion colleges where students are encouraged to be imaginative, and British eccentricity is celebrated on the catwalk.” The British Fashion Council and its new chairman Natalie Massenet is helping to inject some “hot business sense” into the field. Ultimately, fashion is “a massive industry, a massive employer and a huge PR tool for Britain.” Designer and high street collaborations have also been a “good way for people who maybe can’t afford designer pieces to still get involved with new fashion stories.” Dolly’s hot tip for autumn/winter is the widely anticipated collaboration between H&M and Isabel Marant. The British fashion scene has also recently witnessed the rise of some of its brightest new talents, something that Dolly has found incredibly rewarding over her time on the front rows. Christopher Kane is one such bright star; now “one of the most talked about shows on the global calendar,” Dolly was there for his very first graduate show. “Sometimes you just know,” she explains “And on that day everybody in the room felt a thrill.” Kane has recently received a huge investment from fashion conglomerate PPR, a move that Dolly hopes will mean Kane’s brand will “flourish and maybe even lead to a store opening, although hopefully he won’t move his show to Paris now!”

After hearing about the exciting, challenging and varied world of fashion journalism on the digital frontier, it would be remiss of me not to ask Dolly Jones for some pieces of advice on breaking into the industry and impressing at that all important internship or work experience placement. “Work really hard,” she recommends. “Get in early, stay late, and never leave until the job is done. People who put the effort in do get noticed, and when a job comes up they’ll be the ones getting the call.” Finally, I asked Dolly to describe Vogue.co.uk in three words. Without any hesitation she offered “Authoritative, Stylish and Essential.” Fashion wannabes take note; to make it at Vogue.co.uk you need to get serious about the business of fashion.