By Sangeeta Kocharekar
Three years ago, Kirstie Clements was editor of Australian Vogue, now she is an established author appearing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival discussing the vagaries of the fashion world.
Three years ago, she was the focus of the media gossip-mongers when she was unceremoniously asked to immediately leave the Vogue offices where she had been working for the past 25 years, 13 years as the glamour magazine’s editor. A new broom was sweeping through the magazine corridors.
Three years ago, Louise Adler, well-known publisher with Melbourne University Press, called Kirstie with an offer to write her memoir. The scene of her final day at the magazine is recounted in her book, The Vogue Factor (2013), which chronicles her career path from magazine receptionist to editor.
Since then, she has written two more books – Tongue in Chic (2013) and Impressive: How to Have a Stylish Career (2015).
“When I started out, I always thought I’d be an author and then I got caught up in corporate life and Vogue,” she says. “People always used to say, ‘you should write a book’ and I would say ‘one day, one day, when I’m not here’.”
Her experience as an editor proved useful to the shaping of her latest book, as she was required to collaborate with a team. However, this time the team was comprised of friends and former colleagues, all of whom are in the fashion and publishing industries. She asked them all the same 30 questions about to how to be an impressive person and included the best responses in the book.
“I had a wonderful time at Vogue but now I actually really do like being on the other side and sharing information with young women and men, letting them ask me things and sharing it,” she says.
Kirstie Clements grew up in the Sutherland shire, but on finishing her Higher School Certificate was eager to move. She says the environment was stifling which made it easy to leave.
However, she credits her childhood for her realistic understanding of the perks the glamour magazine world offered, perks that included afternoon tea with Estee Lauder in New York City, a first-class flight and helicopter ride to world-famous Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo for a luxurious stay, and a visit to designer Karl Lagerfield’s home in Paris.
She says her background grounded her; she knew the glamour and perks came with the job, that being the editor did not define her as a person.
It was because of the job that she met her husband. In her memoir, she describes meeting a “tall, dark and exotic-looking doorman called Mourad” on the final night of a trip to Paris for a beauty launch. The romance prompted her to move to Paris where she worked as a contributor for Australian Vogue and as beauty editor and editor-at-large for Singapore Vogue .
She moved back to Sydney before the birth of her twin boys, Sam and Joseph, and resumed full-time employment with Australian Vogue.
While Kirstie Clements looks back on her time at the magazine fondly, she says the role of editor was a constant pressure.
“We kept changing hands, we kept changing management,” she says. “And you’re only as good as your last cover and you’re only as good as your last sales.”
Eventually the management decided she was no longer part of the Vogue vision and she agreed.
“At the end, they started to cut the contents budget and staff budget quite savagely and that’s when I thought I didn’t know if I could make a magazine the advertiser or the reader deserved,” she says. “That was really important to me.”
Now, as an author, Kirstie Clements has to work with just one supervisor, Sally Heath, her editor.
“She’s edited every book. She just says ‘Can I have a chapter today?’,” she says. “She’ll go ‘It’s lovely, keep going’. But she never tells me what to do or how to do it. The beauty of writing is that you’re the boss.
“It’s all portable and it’s just a pleasure,” she says. “There is procrastination and anxiety involved in writing but when you’re really in it, it’s fun.”
She says her new book took a year to complete, but was easy to write, as other people were involved.
She says she loved it because it felt like making a magazine.
Kirstie Clements joins Simon Lock, founder of Australian Fashion Week, and fashion writer and curator Jane de Teliga in a panel discussion on Secrets from the Fashion World, on May 24, 10.30 to 11.30, in the Theatre Bar, The Wharf.