In our long-running series, "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion industry about how they broke in and found success.
Full disclosure: I worked at Lucky back when the magazine was still ensconced in the Condé Nast mother ship at 4 Time Square and when Eleanor "Elle" Strauss was the title's senior fashion editor. I sat right in front of the copy machine — a location that offered scant benefits, but was a prime outfit stalking spot when Strauss came by to print pages for her ongoing collection of mood boards. (She loves those, as she'll explain.) See, the editor and stylist basically has the best style ever — which she's turned into a really successful career and inspirational Instagram feed.
"It's literally the only thing I've ever wanted to do," Strauss tells Fashionista about working in the fashion industry. "When I was growing up, there wasn't the Internet. There wasn't a TV show telling what styling is." She spent her early years stockpiling issues of Elle and Vogue and pursued a degree in media studies, but with marketing. "Because my dad was like, 'you need to do something that sounds more employable.'" She interned (or gained "work experience," as the Brits say) at Elle UK and worked as a fashion assistant at The Face after graduation.
She eventually moved to New York to freelance style and joined Lucky in 2008. In 2013, Strauss ventured into the retail side as Fashion Director at Shopbop. But Condé Nast lured her back in 2015. Now, as fashion director at Brides, Strauss infuses her high fashion sensibility onto the pages of the bimonthly magazine — which makes sense since weddings involve a lot more than just a ceremony outfit these days.
Strauss took a few minutes out of London Bridal Week (yup, there's one over there, too) to share what it's like being the fashion editor of a bridal magazine, and why fashion and bridal really aren't that different after all.
What did you take from your previous jobs and apply to bridal?
What I love about [the Shopbop customer] is that she loves to take a bit of a risk and loves to be different and embrace new trends and I think that is very symbolic of millennials and girls that are getting married [now]. Girls do want to see what's new in bridal, make a statement on their day and not just look like every other bride they've ever seen.
Was it a tough adjustment to move from Shopbop and Lucky to bridal all day, every day?
Well, the whole premise is that we're introducing ready-to-wear and we have 'Runway to Rehearsal,' the pages that I introduced. Bridal designers are inspired by the runway shows, as is the bride. Also, in America, it's almost like a whole story when it comes to getting married. You have your bachelorette party and you have your bridal shower and you have your rehearsal and you're not going to be wearing a wedding dress for every single one of those events.
Really it hasn't been such a departure because I'm at the Proenza [Schouler] show. I'm still at Marc Jacobs. I'm still being influenced and bringing that influence to the pages. But most importantly — and I can't stress this enough — through a bridal lens. It's not about everyday wear. It's not about basics when it comes to ready-to-wear. It's about that extra, extra special piece that's going to make you essentially feel like a bride, regardless of whether you can wear it for your wedding rehearsal or your bachelorette.
So in a way, does that give you more freedom? Just because you can go all out with everything you're presenting?
Yeah, I mean it's lovely. And I think I enjoy that challenge because we have to keep asking ourselves, 'how is this different?' We must present it in a way that feels different from a normal magazine. If we are going to present ready-to-wear, it needs to have a story to it. It needs to have a reason to exist within the pages. That's why I love magazines so much. You can get so much information from the Internet — but the one thing that bridal magazines have is just an ability to create these inspirational dream-like pages and I really missed that. You see something in a magazine and you want to tear it out.
The bridal audience is, presumably, for the most part, a one-time audience, so you're speaking to a different set of people in each issue. How does that affect what you do?
I want people to come back obviously and that's why the introduction of 'the rest of the wedding' was important. Because maybe you bought the magazine. You bought your dress. But there needs to be a reason to come back to it, you know? I think there are reasons, but I think fashion needed to support that as well. So hopefully, you'll see that there.
What is your average day is like?
Well, no day is the same. It could be bridal appointments. It could be ready-to-wear appointments. I'm also constantly, constantly building mood boards and thinking ahead to the issues. I love mood boards. I'm very much a visual person and I love to collect images that I'm inspired by — images that I think would be relevant for us, to create new pages for us. I'm building them constantly from what I've seen in ready-to-wear, from the new Gucci campaign, maybe I went to the Whitney and I saw a piece of art and was inspired by that. Just trying to bring as many elements to the table [as possible].
And then working with my team. We'll have a meeting and make sure that they very much share my vision. [Senior Fashion and Accessories Editor] Shane Clark has the most amazing eye and brings a really fresh approach to the table when it comes to accessories, which I'm really grateful for. I inherited a fantastic team, so that was great. I'm constantly meeting with new photographers. We're meeting with model agents. Maybe the odd lunch here or there. Obviously, I'll be checking in with the editor-in-chief, Keija [Minor], to make sure we're all aligning.
We're constantly pitching ideas, new pages and fashion stories. We like to call our bridal stories 'fashion stories.' We like to see it as 'white fashion.' I mean that in the sense of when we are working with new photographers. We would hate to ever look like a catalog in any way. We are part of Condé Nast and it needs to be — we need to be — the best.
How do you find the difference between the fashion and bridal editorial worlds?
I find it quite charming, actually. I feel like there are a lot of [bridal] designers that are lots more hands-on than you would typically see in fashion.
When you're a member of press, [the brands] put on a show a bit more. But when you're a buyer, you see the inner workings of it. It isn't such a 'press moment. It's, roll your sleeves up and get on with the buy and get to your next appointment. I feel like the bridal world is a mix of both.
This interview has been edited and condensed.