Trendsetters at Work, Bazaar Magazine

Jennifer Cooper, E! Entertainment

If you've ever been utterly dazzled by one of Harper's Bazaar's covers (like we are every single month), then you can go ahead and thank Laura Brown.

As the executive editor at the esteemed mag, she's got plenty of tasks to divvy through like coordinating features with major celebrities, writing articles, doing her video show and, you know, a million other tasks. Still, arguably her coolest task at the magazine is selecting the cover for each and every issue (talk about a dream job!).  

Fortunately for us, the glamourous editor took the time to chat with us on everything from how she conceptualizes each cover of Harper's Bazaar's to the biggest misconceptions in the industry. So what are you waiting for? Scroll down to hear from Laura herself!

Trendsetters at Work, Bazaar Magazine

Jennifer Cooper, E! Entertainment

What was your first job?
Baby or professional? Baby: I was 13 years old working in a Sydney beachside shop selling sandwiches and ice creams. Professional: I was a writer at Australian Family magazine. It closed down after two months (poor family). 

How did you get started in your career?
I was an absolutely voracious intern, or as we say in Australia, I did a lot of "work experience." From the 10th grade, I would take any opportunity at any magazine I could. I must have done half a dozen internships by the time I finished college. One of the magazines I interned at, Mode, offered me a job as production editor, which I grabbed. I was only 20. It was relentlessly unglamorous—making flat plans (without a computer) and chasing people to make their deadlines. But I wanted to write so would do that in my off-hours. I ended up editing the front-of-book fashion news and trend pages. And I kind of started from there. I saw some of those pages recently, like a time capsule. Made me laugh.

What is a typical day like for you?
It honestly depends where I am. In New York City, it's always the office. If I'm a good girl, I get a morning SoulCycle class in to clear my brain (and fit in my pants). I meet with my boss, Glenda, every morning. She's in the office next to me so I sail in on the back of her entrance. We go through all the pressing dramas (there are always pressing dramas) and then off we go for the day. There's always a ton of meetings—features, photo, corporate, PR, events—it just depends what we have on. Sometimes we'll be shooting in NY so I'll spend the day on set. Also I write a ton for the magazine and have a video show, ‘In and Out of Fashion' so sometimes I'm out doing interviews. In the evening there may be a work cocktail or dinner, but I really try to just go to the important things (otherwise you could spend your life going to fashion events and have no friends). My ideal NYC night after work ends with an early-bird-special dinner at Barbuto in the West Village, then a collapse into bed.

Then, of course, there are shoots in Los Angeles, London or Paris so if I'm traveling, that's a whole other deal. LA, I try to stack with meetings with PRs and agents, Paris I try to see designers. Wherever I'm going, I always remember to pack my jazz hands.

Trendsetters at Work, Bazaar Magazine

Jennifer Cooper, E! Entertainment

Tell us about your office décor. When did you last give your office a makeover?
I have named my office "the creche." Sometimes you might think an eight-year-old worked in there. My favorite thing is what I call my "wall of wonder" which is all the subscriber covers of Bazaar, arranged by month. It's our less commercial cover—no cover lines—and the images are fantastic. My desk is also covered with pictures of amazing people I've worked with (I have me and Oprah framed, and there's a letter from Hillary Clinton framed as well). On my desk there's a bunch of random accessories like a Chanel headphone necklace, a "Hand of the King" pin from Game of Thrones, and a Versace Medusa head. On the bookshelf are my many, many, many Game of Thrones dolls (given to me by HBO, I'm not totally nuts) and these little 3-D printed designers, like a mini Karl Lagerfeld, mini Donatella Versace, etc. It gives everyone something to play with, like, well, a creche. And there's always a blow-up of the current issue behind my chair. In case I forget where I work. Oh! And an inflatable kangaroo called Reg.

What was your first gig in journalism? And how has it helped you at Harper's Bazaar?
As above. At Mode, I learned to do five jobs at once. Still do.

What's the best part about your job?
When you have a crazy idea—mostly, when I'm going to sleep at night—and then you convince incredibly talented people, from celebrities to artists, to do it. I just get delighted when anyone turns up on set, honestly. Especially when they've flown in just for the shoot. After 20 years in this business, I still get such a kick out of that.

Trendsetters at Work, Bazaar Magazine

Jennifer Cooper, E! Entertainment

How do you go about conceptualizing each cover of the magazine? Do you have a favorite Harper's Bazaar cover? 
It depends on the cover—the newsstand is very straightforward, but the subscriber cover is much more adventurous. Glenda is a very visual person so will often have an idea or reference in her head, and she'll sketch it out. Sometimes there will be a particular fashion piece, like the white lacy neck piece we once shot around Lady Gaga's neck, that inspire the shot. I like to play with pop culture perceptions, like the cover we did with Rihanna in the shark's mouth, inspired by Steven Spielberg on the set of Jaws. When you get a fashion and culture moment together, that is just the greatest. 

What's the biggest misconception about working in the magazine industry?
That we're all mean and don't eat. But that's only, like, 95 percent of us.

Rihanna, Harper's BAZAAR

Norman Jean Roy for Harper’s BAZAAR

When you need a little inspiration, what're your go-to activities?
Instagram and art galleries. I get an insane amount of ideas from Instagram—I follow a ton of fashion photographers, National Geographic photographers, fine artists, street artists etc.—and not only do you see their work, you see who is hanging out with whom, who might be great collaborators.

What advice do you have for young professionals who'd like to follow in your footsteps?
Intern, intern, intern. Take any opportunity you can and make yourself indispensable. I can immediately recognize someone who has the DNA for the job—their references are right on, they just get it. But you won't get it if you don't get in the door.

Who are some of your career heroes?
Karl Lagerfeld
, not just for being an icon, but for being brilliant, hilarious, modern and uncommonly generous. Peter Lindbergh, for his warmth and grace. Cindy Sherman, not only one of the world's greatest artists, but a lovely, mellow, considered person. Tilda Swinton, for her general Tilda-ness. Lena Dunham, for her important voice and the port-in-the-storm she is for young women.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever received?
"Don't be so dramatic," told to me last week by Karl [Lagerfeld].

Lady Gaga, Harper's Bazaar

Sebastian Faena for Harper’s BAZAAR

Finish the sentences below:
Today for lunch I had… salmon and brown rice from the Hearst cafeteria. I have that most days when I'm in the office (vive l'imagination).
The first website I log onto every day is… The New York Times and Twitter. I leave them open all day.
If I wasn't doing this job, I would…be lying down.
My favorite place to visit is… Paris. It's cliché, but it's just so pretty. Also, of course, my motherland. Nice to be a tourist there now.
List five things that are on your desk right now… as above, but I'll add about three glasses of water on the go, a barely alive orchid, a doll of Joan from Mad Men, a 3-D printed me (very meta), and a pink Chanel clutch from their protest collection that says, "I am not for sale" in French (radical!).

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share