Laura Brown could aptly be described as the nicest — and one of the funniest — people in fashion. But it's not just her winning personality that makes her worth listening to. Brown's long-running career in fashion has included stints at W and Details, not to mention over a decade at Harper's Bazaar. These days, Brown is making waves as the personable editor-in-chief of InStyle, a title she's held since 2016.
On Friday, Brown sat down with our deputy editor Tyler McCall at Fashionista's annual "How to Make it In Fashion" conference in New York City to discuss the qualities that propelled her from a small town in Australia to the top of the masthead in New York City.
The first thing that Brown made clear is that just being present and putting yourself out there goes a long way.
"I got going on interning and I just showed up everywhere, whether it was country newspapers or fashion magazines or whatever," Brown said. In those settings, she felt it was important not to act like she was above any task, even if that meant fetching the proverbial bagel for her superiors. It was that relentless desire to learn that eventually landed her a job working under Glenda Bailey at Bazaar, which she describes as "an education in not settling for average."
A rigorous work ethic and the ability to be consistent about personal values are two other qualities that Brown both embodies herself and says she looks for when considering adding someone to her team. And in a digital age, being able to communicate one's personality and values on social media is important, too.
"I know for a fact that my personal social was a big part of me getting my [current] job. My bosses told me that," Brown claimed. "They knew I could put a magazine together because I'd done it, but they were like, 'You bring something, you know how to use [social media] and you also have a good sense of yourself and how you operate within this business.' That was sort of the key."
So what are Brown's tips for best utilizing social media in a way that can actually propel a career forward? For her, it's about mixing the professional — like a new magazine cover she's excited to unveil — with the personal touches that prove she's a real person.
"If I'm going to do a picture of myself in a cute dress, I will make a joke about it," she said. "I'll be like, 'I'm gonna shoot myself like an influencer right now,' because I'm just not into that, like, 'I'm so hot and better than you stuff.' It's getting really old, as far as I'm concerned. I think it's just bringing a holistic picture of being a working woman."
This down-to-earth attitude isn't just one Brown applies to herself. It's also what forms the basis of her interactions with the celebrities who appear on the pages of InStyle.
"Envy no one," she advises. "Don't mythologize people. You can respect people and think they're pretty and like their shoes and like their work, you can still admire people, but they're not better than you."
Brown admits that it was partly the way the fashion world was mythologized for her from afar as a kid in Australia that made her want to move to New York. But these days, she's more interested in helping communicate to her employees that they shouldn't be living like they're "in a bad fashion movie." Just because fashion has been known for being an exclusive industry with crazy hours in the past doesn't mean it has to be in the future, she reasons.
Her last tips for future change-makers who want to be a part of the next wave of the industry?
"If you have an original thought and something to say, just keep on with it. It will distinguish you," she said. "I think enthusiasm is the greatest quality in any industry."