Fashion

How Editor Willa Bennett Gets It Done During Fashion Week


Illustration: Samantha Hahn

For this special Fashion Week edition of “How I Get It Done,” we’re asking successful women about managing their careers and lives during this hectic time of year.

If you’re a fan of menswear, chances are high that you’ve come across Willa Bennett’s work — and subsequently, one of many photos of her in a tie. A Forbes “30 Under 30” Honoree and the first woman to lead the social team and strategy at GQ magazine, the 27-year-old is now the editor-in-chief of Highsnobiety, a global fashion-and-lifestyle media brand.

Before joining the team at GQ, Bennett got her start at Seventeen Magazine, where she launched the brand’s queer vertical. Since then, she has continued pushing for the inclusion of young queer people in media. Aside from the substantial work she did at GQ (like profiling Omar Apollo, Cole Sprouse, Joshua Bassett, and Conan Gray), she has written extensively for publications including them, Elite Daily, Bustle, Teen Vogue, and the Gay Times.

As someone who describes words as being “like water” to her, Bennett shows no intention of slowing down. She has published two collections of poetry, “i think there are goose eggs in my belly” and “this always happens.” While Fashion Week has always been busy for Bennett, this year (in her new role as editor-in-chief) sets a new standard. She attended almost all of the biggest shows — her favorites being Collina Strada, Fendi, Eckahus Latta, Tommy Hilfiger, and Marni — and has made appearances at after parties for Opening Ceremony, Heaven, and J. Crew, as well as hosting Highsnobiety’s own, on Sunday.

“Fashion Week is not one size fits all,” she says. “Everyone has their own relationship to fashion and their personal style and the way they approach it. The main thing is to be enjoying it. It is such a privilege to be there.” Here’s how she gets it done.

On a typical day during Fashion Week:
I wake up every morning around 5:30. I make overnight oats and I eat them in the morning while I drink my coffee. I read the news and check all the social platforms. My mornings are when I’m relaxed. I get to reflect on what I’m hearing and what’s going on in the cultural zeitgeist; it’s grounding for me. Then I make my way to the office. Shows usually start in the early afternoon, so I’ll step out of the office, see a couple of shows, grab a coffee or lunch, come back to the office to work a bit and then go to the rest of my shows. I try during Fashion Week to be super-present. When I am at a show, I’m really in that moment and intentional about my time and my energy and I’m observant of everything around the show. I’m always interested in what happens after the show, so I try to stick around to see where people are going and what they ‘re saying. If other fashion writers or close friends of mine are there, we’ll go together or we’ll meet up after.

On staying healthy during Fashion Week:
I was a ballerina dancer for years and years, so I’m very intentional about drinking water and making sure I’m eating three meals a day, which still stays true during Fashion Week. Even on some of my busiest days, it is really important to me to go for a walk and all that stuff. If there’s a show around the office, I’ll try to walk there and listen to music.

On deciding what shows to attend:
I’ve always been intentional about fashion, from the way I dress to the brands I support editorially to the shows I attend. Instead of just attending for the sake of attending, I go to brands that I’m looking to build a relationship with . But I’m excited to be surprised by shows as well. Before Fashion Week started, everyone on staff gathered in a room and we talked about our point of view right now — where we want to go with it, what we want to say , the types of brands we’re supporting — and it was a collaborative effort and brainstorm of so many amazing young people with such distinct point of views, and my job is to represent that.

On picking what she wears:
I’ve always loved fashion. When I was little, I used to cut out men’s fashion magazines and paste them on my wall, almost like paper dolls. I try to walk home from work every day along the water, and I have my most exciting and innovative thoughts about fashion then. When I wake up in the morning, I truly wear what I want to wear based on what I have to do that day and the way I’m feeling. I see it as a means of self- expression.

On staying organized:
I use my phone. I journal a lot. I have a bunch of notebooks that I use, but really, I’m very strategic about my time. If that means on more stressful days, I have to wake up at five or 4: 30, I’ll do it. I think after being a ballet dancer, I can truly do anything.

On what excites her about fashion right now:
The tension between youth culture and the fashion industry is what I’m most interested in right now — brands that say something, brands that have a unique point of view, brands that are resonating on social, and brands that have a community around them. It’s so exciting to see so many young people and hear the way they talk about fashion. I love when people get out of a show and spill into a bar across the street. Last Fashion Week, everyone was drinking tequila sodas, so I’m curious what the drink will be this year and what other things people are really into, like ordering certain types of dishes and Instagramming certain places. To me, it is just so much around the community and the conversations, just as much as the actual shows . I think a conversation at a bar after the show is just as much part of the story as the actual show.

On what a successful Fashion Week looks like:
Successful is a tough word, but to me, Fashion Week has done its job if it resonates with the zeitgeist.

On the downtown scene:
I moved to the West Village last summer and it’s been amazing for me to live in Manhattan for the first time. I was in Fort Greene before, and I loved it, but there’s something about being in downtown Manhattan and being in the cultural conversation in a new way that is exciting for me. I write at a lot of different bars and restaurants, and I’ll just people-watch, and it’s so interesting looking at the types of conversations people are having, looking at the clothes they’re wearing, looking at the way people connect. I feel like my worldview in my writing changed from moving to Manhattan.

On how she unwinds at the end of a day:
I love writing. It truly is like drinking water to me. So I’ll journal to channel my ideas and articulate bigger ideas. I put them somewhere so that I can remember them and keep them sacred, have them in one place. It’s mostly about organizing my thoughts. Having that all in one place is important to me. One of my favorite writing mentors always says, “All good writing is rewriting,” and I find that to be true. If you can get your thoughts down and organize them, there is always something there.

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