Meet Laura Brown
Described as one of the most powerful Australians in global fashion, Laura Brown is paving the way for a new type of editor-etiquette, with her down-to-earth nature, winning wit, and ability to break down the barrier between audience and celebrity.
Her illustrious career in journalism has included time at US Harper’s BAZAAR and W Magazine, before taking over as Editor in Chief at New York based US InStyle Magazine.
Driven, insightful, and not afraid to shed light on current issues, Brown uses her platform to merge fashion with once-deemed taboo topics surrounding politics, equality, and social injustice.
Laura is unapologetically herself, and the ultimate friend in fashion you want by your side. We caught up with her as she prepares to join us for the 2020 Australian Fashion Summit.
You are one of the most relatable editors of this generation and continue to evolve the fashion/celebrity editorial landscape. Did you have a clear vision of this unique approach to your role, from the early stages of your career?
Aha, the answer is no! I don’t think I had a clear vision of anything at the start of my career, apart from knowing that I wanted to be a part of things, and once I was, that I was happy to be there. And I would somehow telegraph that outwardly, with enthusiasm and some smarts. Also, I think I’ve been respectful of people, but not reverent, which I hope has resulted in a more accessible idea of celebrity. They’re just people, people.
You took a bold idea of featuring badass women on the cover of InStyle and turned it into a monumental series for the magazine. What sparked this idea, and why are these editions so important?
I was laughing the other day that my greatest professional contribution to date has the word “ass” in it. But it came from a more serious place. In 2017 President Trump announced a trans ban in the military. I was so furious that I ran into work and asked my team to profile a trans woman serving. They found a woman named Jennifer Peace – married, kids, served in every conflict of her generation. When I was reading about her, I said out loud, “Damn, what a badass.” And that was it – Badass Women became a monthly page in the magazine, then a dedicated issue each February and August. We also host dinners and are planning a big Badass gathering next summer. There are women out there doing incredible things (at a time when being engaged has never been more important), so the least we can do is give them a platform. Or a glass of wine. Or both.
InStyle isn’t afraid to open discourse on equality, politics, and somewhat taboo topics, often untouched by media outlets. How and why do you ‘go there’?
I don’t think I had a choice. Trump was elected three months after I started at InStyle, and the culture changed radically. You can’t stick your head in the sand and just shoot women at home in ballgowns - it’s lazy and unimportant. I think if you focus on what is right and what is wrong, between empathy and the lack of it, it all becomes pretty clear. My job as an editor is to entertain and inspire, so if can slip some engagement into that spoonful of designer honey, all the better.
You have positively changed the way fashion is presented to consumers, and your readership as well as personal popularity has been testament to an overwhelmingly embracing response. Have there been difficult moments, or challenges to that journey behind the scenes?
Oh, that’s very kind! I know this sounds basic, but if you’re enthusiastic about what you do, and you do it well, it will be embraced. I like to kill ‘em with kindness, mostly, and if people aren’t kind, I don’t work with them. It’s quite simple, after a while. If you don’t chase BS, or put yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable, it shows in both your character and the work that you do.
What are you most proud of achieving in your career?
Paying the rent in New York City! And for recognition like this. Honestly, it means the world to me. Thank you so much.
Laura will be speaking at the Australian Fashion Summit, 13 March 2020.