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Interview: S Magazine Lifestyle Editor Victoria Gray

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Victoria Gray has been working on the Sunday Express's weekly fashion and lifestyle magazine, S, for the last 13 years, in charge of the interior spread, recipes pages and her feature of Victoria Gray’s Best..., showcasing her favourite interior items of the the week from geometric prints to insect interiors.

The lifestyle editor continues to deliver innovative and inspiring recipe and interior pages, as well as showing us how to incorporate trends into our home in an approachable and stylish way.

We caught up with her to discuss where she gets her inspiration from, the not so glamourous side of magazine journalism, and stalking editors on social media.  

How did you get started in magazine journalism?

I was working for an interior designer and a friend of mine was working at the magazine and offered me some work experience. I assisted a stylist on one of S magazine's christmas shoots (which I’m currently planning at the moment) and it was five days of making the tea, lifting heavy boxes. When I was there, I met the editor of the magazine, we had a chat and I gave her my card and after that one of the girls on the magazine was taking a sabbatical and I was asked if I was interested in covering her leave, which I did, and then I was offered a job three months after that - so not the most traditional way of joining a magazine!

What does a typical day involve as lifestyle editor?

It’s one of these jobs where there feels like isn’t really an end to each task even though there is, and the way I work, I'm working on lots of different things at the same time. I get into the office at 10 and it's 20 minutes of skimming through emails and answering anything urgent. Then lots of the time it will be organising photoshoots, organising locations, working with my home economist, making sure they have the recipes we’re shooting.

There are lots of different sides to it - researching trends for my interior pages, writing the captions for those, commissioning the garden pages, writing up shopping, really focusing on the trends, so it's a very varied day! I fantasise about having a job where you have one task to do and you finish that task and you have a clear desk and you go home and that's done and you do the same everyday. But it doesn't happen and I think that's why I love what I do, because it's always so varied.

Aside from the variety, what do you love most about your job?

Definitely the creativity! Every feature has to be oked by the editor, so you have to present your feature ideas to the editor in a way that your editor can visualise what you want to do. The thing that still really excites me about the job is having the creativity, from having the idea for the interior shoot, then working on that to turn it into something that is seen in print... organising the products for the photographs, styling and organising the logistics, just makes it really exciting and it's lovely to see your mood boards come to life.

I still get a real buzz for that, even though I've been doing it for 13 years, when I look in the magazine at the weekend I think, “Oh I really loved that shoot.” I feel quite lucky that I still get to feel that way.

Is it always as glamorous as it looks?

No never, never ever. My favourite part of the job is the photoshoot. Even though it can sound quite glamourous going off to a beautiful location to shoot something amazing, it invariably involves unpacking, packing up boxes, wrapping things up in bubble wrap, lifting heavy lumps of  furniture, on your hands and knees. It's never a case of swanning in and pointing at a few things; it's really rolling your sleeves up. I feel a photoshoot is like moving house in a day, so it's sadly never quite as glamourous as it sounds, although it does occasionally have its moments!

You were talking about your mood boards - where do you get your inspiration from? Is it trends?

Yes absolutely, you’ve got to have a passion and an interest. I read all the glossy lifestyle and interior magazines, I get updated by PRs with new press releases, I use Instagram and Pinterest; I’m constantly on the look out for the things that inspire me.

This morning I went to the launch of Dulux's new colour for 2018; it was interesting to see where a multinational like Dulux get their inspiration from. The colour was a reaction to mass overconsumption, fake news, the over-materialistic world, so it's a comforting calm colour to create a space to retreat to. Being invited to things like that gives me inspiration and I'll be working on several pieces around that colour palette. There's lot of different ways to get inspiration - things do come to you through press releases, but ultimately I think if you’re passionate about it you’ll seek it out.

Which is your favourite interior trend at the moment?

I love the botanical trend; it definitely isn't going anywhere! I like the paired down and the less in your face botanicals look, I think it's a really important trend and it's translated from fashion to interiors; even just the introduction of people using house plants, and for years that was very passé. However, it creates such a healthy environment, it's fun, and most people can include a little bit of botanic into the home.

I don't believe you should change your home with every new trend that comes along and you should be true to yourself and choose the things you really like, but I think the botanical trend is one that you can dip into and feel up to the minute and fashionable without being too try hard.

What are your favorite interior stores?

I love Anthropologie. Going from something quite quirky and bespoke at Anthropologie to Marks and Spencer, who do really lovely collections. I also really like Zara Home; I don’t like everything there but I think that they do some really lovely stuff. There's another slightly smaller company called An Angel at my Table, they do a lot of antique style pieces, quite feminine, and I also love Neptune.

How would you suggest a student makes their room more homely when on a budget? 

Lighting is quite important, I think, in creating a nice mood. A nice lamp can create great lighting and make a room feel welcoming; often if you’re stuck with a small light it can create a harsh atmosphere. Then just the simple things such as a few cushions, a throw, a rug; you don't need to buy expensive lumps of furniture, but a neutral palette with pops of colours or pattern works really well.  I think if you haven’t got lots of space and you’re trying to be bold and got lots of things going on, it doesn't feel like the greatest environment to work or relax in.

What advice would you give to young people wanting to get involved in magazine journalism?

My first piece of advice would be to find a person you want to speak to, so if it's the lifestyle editor try and get their contact details. Then a well thought out email showing you read the publication follow them and stalk them on Instagram and Twitter; they're a really great platform. I had someone contact me through Instagram asking if they could come and do some work experience - the message they’d sent showed they knew the publication, (and) that's what appeals.

Sometimes I've had emails, asking if I do interiors in the magazine. It’s lovely to have emails and compliments, saying “I loved your such and such page”, it's lovely to hear someone specifically liked one of the items. Make sure you speak to the right person, don't be afraid to ask for work experience or even just to meet, as it’s an industry that, once you're in it, is quite small. It's always worth an ask; try and get as much experience as possible within that industry.

 

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