Maghan McDowell grew up in the South and found herself moving multiple times – to three different states and even the Czech Republic. It created a sense of independence, and ultimately, inspired this Women’s Wear Daily tech reporter’s personal style.
“The impact of how you look – and your style – really does effect the way you’re perceived and the way you’re treated in the world,” she says. “Anthropologically it’s interesting to see … And I really think that informed my respect and style for clothes. It’s not just something frivolous.”
At WWD, a.k.a. the “Fashion Bible” and go-to resource for fashion’s insiders, Maghan works as the trade publication’s first San Francisco-based reporter focusing exclusively on the intersection of technology and fashion. She covers the business of the fashion industry and the topics important to those working in it.
In episode 23 of I Want Her Job: The Podcast, Editor and Host Polina Selyutin speaks with Maghan about balancing speed versus accuracy in reporting, juggling up to 14 stories a week, future trends in fashion and technology, and so much more.
TOPICS DISCUSSED IN TODAY’S SHOW:
- Wedging A Heel Through The Door: Maghan studied fashion at the Savanna College of Art and Design and went on to study magazine journalism at the University of Florida. After a number of internships at popular fashion magazines, Maghan took on her first full-time role as editor for a variety of regional magazines in Florida. [Editor’s Note: As one of I Want Her Job’s five original Leading Ladies, we interviewed Maghan in this first role. Read her first-ever IWHJ interview here.] She then went on to work as a reporter for the Sunday Style section of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- On Staying On Top of Trends: “One of the biggest challenges of my job is to make sure that I have a good relationship with the companies that I report on and to let them know that we love exclusives and we love to get a heads up … That’s part of what the job entails is building that rapport and building that relationship and reaching out to companies and being very inquisitive.”
- Mall Rats To Online Afficionados: “What I really see is … it changing. I compare it to the print industry. A lot of people said, ‘Oh the death of print.’ I think there will always be a space for a physical shopping experience. But I think what we think of as the store and what the store provides for us – that concept is changing. I think obviously anytime there is change it’s uncomfortable and scary, but I think it’s necessary and I think there will always be a need for the physical realm.”
- Fusion of Fashion and Tech: Two brands Maghan feels that really “get” mixing fashion and technology in the retail space include Mod Cloth’s IRL Tour, which holds one item in each size in its inventory. That’s it! Customers then can try it on and Mod Cloth will ship it home for them. The second is NYX Cosmetics, which allows a customer to scan a tube of mascara and then see the fashion and style bloggers who have used it, and taking it one step further – shows how they have used it.
- That Daily Hustle: Maghan can write a story in an hour, and sometimes her job demands just that. With features, it can take her up to a month. On average, she writes – bare minimum – between 5 and 7 stories a week and sometimes up to more than 14!
- Balancing Speed and Accuracy: A skill Maghan says is crucial to her job is the ability to report quickly and accurately, but instead of focusing on creating a perfect story, it’s important to realize when a story is good enough. “Balancing between accuracy, and being in-depth, and fully reporting a story [is important], but also being really quick to a story is something to navigate. And I’m always trying to do better at that.”
- Sweet Escape: “I grew up without a TV in the house, so I always used magazines as my entertainment and escape,” Maghan says.
- Tricks of the Trade: The easiest way to train oneself in journalism is to read as much as possible, Maghan advises. And, to get ahead, take on the assignments that may not seem as appealing, because she feels it helps you get better assignments in the long run. Additionally, she recommends to have a good relationship with your editor, and other people who can read your work and give you a “10 percent tweak” that can make all the difference.
- On Her Coffee Table: Favorite publications for Maghan include The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Time, The Atlantic and Elle
- On Making Mistakes: “I am freaked out all the time,” Maghan says. “Every day I’m scared, especially with the amount of stories I’m writing, and the speed that I’m writing. It’s very scary that I’ll make a mistake or I will publish something too early.”
- Surviving Stress: “Sometimes when I’m really stressed out, and I’m afraid that I’m not quick to report on something, or not doing my best, I just kind of zoom out and say, well, let me get perspective here. No one’s dying. Everything’s going to be okay,” she says.
- Creating Transparency: Maghan explains that a cause she’s most interested in is developing transparency in media reporting. Whether it’s tackling violence against women or financial struggles, “As a journalist I have the power of the pen to bring light to issues that you don’t often see,” she says. “It’s really interesting to watch in social media [all the] artifice and … pretending that your life is one way. I would love to devote more time to being transparent about the full picture of life.”
- Three Things You Might Not Know: Maghan was an exchange student in the Czech Republic and speaks Czech. She’s an African dancer and goes to class when she can. She’s also training to jump hurdles, which is her latest physical endeavor.
- On Personal Style: “How you style yourself and how you present yourself to the world, is your personal billboard,” Maghan says. “I find it fascinating, and interesting, and fun to change. I get bored easily, so I like changing up my look.”
- Develop Diverse Interests: Maghan explains that, “As a journalist I get to be a grad student in whatever topic I am reporting on.” Having diverse interests and keeping yourself versatile means that you can be employed by all different kinds of publications. “Old fashioned reporting skills are still very valuable.”
- Connect: Follow Maghan on Twitter @maghanmcd, on Instagram @maghanmcd and on her website