Nicky Briger is a woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind, making her the perfect person to profile today, being International Women's Day. The current editor of Marie Claire Australia has had a long and successful career in media, specifically magazines - where her passion for telling female stories - be they belonging to Hollywood's A-list or to the everyday lives of Australian women - has been her guiding light. Here, she tells us in her own words how she got her 'big break' and where she finds her inspiration and her refreshing solution to the age-old work/family balance conundrum.
You started at Marie Claire 20 years before you returned as editor – how had the magazine changed during your absence?
Marie Claire’s core premise hadn’t changed: it was still a unique mix of provocative journalism and high-gloss glamour. The difference was the magazine was now using its platform to not only promote women’s issues, but also actively champion for change. So rather than just report the issue, it was changing the issue. This was a seismic shift: it was now a magazine of true purpose with real power. Over the years, Marie Claire has championed change in areas such as maternity leave, child abuse, domestic violence and marriage equality, to name a few. Its power had moved beyond the page and newsstand. If you ask me how the actual job had changed in that time, I have one word: digital. In the past, we’d enjoy downtime after the monthly send. Not anymore. We now operate 24/7 as we’re constantly searching for on-brand ideas, images and news for our online properties in-between print deadlines. Certainly makes life more interesting.
How did you came to work in magazines?
I started my career at News Limited as a journalist on The Daily Telegraph and The Australian writing for every section from crime and entertainment to courts and parliament. I loved it, but there was always the allure of feature writing. Also, back then before Marie Claire launched in Australia, I was obsessed with the British edition. It was bold, controversial, thought-provoking and luxe – the perfect package of fearless features and fabulous fashion. So when I heard a local edition was launching, I rang then-editor Jackie Frank for an interview. I walked into this vast wasteland of an office yet to be filled with staff and got the job on the spot. It wasn’t that I was desperate to be in magazines per se; it was more that I wanted to work on Marie Claire.
Any tips you could share to aspiring journalists, hoping to crack the fashion industry?
Right now is a fantastic time for young writers hoping to crack the fashion industry, or get into journalism in general. With so many websites sprouting up daily, the thirst for content is insatiable. Strong, reliable, fast writers are in-demand. Magazines and website still love interns, so that’s always a great way to get started after uni. Interview a young, up-and-coming designer and send your work to a fashion-interested website – if it’s good, they’ll publish it. Or just cold call the editorial co-ordinator and send in your CV. The beauty of online is it’s limitless – we publish 15 to 20 stories a day so we’re constantly seeking/producing content. Hey, we could do with a couple of fashion writer interns, so feel free to email me directly!
What excites you most about magazines today?
Reading magazines still excites me: the feel of the paper, look of the images in their high-gloss glory, being able to read a fabulous piece of long-form journalism - there’s nothing better. What’s really thrilling to see is the evolution of photography – magazines are really pushing boundaries here. I think, in part, it’s because digital just can’t compete with the luxuriousness of printed photography, and that’s where mags are excelling. Also, nothing beats the power of a magazine cover. Last year’s Time “Person of the Year” cover – “The Silence Breakers” - proved that.
What other titles do you admire/read personally?
Yes, I still read Vanity Fair when I’m travelling, and I’m lucky enough to receive all the overseas newspaper insert mags The New York Times Magazine, The Obvserver, etc), so I devour them weekly. Online I love The Cut, Manrepeller, The Guardian, Refinery 29 and The Debrief.
What journalists would you say shapes your tone and method, when you were learning the ropes? Anyone you’d recommend other young writers seek out and read?
When I was younger, I read a lot of gonzo journalism and icons like Joan Didion, as well as well-known Marie Claire writers Abigail Haworth and Sarah Turnbull. I also learn a lot about writing engaging, info-packed news features at WHO magazine via writers like Kate Halfpenny, Karina Machado and Di Webster. But the truth is you never stop learning and there are many writers I still read religiously. When you want to feel inspired there’s Lynn Barber for profiles, AA Gill for biting observation, Caitlin Moran for funny, clever feminism, Dominick Dunne for crime, and Maggie Haberman at the NY Times for access journalism. Locally, you can’t go past David Leser, Fenella Souter, Annabel Crabb, Amanda Hooton, Shelley Gare, Mike Carlton and Helen Garner, just to name a few.
Marie Claire is an incredible platform for Australian fashion industry. Which young local designers do you have your eye one at the moment?
Albus Lumen for resort wear, Anna Quan for shirting, Ryan Storer for jewellery, Matteau and Her Line for swimwear, and Matin for feminine fashion. As a country that loves athleisure, PE Nation is doing fabulous pieces.
Who is your favourite local designer to wear?
It’s hard to pick one favourite local designer, but if I need an event dress, Toni Maticevski is my go-to. His clothes fit so beautifully and completely re-shape your body without being restrictive or uncomfortable. I also love Ellery, Kit X and Camilla and Marc for certain pieces.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Australian fashion industry today?
Digital disruption. There are so many options out there and you can purchase anything from anywhere, which is great for the consumer of course, but tough for retail. Part of the solution could be creating a true destination retail space – that is, bringing the experience back to shopping. That’s why Parlour X is so successful – the incredible surroundings drive you in-store and enhance the fashion.
What makes a good boss in this modern era?
Bosses today need to be flexible, open to change and agile. Marie Claire is an office full of part-timers because we employ many working mums, so flexibility is key. You can’t view work life in a traditional way anymore – 9-to-5, 5-days-a-week just doesn’t exist, especially if you want to keep talented, inspired people. You have the embrace change and be solutions-focused and adaptable.
How do you balance the work/family juggle?
People always ask me how I handle the work/family juggle (I’ve got two kids – an 11-year-old daughter and son, 13) and my answer’s always the same: badly. There’s no magic bullet solution here, except to find a partner who’s happy to pick up the slack when things get crazy-busy. If someone finds the perfect solution, please call me!
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?
“Don’t ask, don’t get.” My boss, Jackie Frank, who I’ve worked with on-and-off for 23 years now, first said this to me and it’s a great work mantra. If you really want something, go for it 'cos you might just get it! And if you don’t, you’ll have the satisfaction of trying. Win/win.Nicky can be found on Instagram, at @nickybriger