Thursday, July 23, 2009
“There’s a lot to be said for a place where creativity and intelligence are still valued cultural commodities” - Horacio Silva, The New York Times
On the eve of the launch of the Australians in New York Fashion Foundation, the final instalment in frockwriter’s series of mini profiles of prominent Australians working in the New York fashion media: a chat with The New York Times’ Horacio Silva. A new media specialist, Silva arrived in New York over a decade ago with Ben Widdicombe and cut straight to the jugular of the fashion business via the outrageous Chic Happens online gossip column.
Describe your current position and what the job involves.
Horacio Silva: I work as the Features Director/Online Director for T: The New York Times Style Magazine, which means I basically write, assign and edit for print and online. It’s fair to say, though, that as the T web presence continues to grow beyond all expectations, my work is increasingly online. That said, we just undertook a really interesting experiment in reverse publishing in which we are running (obviously updated) content in the ‘Sunday Styles’ section of The New York Times newspaper that has already appeared on T’s website. It's a development I’m very excited about and though it’s early days it seems to have struck a chord with readers (not all of whom I can assume already knew about T online.) I think it’s a smart way to expand the brand and get our original content out there to as many people as possible.
How difficult was it to break into the New York media environment? Briefly describe the career trajectory which led you to your current position.
I don’t know that it was any harder than breaking into media in Australia. In most countries, it’s a pretty hermetically sealed industry that takes talent, gumption, luck and contacts to break into. But like a lot of people who work in New York media, I basically just made the move and took it from there. I had worked in Australian publishing for many years – in print then online for Microsoft Australia — and my then boyfriend, Ben Widdicombe, and I wanted a change so we moved at the beginning of 1998. NYC and Hong Kong were the two options on the table at the time, but New York, which I fell in love with when I used to visit for work, was an easy choice for me.
As for my trajectory, I was lucky to have some shekels left over from my previous job so I had the luxury of feeling out the city and meeting lots of people. As a result, I was privy to a lot of fun information that wasn’t being reported and so Ben and I started a catty online column called Chic Happens on hintmag.com. That got the attention of the late Amy Spindler, who was the editor of Fashions of the Times (as T was called during her tenure) and my beloved enabler, and I just kinda stayed.
What do you know now that you dearly wish someone had told you when you first arrived in New York?
Nothing career-related. Seriously. But I would have loved a head’s up about the Thai food being pretty awful. Learn to cook it if you’re a fan and plan to move.
Best part about working and living in New York.
Mmm… the fact that you have the option to compete and do good work on a big stage holds a lot of sway for me. Because I don’t drive, being able to get around the city easily is also a plus. And there’s a lot to be said for a place where creativity and intelligence are still valued cultural commodities.
Worst part about working and living in New York.
A lot of visitors to the city complain that New Yorkers never let up about work, that you can be at a late—night bar and people still find a way to go on about their job. But I don’t mind that so much. (What am I talking about? I’m probably the worst culprit.) For me, the worst thing is really the tyranny of distance.
Where are you from in Australia and what do you most miss about it?
I was raised in Sydney. I’m a Leichhardt boy, but I lived most of my adult life in the Eastern suburbs. Of course I miss my family and friends above all else. And did I mention the Thai food?
What advice would you give young Australians hoping to break into the media/fashion/beauty businesses in New York?
Regardless of where you’re from, geographically or socio-economically, the world doesn’t owe you a single favour. So if you want it badly enough, you have to work hard for it. One thing I do remember from back when I was still working for Microsoft and-–shhhh!!!—talking to headhunters about moving to New York, is that you have to be here, no ifs or buts, so find a way. You’re wasting your time sending out resumés from Australia and expecting people to follow up. To quote the sagacious words of the New South Wales State Lottery: You’ve got to be in it to win it.
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- “THERE IS SUCH A CULTURE OF ENTITLEMENT IN NEW YORK, THE KIDS WHO WORK HARD ARE A BREATH OF FRESH AIR” – LAURA BROWN, HARPERS BAZAAR
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