Melbourne’s Melissa Singer needs no introduction as the National Fashion Editor of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
Mel as she’s known to many across the Australian Fashion Industry is unrivaled as our most formidable Fashion Critic and News Journalist.
Instantly recognisable on the fashion circuit you can guarantee to see Mel front row at runways and red carpet events, where she is invited by those that are popular in the industry including our most well known and loved designers, who see Mel as a respected fashion informed authority.
Singer awakens us to the fact that as we get dressed every morning, we need to learn about what it is that we wear and how buying fast fashion is impacting our environment.
Interview with Melissa Singer
Why did you choose a career in Fashion Journalism, and how did this come about?
“I had a love of journalism from a young age and was a magazine tragic, but I never expected it to form my career path (I began my university studies in law, before switching). That was until the summer of 2000 when I entered a “Win a job” competition at B magazine in Sydney. I was up against 700 people and somehow, I came out on top. I worked there for two years and learnt so much, including from my mistakes! After that I moved away from fashion for more than a decade but about five years ago was offered the opportunity to take it up again as a writer at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, where I have been working (for the parent company at least) for nearly 13 years.”
What is your favourite part about your job?
“Honestly, it’s the surprises that can come from every conversation. Often the best interviews come from the least likely sources. I especially love when I can get a bit deeper with an interview subject or sink my teeth into a more thematic story and write something that stands up alongside features from some of the writers I most admire, like the NYT’s Vanessa Friedman, or The Cut’s Cathy Horyn. Fortunately, the pandemic has given me more time to write meaty stories that in a regular year there often isn’t the time to do.”
Do you consider yourself a Fashion Critic?
“One hundred percent. I keep a lot of my opinions to myself but I see my role as an interpreter, someone who can view fashion not in a vacuum but in the context of what is happening around the world and always seek to answer the questions, “Why?” and “Why now?” And my favourite: “What does this say about us?”
Who has influenced you as a journalist?
“Influence and inspiration come from so many places, from the aforementioned US writers, to local heroes such as Jan Breen Burns, who has one of the most singular voices in fashion writing in Australia if not the world. I’ve worked hard to develop my own individual voice and point of view but that takes time – it took me until well into my late 30s to write with total conviction and the ability to back myself. I am also an avid reader and I think that helps build my writing toolkit immeasurably.”
How can we continue to support our Australian Designers during this time of uncertainty with no events and nowhere to go, especially with the lockdown in Melbourne?
“So many ways! The most obvious is to buy – many of them have branched out to make things that are suitable for the times. Even if it’s something small, like a face mask, it makes a difference. One designer told me that sales of masks have really helped offset the losses caused by the pandemic in the main business, meaning they will stay afloat and can return to normal production once the pandemic is over. If you don’t have the means to support a designer financially right now, send them a note or share a post on social media – you never know, their next customer may be watching.”
Who’s a designer that has left that lasting impression?
“One of the most heartbreaking conversations I have had this year was at the start of the pandemic when Jade Sarita Arnott, of Arnsdorf, was seriously assessing how and if she could keep her business afloat. I heard so many stories like this and honestly, the guts and determination of the designers in our industry has propelled me to do my best work during the pandemic. Without them, I have no job. Last week, when I saw Jade front and centre in David Jones’ new campaign, I felt a burst of joy and pride. I’ve been lucky in my job to form great relationships with many of our top designers, as well as meet some of the world’s best (but I am not name-dropping here!).”
What are you currently loving to wear yourself, during the Melbourne lockdown?
“I am really enjoying handmade knitwear in lockdown – I recently got a piece from Lady Kate knitwear and love the cable knit and the story behind the brand. Like everyone, I have also been living in active wear and always try to support Australian-owned brands such as Camilla and Marc, Nimble and P.E Nation. And always with my Stand teddy coat or Scanlan Theodore wrap charcoal coat – three or four years old and still going strong!”
How has the current pandemic impacted your work?
“A big part of my job is calendar driven and that has obviously been severely disrupted this year. I missed not covering Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia – it’s always such an anchor point. The Met Gala, too, though I did participate in the Met Gala Challenge that encouraged people to dress up in their favourite look. I dressed as Madonna; it was my most liked post of all time! The pandemic has also made me consider the type of stories our readers want very carefully, making sure we are always striking the right tone, especially when many people are confronting issues and hardships they could never have imagined.”
Do you see the way in which fashion media is currently presented changing in the future?
“Definitely. We are going to see a major flow-on effect from designers staging fewer shows and producing fewer collections. We have also sadly sad farewell to a stack of Australian fashion magazines during this period. But what’s encouraging is that the talented people who were behind those issues we devoured each month haven’t gone away, so once the dust settles I look forward to seeing who of them launches the Next Big Thing.”
Interview by Melinda Sullivan
Words by Melissa Singer