What it takes to become a Fashion Director with Dora Fung from The Cut/NY Magazine
Dora Fung’s career in the fashion industry spans over 15 years and multiple impressive titles. The fashion industry is cut-throat, but when you love what you do, it’s all worth it, Fung says; whether it’s working on a photoshoot until 9 pm on a Friday or flying to St. Barts with a legendary stylist. From starting as the New York editor for Vogue China to recently being appointed the interim fashion director at The Cut/NY Magazine as well as being the market director for Rouge Fashion Book, she tells FashionUnited what it takes to stay at the top.
What does a fashion director do?
It’s never a straightforward answer, especially in the last few years. When I was assisting, the fashion director’s role was always to create incredible images and set the tone of the fashion for the magazines. Nowadays, a fashion director manages multiple tasks. For an independent magazine, the FD will commission and produce the fashion stories as well as help with organizing the clothes for the shoot. For bigger publications, the FD will work with their team to make sure all their advertisers are covered in the magazine or site for the season as well as producing fashion shoots, market stories and be the face for the publication.
What does a typical work day look like?
The day to day varies. Some days are spent in the office catching up on emails, researching for stories and prepping for shoots. When it's market appointments season, we are out looking at the next season’s collection at the showrooms and meeting up with the PRs and designers. I usually have a breakfast meeting with a PR to catch up and discuss what they have launching or how we can collaborate together. Then it’s a few more appointments to see new collections. Afterwards, I’ll head back to the office and then it’s either an opening I have to stop by or it might be a dinner for a brand. If I am shooting, I will be on set all day.
How did you become the interim fashion director at The Cut/NY Magazine?
I spent 8.5 years as the NY fashion and production editor for Vogue China. Then, I went to work at CR Fashion Book as their market & beauty director. Next, I joined Yahoo Style when they launched as their market & style director. After 3.4 yrs, I left and freelanced and then started working with Rouge Fashion as their market director. Recently, I joined The Cut/NY Magazine as their interim fashion director.
Tell us a bit about also being the market director of Rouge Fashion Book, how does your experience as a FD help you in this role?
Rouge Fashion Book is a bi-annual art & fashion magazine from China. I have been part of the team since issue 2 and we are currently preparing issue 4. I work closely with the editor in chief, Lily Chou, and its creative director Calvin Luo (who is also a designer). Working with Vogue China definitely helped with my role for Rouge as I still know so many of the Chinese PR contacts, many of whom have been very supportive of us. Rouge is a truly independent magazine in China and for us to be able to get the support of big brands is a testament to the editorial team and the shoots we produce.
What skills are essential to become a fashion director?
You have to be able to wear many different hats. Also, you must love fashion and really believe in the publication you work for. If you have all of those, then working all weekend and being away from home for weeks is never a chore. A good fashion director knows that the support of the team is key. The assistants work harder than anyone else. In addition, the market editor, the associate editors are all experts in their market. That's why working closely with the team and treating everyone with respect is one of the most important parts of the job.
How has technology impacted your career?
I am always working. Technology has blessed and cursed me at the same time. I can’t live without WeChat. I use it to keep in touch with all my contacts in Asia. It fascinates me that hardly anyone in China uses emails these days and works directly with PRs and editors via WeChat.
You’ve worked at so many prominent publications and companies, what are some memorable moments?
I once went to St. Barts with one of my best friends whom I worked with at Japanese Vogue, production director Jennifer Berk, and the legendary stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele-it was the best time! Other memorable experiences include going to visit Mademoiselle Coco Chanel’s apartment on 31 rue Cambon and the AW14 Chanel show when the team created a supermarket. Being on set with household name photographers, stylists and seeing how they work is pretty amazing. Not to mention the food, we all get fed really well!
Lastly, what do you love about working in fashion?
Besides my love for clothes and leather goods, to be able to travel for work is always a bonus. I love the people I get to meet (below is a photo of me catching up with designer Han Chong of Self Portrait) and working with funny, eccentric or even demanding people is all great fun! Lastly, to be able to see beautiful things, being in stunning locations and seeing how an idea from 18 months or 18 years ago gets reimagined into everyday lives is beyond surreal!
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This interview was created in cooperation with The Cut/NY Magazine to promote working in fashion.
Photos: courtesy of Dora Fung, The Cut/NY Magazine, Rouge Fashion Book