I’m really impressed with how this iPhone shot came out!
A big part of my motivation for attending the London Fashion Week Festival was to document the goings on of the bi-annual event, specially for any PYT reader who wouldn’t find themselves in London over the 4-day period. An even bigger, yet much hidden motivation, was the desire to sit in an audience with Pandora Sykes – the much accomplished journalist with an unapologetic personal style and verified instagram account. (Ranked, of course, in order of importance!)
I’ve always believed and witnessed, that the best ever 1-to-1 interviews happen when 2 friends seem to be simply having a chat, almost as if the audience is intruding on a trivially private moment. Such was the conversation between Pandora and her beloved industry buddy and interview chair, Martha Ward. Enjoy!
BLOGGING AND DREAM JOBS
MW: Tell us a bit about what you do?
PS: In main, I call myself a journalist, but I also work with brands – whether that be styling or consulting, collaborating and I host a podcast.
MW: You didn’t use the word blogger there, which is interesting
PS: I feel like the way I use my website now is less of a blog and I’m actually changing it now to reflect the different things that I do.
MW: Do you resent being referenced as a ‘blogger’?
PS: No, I don’t resent it, I also don’t think its necessarily accurate because it’s a very small part of what I do. If I have to choose one title to describe myself, then I’d say journalist.
That’s what I spent most of my time doing and that title is what I have worked towards.
MW: Pandora, you were the Wardrobe Mistress at The Sunday Times Style. Can you tel us why you chose to leave a very upstanding job?
PS: I was the Fashion Features Editor at TSTS and I had a column called ‘Wardrobe Mistress’. I actually read an article about 6 months ago that described me as the self-proclaimed wardrobe mistress, but the role actually existed before me and it was always quite a weird name.
It was very difficult leaving there because it was my dream job and I’d always wanted to work for The Sunday Times Style, I’ve been reading the magazine since I was 14. But, with everything you do, you get to the point where you start to think about what else you can do.
When you work for a newspaper you don’t get much time to explore other options and I wanted to be able to pursue lots of different things and work for different people and that was the basis of it.
MW: Was it scary to leave or did you feel very confident?
PS: Once I’d left I was more scared, I forgot the joy in having colleagues to laugh at stuff on the Daily Mail with. I’d look at things on the Daily Mail and only have the cat
MW: I think it’s interesting that now, we have can have several jobs and things that we’re good at. But we can also be quite criticised for that very thing. Do you think it’s okay to have lots of hats and do different things?
PS: I think the problem lies in when someone calls themselves something when they haven’t done very much of it.
“I don’t think I currently call myself anything that is misleading.”
I never used to call myself a stylist because I didn’t think that I’d done enough of it, but now that I work with quite a few brands, that title is integral to what I do. But until very recently I didn’t because I didn’t think I’d earned the rights to call myself that.
A lot of people call themselves things that they’re not – frequently on Instagram people call themselves public figures. Have you noticed that? It’s my favourite one.
MW: Unless you’re Samantha Cameron you can’t call yourself a public figure.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND INTEGRITY
MW: Tell us a bit about your Instagram, it’s how a lot of people know you. Will you say you make a living off of Instagram?
PS: Is that how you know me?
MW: Yes, I first saw you on Instagram.
PS: Some people make millions off it…
MW: Do you?
PS: Erm, no. It definitely bolsters my income because there’s a lot of money in digital content and brand collaborations. I only do collaborations with brands that I know, like and already wear. I probably only do one or two a month. If I was to do every single one that I’m asked to do, it could become a full-time job.
“You have to learn where you draw your lines but some people don’t want integrity,
they want a really nice big house. And each to their own.”
MW: How are we supposed to know when an influencer is promoting sponsored content? The lines are blurred.
And tell us about the use of the words sponsored, spon or ad.
PS: I don’t know how much integrity and authenticity we get from bloggers these days. I know there is with me because of the aforementioned statement about only working with brands that I know and already like.
I get very annoyed that a lot of people don’t declare sponsored content. The ASA (advertising standards authority) have not ruled that you must declare sponsored content, it’s just advisory. It’s not legally mandatory.
A lot of brands actually ask that people don’t use the sponsored hashtags, which puts the people who are doing the projects in quite a vulnerable position. It really annoys me and I think you have to be strong enough to say to a brand that if I can’t declare it then I won’t do the project.
It’s important for me to make it clear when I’ve been paid to post. Also, I think some magazines try to hide the fact that some content is sponsored. I think it should be abundantly clear across the board.
MW: But you are a minority because not very many people think this way.
PS: I think it comes from when I was at the Sunday Times and I just couldn’t hide anything like that. I had to be very careful because I didn’t want to bring them into disrepute.
INFLUENCERS AND STREET STYLE
MW: How easy do you think it is to become a public figure, an influencer? A lot of people have established themselves through social media, especially Instagram.
PS: Well at every fashion show there is an influencer section, just like there is a socialite section and a press section.
MW: 2 years ago that didn’t exist! It’s such a rare phenomenon.
PS: I read something the other day, I think it was by Susie Bubble, she refused to criticise anything that anyone does. That’s what happened with that US Vogue incident, in which many editors spoke about bloggers being the demise of the industry and how they get changed many times a day.
