Paul McLauchlan is a freelance writer, editor and copywriter based in Cork. Covering fashion since the tender age of 11, he’s written for everyone from Vogue to the New York Times. Here he shares his best career advice, the accomplishment he’s most proud of and the importance of rewarding yourself and taking stock of your successes along the way.
Did you always want to be a writer?
No, I wanted to be a fashion designer! Reading the likes of Tim Blanks, Susie Lau, Alexander Fury, and so many more, opened my eyes to the power of fashion journalism.
In college, I studied… arts at University College Cork, a joint honours degree in French and Politics. Nothing fashion-related which allowed me to broaden my understanding of other topics and gave me a different skillset to apply to my job as a writer and editor. Fashion moves online like never before. Digital acceleration means that a lot of people won’t even need to study at university to build a career. Education is a privilege and if you have the means to study something, you should.
My most formative work experience was… contributing reporting to a New York Times article and witnessing the rigorous editing that goes into a piece. Countless other experiences working with editors spring to mind like Amy Verner for Paris Fashion Week’s Insider section and learning to turn around stories quickly at busy times of the year like fashion week. Sara Maino afforded me the opportunity to cover London Fashion Week for Vogue Italia for many years which gave me unprecedented access to shows.
My first real job was… a fashion journalist! Alyssa Vingan, the former editor at Fashionista, gave me my first break.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… having interests outside of the fashion world. For me, that’s travel, food, and movies. It’s so important to spend time labouring over the arts in all its guises, as well as keeping abreast in politics and the wider culture.
A common misconception about what I do is… that it’s all glamorous. It’s not. It’s long days, late nights, sometimes working for free (which I’m lucky that I don’t really have to do anymore), and pumping your own capital into projects. It can be tiring but with good intentions, the outcome is typically rewarding.
My main responsibility in work is to… distil the current moment in fashion. I enjoy writing profile pieces because it allows you to understand a subject better and, in turn, their work. If my remit is to edit, it requires an incisive eye and careful deliberation.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from? Elizabeth Paton, Amy Verner, and Serge Carreira have been very generous and kind in sharing their expertise and knowledge with me. I admire Robin Givhan’s (The Washington Post) career as the only journalist to have won a Pulitzer Prize for covering fashion. It goes to show that something that is often considered facile or frivolous connects every one of us.
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… investing time and money from a young age in the hopes that I could achieve a version of success in a challenging industry.
The first thing I do every morning is… check my emails!
My morning routine is… breakfast before catching up on emails and writing stories.
I can’t go to work without… I work from home but I always think that taking a moment to myself before starting the day creates a positive start.
On an average workday I… work on various stories and communicate with PRs about upcoming news items. I write a monthly column for Koibird and a monthly report for a retail consultant which consumes a lot of my time on the weeks that they’re due from ideation to writing and editing.
I break for lunch at… midday and usually have something quick and easy like a salad.
The best part of my day is… feeling like I’ve accomplished the tasks I set forth at the start of the day. As a freelancer, there’s always a sense of guilt that you’re not doing enough, considering the legwork required to keep your career afloat. It’s the days that switching off the laptop feels like a breeze that are the most rewarding.
I usually end my day at… 5 or 6pm, but some of my jobs and clients require that I work later into the evening.
I switch off from work by… I’ve recently joined the gym and taken up yoga and pilates! I’m very lucky to take time out of my year to travel with friends too — next up is Menorca!
Before I go to bed, I… spend too much time scrolling mindlessly on Tiktok!
After a long work week, I destress by… spending time with friends, not looking at anything work-related. The life of a freelancer is erratic but I try to stick to a Monday-Friday schedule where possible.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… launching the only menswear column in an Irish newspaper supplement, thanks to the fantastic Vickie Maye! All in all, I’m very proud of everything I’ve managed to achieve over the last ten years. It’s hard work and to have something to show for that in the form of an article online or in print is a special thing.
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… be open, kind, and tenacious. Don’t take anything for granted. Prepare to work extremely hard and perhaps even wait years for your ‘big break.’ Keep pushing forward, fashion is always about the ‘next thing,’ but make sure to reward yourself and take stock of your successes – whatever that may look like to you!
I’ve just finished working on… copy editing a biannual fashion magazine, which will be released in October, and at the moment I’m working on my monthly deadlines, in addition to planning for fashion month.