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The David Chronicles: Adventures Working In The Fashion & Magazine Industry In New York

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by David Garland in David's Blog

FHMNOTE: This is a new personal series I’m trying out to see if you like it, find it interesting, funny, helpful, whatever. It is no-punches-pulled, 100% ridiculously transparent. Based on the first installments (linked up at the bottom if you want to check them out), you want more. So, here it comes…muhahaha.

Little known story: In the summer of 2005, I had a pretty interesting internship. I worked at FHM Magazine in New York City…in the fashion department. Stop laughing.

While the magazine is now gone in the United States (there is an online version), I learned a lot about publishing, folding clothes, models, Kenneth Cole, not ruining the dreams of others, and a big lesson in sticking out.

Here are a few of the stories for your amusement.

How I Got The Internship

I was a junior at Washington University in St. Louis and was looking for a summer internship. Funny thing is, of course, I was a women’s studies major. Yes, a straight, white male in women’s studies. No, my first choice for an internship was not interning as a woman.

Anyway, a friend of mine, Natalie, was applying for internships in New York and was going after the coveted FHM fashion internship. Apparently they only took one full-time intern each summer and she was a fashion major. Only problem was FHM was sort of like a herd of turtles getting back to her so she got impatient and got hired elsewhere before she heard back from them. One day when chatting, she suggested I apply for the FHM internship. So I did. And then I forgot about it.

My cell phone buzzed at 8:00 AM on April 20th, 2005. Why do I remember this date? Am I some kind of numbers mind freak? Nope. The reason is April 19th, 2005 was my 21st birthday. Do the math. 8 AM phone call the next day. Dear lord.

The editor was laughing so hard she could barely speak on the phone.

Editor: “You’re a WHAT major? Hahahaha. I just HAD to call you to see if you were a real person. You also play hockey? Were you dropped on your head as a baby?”

My response? I have no idea (21st birthday the day before people! Give me some slack!). But whatever I said, it must have been the right thing. She said she had hundreds of applicants, mostly women, but I had the job if I could be in New York City in early June. Done and done.

Lesson? You would be surprised the sheer volume of times where sticking out results in something good happening.

The Publishing Industry

In college I had some of the most random internships of all time – including working for a history professor, CBS Sports in Los Angeles, fashion PR in Los Angeles (I became an expert at clipping out press clippings…and I met Mandy Moore. Oh the highlights!), but this was my first time in the physical publishing industry.

One funny thing was how different the editorial and advertising sides of the company were. The advertising side seemed to be relatively angry people in fancy suits. The editorial side was a combination of fat men and writers…and a margarita machine for Fridays.

In fact, my boss, Elizabeth, warned me of the “evil” advertising people. “Don’t go near them. You are on the editorial side.” Interesting.

The job of an intern is never glamorous and this was not either (with the exception of a lingerie fashion show I “had to go to” for “work”). Daily activities meant spending huge amounts of time in the fashion closet sorting clothes, peering at the boss’ desk as she was showered with gifts from throughout the fashion industry and getting the leftovers (not that I needed a bunch of moisturizer…), shipping and receiving clothes, and picking up stuff throughout the Big Apple.

Then there was the intern’s biggest nightmare: The fashion list. The list was pretty much everyone in the entire industry. Names, phone numbers, addresses. This list was always changing and it was my job to keep it up to date. An out of date list meant instant death. Slight exaggeration, but one time due to a list error I lost a $500 jacket. People were not happy. To this day, I have no idea where that jacket went. I hope someone somewhere is warm.

But, with every internship and opportunity you are given or create, there comes small windows of opportunities to jump on. And sometimes they are purely the result of doing a good job and being a positive person. In this case, one day Elizabeth leaned over…

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “David, there is this ‘Threadless’ company doing some interesting things on the Internet. Want to try to write a little story about them?”

Me?! A writer? In a magazine? In a fashion magazine?

Needless to say, I nervously punched away at the keyboard and wrote my first journalistic piece…ever. Not my first writing of course, but other than school papers this was my first opportunity to be a mini-journalist with long hair and hipster Lacoste shoes. It ended up being publishing along with several other short articles that summer.

Lesson? Sometimes putting your nose to the grindstone and not complaining can lead to crazy new experiences.

The Security Guard

I love security guards. I don’t know why. I always end up becoming friends with them. One I remember that summer was extra cool. I was delivering an uber, super special package of extreme importance (probably socks or a scarf) and the security guard asked which company I was from.

Me: “FHM.”

Friendly (and now excited) Security Guard: “You mean like the magazine for dudes?”

Me: “Yup, that’s the one!”

Now Ridiculously Excited Security Guard: “Oh cool! Man that has to be an AWESOME place to work. I bet there are models running around in their underwear all day. Is that what it is like?”

I pictured the office. Full of…normal people. No models. In fact, the entire office took like a six hour break one day to bet on the ESPN Spelling Bee. How shall I respond to this gentleman?

Me: “Yup, pretty much. It is pretty sweet.”

Lesson? Don’t shatter the dreams of others.

Kenneth Cole’s House

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “David, what are you doing tonight?”

Me: “Oh, you know. Hitting a few awesome parties around New York City.”

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “Really, which ones?”


Me: “I’m not doing anything tonight.”

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “Great. Kenneth Cole is debuting a new fragrance tonight. There is an event. Would you like to come with me?”

Next thing you know I was off to some kind of townhouse looking structure in the middle of New York City. I remember lots of wood…odd memory, I know. I’d been to events like this throughout the summer. Basically, a sales guy or girl gets up and pitches the cologne and how it will automatically turn you into a sex symbol, star athlete, and you will lose 20 pounds. My job as an intern was to fake attention and eat as many free hors d’oeuvres as humanly possible (starving college student, give me a break).

I started sort of joking around with the guy next to me for the next 45 minutes. Joking about not paying attention. He was laughing. I told him I was going to steal all the snacks and put them in my pocket for later. He laughed again. Sort of like being in class and goofing off while the teacher is talking. Meanwhile everyone is sort of glaring at me. What was the big deal?

Finally the talk was over. Elizabeth came over to me.

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “Why were you talking to him?”

Me (with a mouth full of cheese): “Hoof waz I talkin too?”

Elizabeth, aka “The Boss”: “That was Kenneth Cole!”

Enter twilight zone music. I looked around. It all made sense. We weren’t at a town home. We were at freaking Kenneth Cole’s town home. Where he lives. And I was just making fun of him…to him. I was screwed. And he walked towards me.

Kenneth Cole: “David, it was good talking to you. Normally these events are pretty boring, but you kept it light.”

Me (nervously): “Oh thanks. I’m a regular court jester.” (awkward, uncomfortable laugh)

Kenneth Cole: “Here – take this.”

And he handed me a watch. I have no idea why. Perhaps you can answer that. Why did Kenneth Cole give me his watch?

I took it…and some cheese for the road.

The End

The summer was quite an adventure. Being a 21-year-old in New York City was an adventure. The industry was an adventure. Kenneth Cole’s house was an adventure.

Bottomline? It is the crazy experiences that shape us. Every day is a chronicle if you want it to be. And has anyone seen that damn jacket?

In case you missed it:

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