Author, Producer and Journalist Bronwyn Cosgrave On The Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In Fashion Journalism
…These are indeed challenging times we’re living in right now. I believe in helping people, even in simple acts like crossing the street. I do that whenever I can. This world operates on karma, and I genuinely think we should be helpful to one another. I receive numerous calls, especially from students seeking guidance, and they often express surprise when I respond promptly. I tell them it’s because I remember what it’s like to be in a foreign country. I grew up in Canada, and I always recall my own experiences. Mentoring is wonderful, but it’s a two-way street. You see, I’m 57, and I’m curious about what those who are 30 years or more younger than me are thinking. What’s on their minds? What do they aspire to? How can I assist them in making our world a better place? I believe in their potential to contribute positively. I want to understand how they can bring about positive change. I thrive on positive energy; it fuels me…
I had the pleasure to talk to Bronwyn Cosgrave. Bronwyn is an eminent figure in the realms of fashion, film, and journalism. Graduating from Western University, she possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in history and film studies, later advancing her education with an international journalism diploma from City, University of London in 1992.
Bronwyn’s career trajectory began in broadcast journalism with CBC in Toronto, evolving into a prominent fashion journalist in London and Paris. Among her notable roles, she served as the features editor for British Vogue and has been a prolific contributor to esteemed publications such as the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Observer, the Times, the Evening Standard, and the Financial Times.
Her literary journey is marked by significant works such as “Made For Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards,” a deep dive into Oscars fashion history, which has garnered acclaim from the likes of the late Vogue editor, André Leon Talley. Her other contributions include editing “Sample: 100 Fashion Designers 010 Curators: Cuttings From Contemporary Fashion” and writing the best-selling “Vogue On: Coco Chanel.”
Bronwyn’s passion for the intersection of fashion and film is evident in her role as a producer for documentaries like “Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards” and “Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story”, to a current project serving as a development co-producer of the Apple TV+ series, The Super Models. Moreover, her collaboration with Lindy Hemming led to the conception of the groundbreaking exhibition, “Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style,” which celebrated the design evolution of the James Bond series and toured globally.
In the broadcasting realm, Bronwyn has been a mainstay, providing live commentary on BBC One’s “Breakfast” and offering her expertise during significant events, including the Royal Weddings. Her voice resonates in the podcasting world too, with numerous appearances discussing the nuances of fashion.
Her commitment to nurturing talent and innovation in the fashion industry shines through initiatives like the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, which she founded. Beyond her individual achievements, Bronwyn has consulted for luxury brands, acted as Artistic Consultant for Marriott International’s Autograph Collection hotel group, and collaborated with Franklin Leonard’s The Black List.
Currently residing in New York, Bronwyn Cosgrave remains a beacon in the fashion, media, and cultural landscapes, exemplifying a blend of expertise, passion, and dedication.
Yitzi: Good morning, Bronwyn. Thank you so much for joining us. Before we dive in, I’d really love to learn about your origin story. Can you share this story of your childhood and how you grew up?
Bronwyn: Sure thing. I work as a documentary producer now, and that’s what led me to the Albie Awards. I originally hail from Toronto. My education took me to England, where I studied journalism at City University in London. About a decade ago, I made the move to New York. My introduction to the Albie Awards came through Rachel Horvitz. She’s actually a family friend. I attended the Albie Awards with my husband, John Sloss, who is a producer and an entertainment lawyer. He runs a media company called Cinetic Media.
We first attended the Albie Awards a few years back when Abigail Disney received the Albie Award and we attended again when Steve James was being honored. Later on, I went to the Maysles Center with a short film I produced called “The Queen’s New Clothes.” It was directed by Ashley Walker Bush, a talented filmmaker who graduated from USC. My background was in costume design, and I often worked on films related to fashion, both in feature films and beyond.
I couldn’t help but be drawn to the fantastic work the Maysles Center does, nurturing young filmmakers in the community. I fell in love with the spirit of the place and the wonderful people involved. Dale Dobson, the leader of the center, is truly inspiring.
And then, of course, there’s the Maysles’ work on “Grey Gardens”, which is a massive fashion film. It even inspired a Marc Jacobs collection. For someone like me, who was just starting out in the documentary world in New York, it was a treasure trove of opportunities and a welcoming, inspiring community. Moving to a bustling city like New York can be quite impersonal, but the Maysles Center quickly became a professional and personal haven for me.
Yitzi: Can you share a bit more about your background and how you transitioned from being a fashion historian to working in documentaries?
Bronwyn: Sure, absolutely. So, my journey started when I went to journalism school after earning a liberal arts degree in Canada. My very first job was as a fashion reporter, and one of my initial assignments was covering the fashion shows in Milan and Paris.
