Australian-born Natasha Silva-Jelly is a New York City-based journalist and style editor.
Describe your current gig?
I am a freelance style editor specializing in fashion, beauty, celebrity style and lifestyle for print magazines and digital. I’m a regular contributor to stylecaster.com – the site director is ex style.com – Telegraph Fashion London and Harper’s Bazaar Australia where I was associate editor before moving to New York two and half years ago. I also had two stints in fashion news and features at Harper’s Bazaar in New York – working alongside fellow Aussie Laura Brown – it was an amazing, inspiring, and incredibly challenging experience, but a great entrée into working life in the US.
Tell us about your formal background and what inspired your career path.
I wanted to be an actress from the time I was three. Alas I missed out on getting into drama at university so I started temping. An agency convinced me to go for a full time job, which I didn’t want to do but I went and after three interviews I found out it was for Vogue. I hadn’t thought about fashion – I was born in Wagga hardly the fashion epicenter of the country – but in hindsight I was always very good at English and writing and used to write stories and poems, so my career path found me.
You’ve written for leading titles The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Grazia... Who has influenced you most in your career? Did you have a mentor?
My first ever editor was Marion Hume at Vogue and she was my mentor and is now a very dear friend. This was the days of faxing (no email) and I really had no clue about the major fashion heavyweights. Marion was a proper fashion journalist from Britain which really didn’t exist at that time and I learned a lot from her. I am a journalist at heart and love a good story so I also loved working at The Sydney Morning Herald – I worked with Kellie Hush, who I also consider a dear colleague and friend and god love her she bought me over to Grazia and Australian Bazaar.
In your opinion, how has the industry changed since you first started?
There was no internet then, no gorgeous newspaper fashion supplements (which I love), no bloggers sitting front row. It was all about a glossy print magazine which I still believe has its place and can work with online but personally I like my news fast and these days even a daily newspaper is old.
What local designers are on your radar?
In Australia Ellery seems to be the big buzz at the moment and I have enjoyed watching her evolve. I was pleased to see Kit Willow back in the ring. Toni Mativeski has carved out a good niche and I love – and live in Bassike.
What advice would you give someone following or influenced by your career path?
Start at the bottom. Starting as the editor’s assistant at Vogue was the best seat to be in as you are the gate keeper of everything and can watch and learn from everyone. I have never been precious about my work and can say I honed my skills from being edited by others – embrace those that have been there first and don’t try to rise up the top too soon. Sadly, I think there are a lot of people that were promoted too early in Australia and as a result our standard is lacking against the US and the UK, though the bar has differently been raised and there are some very talented people in the country.
What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned professionally?
Don’t take your position for granted, magazines close, editors leave, shit happens. And be a nice person, just because you are in fashion you don’t have to be a monster– at the end of the day, we aren’t saving lives here.
Have you experienced any challenges?
I have freelanced a lot in my life and while I love the freedom, I miss the buzz of a team and it can be lonely. I also feel more inspired getting up getting dressed and heading to the office – I mean who am I to tell you what to wear when sitting at home in my ugg boots? Encountering monsters has also been an issue – I have worked with mostly fabulous editors but there have been a few along the way…
Has moving from Sydney changed your outlook on life?
I relocated for my husbands work and an adventure and because I have always been a little obsessed with New York. It’s hard to really experience it a week here and there which is the great shame of Australia, we are so far from everywhere, though I know we are more connected and clued up than ever. I think if you are serious about your career you have to work overseas and working in publishing in New York really is the pinnacle. Things feel more relevant. I love my life in Sydney and miss the ease of it and the beach and my dear friends – my biggest bug bear in life is that you can’t fly direct from New York to Sydney. Work it out people – I mean Richard Branson is flying to the moon. If we could spring around the globe quicker and easier I would feel better about living in New York. I do love it though, cliché as it is, it’s buzzy and exciting and gritty and full of inspiring people.
What are your regular and daily reads from digital to print?
I’m a news hound so am constantly on WWD, Vogue Runway, The Cut, Fashionista, Business of Fashion, New York Times Style and I could go on. In print, I like Vogue and Bazaar, though my absolutely favorite it Porter – what an amazing product, proof that magazines can re-invent themselves and a bit of a reverse equation. Online first and then print. The imagery and the features are amazing, Lucy Yeomans is a genius, I know every editor wishes they’d come up with it.
What are your thoughts on social media?
I’m old school so I am not the best at it. It’s a hungry hungry beast and very very important and has totally changed the media landscape and the way we communicate. But how honestly do you keep up. Also there is a lot of regurgitating the same stuff. As a journalist I don’t love how bloggers have taken over, but hats off to them, they have done an amazing job and Australia has some great ones. How on earth do they find the time. Social media professionally is the key to building an audience. And personally I am a face book girl and do love keeping up with friends that way, it helps lessen the pain of separation. My 10 year old son also follows all his friends on insta and that has helped with his transition to New york.
What are your interests outside of fashion?
Everything, fashion is a job. I love to travel, love great restaurants and a good wine, I like to read (though not enough) and I love going to the cinema (again not enough).
How do you measure success?
There is no point having a flashy job if you are miserable. I am most proud of my family and that I have been lucky enough to have a career Iove and it has enabled me to meet amazing – and famous – people and to travel. I am well aware not everyone is that lucky.
What words do you live by?
Buy it, you will never remember the money on your death bed. Also your career is not what will be important at the end of the day, but your family and that you enjoyed a good life.
What is next? What do you hope to be in 10 years from now and what will you be doing?
No idea, but I feel like I have really grown personally and professionally from moving to New York. I was never chasing the editorship of a glossy magazine, I prefer the engine room much more. I’d like to be respected for what I do. Hopefully I am back on Bondi beach relaxing…
You can find Natasha on Instagram @natashasilvajelly