I’m very much against people changing many times a day. But it’s not just bloggers doing it, it’s minor actresses, celebrity offspring and socialites – Paris Hilton would probably have been doing it for club appearances.
Ultimately, It’s pointless to judge how everyone else is doing it, just have your own scale of referencing.
MW: London Fashion Week has just been and there were lots of street style photographers, a lot more than before. Do you agree?
PS: It’s a huge business. A lot of these street style photographers have a following of their own, they have vast Instagram followers and they can earn a lot of money. It looks like an incredibly stressful job because they go to every city, they’re up before everyone, they’re at every show and then they get home only to download the images and send them to all the publications. Then they do the whole thing the next day.
It’s quite dangerous. I’ve seen photographers almost get hit by cars. It’s particularly bad in Paris because it’s mixed with paparazzi as well.
“I have been knocked over in those situations, ended up in a bush.
It’s a ride or die situation.”
MW: I was interviewing Amy Powell, the designer of Mother of Pearl and she says it’s less important for celebrities to wear her clothes and actually street style is incredibly important for her business.
PS: That’s why there’s this huge concept of fashion week dressing. I got loads of emails asking me to come to these ‘gifting suites’ because the idea is that they give you something, you then wear it to a show and your photographed in it, it’s tagged and the designer sells more of the product.
Again, I don’t actually attend the gifting suites, but it is a very successful method of selling for a designer. It’s essentially product placement.
SHOPPING IN LONDON
MW: On that note, did you buy your entire outfit?
PS: Everything but the jeans. My shoes are Topshop, my tights are from M&S, my shirt is vintage from the Peak-a-boo vintage section in the Topshop flagship store, my earrings are Christie Nicolaides and my jeans are by Rejina Pyo.
MW: How much did she pay you to wear them?
PS: Nothing, I interviewed her for the Sunday Times and she gifts me some of her pieces. I also buy a lot of her stuff on pre-order so I get about 40% – 50% off. And normally she feels sorry for how much I’ve spent and chucks in some free stuff.
MW: And where else do you shop? What are your shopping tips for London?
PS: I order everything, almost, online. Apart from Topshop’s vintage in the flagship store. I do a lot of online vintage shopping so eBay, Easy, Vestiare, Open for Vintage, Nasty Gal…
MW: I don’t know Nasty Gal…
PS: It’s not very you. It’s like slashed crop tops but it has an amazing vintage section. I love Matches and Net-a-Porter.
ONLINE, PRINT AND PODCASTS
MW: I know you’re a big advocate for print media. Why so and what is the future of print?
PS: I think print and digital work best in collaboration.
“I find it really boring when people say print’s dead, it will never die.”
I think the selection of publications will narrow in future and that’s why we see so many magazines turning into bi-annual content or producing coffee table books that we keep and treasure.
There’s an on-going argument about how many newspapers will continue to exist because they’re struggling to make the money they need to carry on. But I’m a massive fan of both and buy all the magazines that I can. I spend a fortune on magazines, I love magazines and I read almost every one but I’m certainly in the minority.
When I speak to people that write digitally, they admit to not reading print anymore. People would rather scroll through Instagram than engage with written content.
I love captions and I love words and I find them just as interesting as the picture, but I find Instagram has killed that. When you go on a website now they tell you how long it takes to read an article – 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes – it’s quite depressing.
People tend to be one or the other, they’re either visual or wordy and I love both. But I do think that Instagram has changed the way we consume content. I spend my whole life telling people to read things.
MW: So moving on from writing to speaking, your podcast with Dolly Alderton was successful enough for you to want to do it on your own. Tell us a bit about that.
PS: We had the ‘PanDolly’ podcast whilst I was The Sunday Times Style, which was based on Pop Culture. It was doing really well and we had 80’000 listeners by the end. I am setting up a new one that launches next Wednesday. It will be the same format, news across the week and everything from the trivial to the political. We’ll talk about chin hair and global politics in the same tone because we believe that you can be interested in low brow stuff and high brow stuff equally. You should be able to read the Daily Mail, watch reality TV and then enjoy reading The New Yorker and The Economist.
FASHION AND THE FUTURE
MW: What would you like to see yourself doing in 5 years time?
PS: Do you like those questions?
MW: No, actually!
PS: I’ve just realised that I ask that question a lot in interviews.
In 2 or 5 years, I’d like to be contributing to publications that I really love and admire. I’d like to have a really solid writing career. I don’t know if podcasts will still be a thing but hopefully I’ll be doing something podcast-y with Dolly.
MW: And the industry, what would you like to change?
PS: We do talk a lot about the future of fashion. It’s incredibly expensive to put on fashion shows and I don’t know if designers get back what they put in. There are so many changes taking place. ‘See now, buy now’ is happening and I think that is completely born from the instagram generation. When you see a catwalk show it can feel quite redundant because you have to wait 5 months for it, so I think people will do less shows.
There’s also an argument about the number of air miles that Fashion Directors rack up. From LA, to New York, to Paris and Milan and then 2 months later they have couture. I wonder if digital will end up replacing some of that.