It’s quite remarkable to look back on it now. At that time, fashion was becoming more of an entertainment industry, and I found myself straddling two worlds. On one hand, I was reporting on fashion, and on the other, I was attending some of the world’s most prestigious film festivals.
I was living in London during the pre-Brexit era when it was part of the EU, and I must say, it was an incredibly exciting time to be in Europe. The economy was booming, borders were open, and I was working for a newspaper called “The European,” founded by Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell. That was my first job.
Later, I worked as a freelance journalist, primarily for Condé Nast publications and British newspapers like The Guardian and The Evening Standard. It was an amazing experience and a bit of a tightrope walk since I didn’t have a safety net. During that time, I had the privilege of interviewing some fascinating figures in the fashion world, including John Galliano and André Leon Talley.
Afterward, I had the opportunity to work for British Vogue, which was a dream come true. Following my time there, I wrote a series of fashion history books, and one of my proudest works is “Made for Each Other” which happens to be the first-ever fashion history book focused on the Oscars.
That project opened doors for me, and I began working on grand-scale creative projects, often involving journalism and consulting. One standout project was the exhibition “Designing 007,” which I co-curated with the Oscar-winning costume designer, Lindy Hemming. It became the largest James Bond museum exhibition in history. It toured the world for five years, starting at London’s Barbican Center, Europe’s largest cultural hub. I was working for EON Productions, the company that owns the James Bond film franchise.
During my time on that project, I was heavily involved in editing footage and working with EON’s extensive film archive and music. It was during this period that I felt a strong pull towards documentary filmmaking. I admired pioneering filmmakers like Matt Tyrnauer, who directed a documentary about Valentino.
I realized that my best path into documentaries was to work as a producer, providing support to filmmakers. Over the past decade or so, I’ve been privileged to do just that. While I do work on many other projects as well, producing documentaries has been particularly rewarding.
For instance, during the pandemic, I was involved in foundational work on The Super Models. More recently, I had the pleasure of working with Rebecca Miller on her upcoming romantic comedy, “She Came to Me.” It features costumes designed by Marina Draghici, a Tony Award-winning costume designer. I served as her fashion consultant, helping to put together the wardrobe for the film.
Collaborating with costume designers has been a recurring theme in my career. It’s been an enjoyable journey, and working alongside costume designers has expanded my horizons in exciting ways.
Yitzi: Is there someone who has had a significant impact on your life?
Bronwyn: I’d like to mention two people who left a lasting impression on me.
When I landed my job at British Vogue, I was working for a unique magazine company called Wagadon. They were the creators behind the iconic British magazine, The Face. Working there was no walk in the park.
I found myself as the lone North American in the building, grappling with the decision of whether I truly wanted to build my career in England. The pay was modest, but the experience was incredible. I recall the moment I secured my position at British Vogue, and someone told me, “Your life will change when you work at Vogue.”
It’s fascinating because the era of supermodels coincided with my time in the magazine industry. I have to give credit to Alexandra Shulman, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief. When I joined the team, it was the golden age of magazines.
Alexandra was a demanding boss. Her mentorship fundamentally shaped my writing skills, instilling in me the importance of getting it right the first time. I spent five years at Vogue, an incredible period that left an indelible mark on my career. While movies like “The Devil Wears Prada” capture some aspects of the industry, they don’t quite convey the intellectual rigor we demanded, not just in producing top-tier journalism but also in editing visuals to a standard that’s rare today.
I genuinely hope that magazines can make a comeback, the way we used to craft them — like monthly books.
Without a doubt, the other person who has had a profound impact on me is Christine Vachon, who co-runs Killer Films along with Pam Koffler. Christine happens to be a family friend, but that doesn’t make her any less formidable. Pam is equally impressive, and together, they form an unshakeable partnership.
Their artistic vision and dedication have nurtured independent films that are inclusive and entertaining. Running a production company requires teamwork, and they exemplify what a solid partnership can achieve. Their body of work speaks volumes, and they’ve collaborated on some groundbreaking projects, like “Mildred Pierce” with Todd Haynes, one of the early streaming series.
Yitzi: What changes are you happy about seeing in the fashion industry over the past five years and what would you implement to change moving forward?
Bronwyn: What’s made me happy over the last five years is that we’ve weathered a pandemic that has devastated many independent designers. Independent designers, you know, they drive the industry forward. The established ones are always keeping an eye out for fresh talent and new ideas.
And you find this in cities like New York, London, Los Angeles, Paris, and West Africa. It’s incredible. And then, you have these massive fashion conglomerates that pretty much dominate the industry. They do some great work, but I was reading a story today that reminded me of what makes me happy. I see my friends who are independent designers, people like Erdem, an incredible British-Canadian designer, and Roxanda Ilincic, whose clothes I’ve worn to the Oscars. And there are many others. It pleases me to see them survive, especially through the pandemic and Brexit.
Fashion is tough if you don’t have a vast family fortune backing you or run a tight ship. But it’s heartening that these independent names I knew from my time in London are still going strong. It’s fantastic.
Now, if I could change things, I read an article today about a designer named Dilara Findikoglu. She has dressed Hari Nef, Margot Robbie, Zendaya, Kylie Jenner, and Cardi B recently. But she had to cancel her show at the last minute. I thought, where’s the support from these big fashion corporations? Where’s the fund to support these designers, even if it’s just £50,000? It’s not a lot. Where’s the assistance, not necessarily charity, but the necessary funds? If you need to apply for it, fine, but there should be a fund.
Back in 2008, during the recession, I created a fashion prize for Dorchester Collection Hotels. It benefited a couple of designers, though it didn’t last long. It kick-started the whole prize concept. Then, one of the winners even went on to win the first LVMH prize. I think these prize initiatives are vital now, especially post-pandemic. The industry is facing challenges. People are wondering if they need fashion anymore.
Additionally, many art schools are churning out young designers who feel they have to start their own brands right away. That’s great, but it wasn’t always the case. In the past, the path was often to join big brands and work behind the scenes. I think that might change again in the future.
Yitzi: Can you share five pieces of advice for an aspiring fashion journalist or someone in the fashion industry?
Bronwyn: Well, I can give some advice for folks pursuing a career in media, if that’s okay. These are things I was told when I was starting out, and I still stick to them.
- First, one writer told me even before I went to journalism school: “Your name is on that article. And if your name is on it, it better be good because that’s your name.” You only get one shot at making a good impression. I used to give people many chances. I didn’t always do it, but if there was something in it that needed fixing, I’d help out.
- Second, don’t be overly judgmental. This applies to the arts in general. Whether it’s a film I’m working on, an article I’m editing, or a movie I’m watching if you can sense the creator’s passion and investment in it, don’t dismiss it too quickly.
- Third, I’ve had to make a lot of career transitions. Starting as a magazine journalist, which doesn’t really exist in the same way anymore, I had to adapt. Working for myself since 2003, I’ve learned that you have to stand up for yourself. It doesn’t mean arguing, but it does mean owning and being proud of your work. You have to say, “This is what I was asked to do,” and defend your territory and your work.
- Fourth, I often tell young people I mentor that fashion is a looks-based business, not in terms of physical traits, but in terms of presentation. You’ve got to look put together and responsible. It could be as simple as a white T-shirt and jeans, but make sure the T-shirt is ironed. You’ve got to look like you’re on top of things.
- Fifth, here’s something that’s been my guiding principle: What’s your distinctive professional trait? What sets you apart from the competition? For me, it was always research. I’d spend extra time on projects, even if it meant occasionally shifting deadlines because research added depth. I always included historical research in my articles because I’d wonder, “Where did this come from?” Remember, the first question you learn in journalism school is, “Why should I care?” That’s what your work needs to answer from the reader’s perspective. Why should they care? That’s always on my mind when I read something or when I’m writing.
Yitzi: So Bronwyn, you hold a lot of influence, and many folks take your words seriously. If you had the chance to spread an idea or ignite a movement that could do the most good for the most people, what would it be? You never know how your idea might inspire others.
Bronwyn: These are indeed challenging times we’re living in right now. I believe in helping people, even in simple acts like crossing the street. I do that whenever I can. This world operates on karma, and I genuinely think we should be helpful to one another.
I receive numerous calls, especially from students seeking guidance, and they often express surprise when I respond promptly. I tell them it’s because I remember what it’s like to be in a foreign country. I grew up in Canada, and I always recall my own experiences.
Mentoring is wonderful, but it’s a two-way street. You see, I’m 57, and I’m curious about what those who are 30 years or more younger than me are thinking. What’s on their minds? What do they aspire to? How can I assist them in making our world a better place? I believe in their potential to contribute positively. I want to understand how they can bring about positive change. I thrive on positive energy; it fuels me. I’m a very positive person.
Yitzi: How can our readers continue to follow your work?
Bronwyn: I’m active on Instagram, and, you know, I’m still a Facebook person. I’m not on X; I’ve never really taken to that thing called Twitter, or formerly known as Twitter. But you can find me on Instagram and Facebook.
I also have a website, bronwyncosgrave.com. It’s not super up-to-date, more like my personal archive. Actually, I’m thinking of revamping it into just that, a personal archive. But all my stuff is there. I’m everywhere, you can even find me on amazon.com.
Yitzi: This has been so informative. I wish you continued success and blessings, and I hope we can do this again sometime.
Author, Producer and Journalist Bronwyn Cosgrave On The Five Things You Need To Create A Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.