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While Rajni Jacques “never realised that [she] could have a fully fledged career in fashion” growing up, the now global head of fashion and beauty partnerships at Snap Inc. discovered the industry “haphazardly” through an internship at Honey magazine while at Rutgers University.
With her first full-time position in PR at luxury footwear brand Christian Louboutin, Jacques “realised I wanted to be the one creating, not the one pitching,” and transitioned back into print media, landing various editor positions at Vibe, Nylon and Glamour magazines, as well as a stint in freelance, consulting for the likes of Yahoo Style and Vox Media’s Racked.
Jacques worked as the creative editorial lead at Hearst’s digital content studio before her role as fashion director at Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue and Allure magazine from 2017 to 2021. Then, in April last year, the editor joined Snapchat’s parent company Snap Inc., representing a shift in editorial career paths in fashion as an increasingly digitised landscape is broadening opportunities.
In a LinkedIn Live broadcast last week with BoF Careers, Rajni Jacques shared her lessons learned on building a career in fashion. Here, BoF Careers shares her key insights and advice on breaking into fashion.
What drew you to building a career in fashion?
Growing up, I never realised that you could have a fully fledged career in fashion. I grew up in a Caribbean household where both my parents were physicians and so, for me, getting into the fashion world has been haphazard. I met a woman on a train [who] had an Essence magazine in front of her [and] I was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s so cool,” seeing someone that looked like me on a cover.
There was a magazine called Honey [and] I was cold-emailing and cold-calling the fashion director there. She gave me an internship and that’s how I fell into fashion. I was still studying political science, thinking that maybe I would pursue a law degree […] , but I loved how creative [the internship] was. It wasn’t necessarily the fashion part in the sense of the designers, it was the storytelling of it. When you’re doing a photoshoot, [thinking] “What’s the story? What’s the POV?”
My first [permanent] job was at Christian Louboutin in PR. I tried PR because I [hadn’t] done it before then realised I wanted to be the one creating things, not the one pitching. PR [professionals] are always creating for their brands and using those same skills and morphing them to editorial — I think it is a pretty seamless thing.
What is your advice for landing that first editorial job?
My first magazine job was at [music and culture magazine] Vibe. When I was doing the interview at Vibe, I took other magazine covers and explained what I would have done differently. I think it’s about taking it a step further and creating other opportunities from your job objectives. Being able to push and have an idea with legs, I look for that in people, too.
[Having] ideas, being able to articulate your ideas quickly and having that drive, doing research and knowing what you are talking about, knowing the room that you are in, and what they are trying to push — having that research and knowledge is key.
Then, I still go back to old school cold-calling, cold-emailing. […] You can be your own brand ambassador, marketer and PR person, […] because there’s so many tools today that lend themselves to bolstering your CV or making sure that you are front and centre.
How did you develop your professional network?
Working in this industry, I didn’t really know anybody and I also didn’t really see anybody that looked like me. Once I saw someone who did, I just asked questions like, “Do you mind if I call or email you once a month? Can you show me the ropes?” I think mentors are key to the generation behind because they give you a foundation […] to grow upon.
Having great mentors tell you, “I love what you are doing here, but I think you need to push upon this and take yourself out of that zone that you are so comfortable in.”
You only grow when you give yourself an obstacle to get over.
It really was that elevator pitch thing, [thinking about] what do you want to accomplish and [given] that they can only give you two minutes, what are you going to say to them? How are you going to go about it? I had to rewire my head into creating the who, what, when, where [and] why upfront to get the idea across and that has truly helped me […] drive myself forward.
How have fashion media jobs evolved?
Around 2012, there was a definite shift. People started having blogs and magazines in their own right. Publishing had to rethink what that meant for them — building their own sites, melding stories in the magazines and building them online, and budgets started to shrink.
When I first started [in] magazines, everyone had a [set] job — if you’re a market editor, you’re the market editor of denim. You don’t look at ready-to-wear, you don’t touch it, you don’t do that. Then, it all starts to come together […] someone now has three jobs, and it got smaller and smaller.
[Publishing] has morphed and has changed drastically since when I started and that’s because now, magazines aren’t the be-all-and-end-all — they are not king anymore. All these new platforms have democratised fashion in a way where everyone can feel they are included without physically being there. You can create on your own terms, be your own brand ambassador, PR person and marketing person, on your own terms. You don’t necessarily need to be co-signed by the powers above to be able to succeed.
What inspired you to transition into tech?
Tech just seemed to be the next iteration of my career. It’s great […] to be somewhere where creativity has no ceiling, when it comes to creating AR lenses with brands and thinking of working on AR shopping. It’s something that Snap Inc. has been doing for a really long time and I wanted to be in a place where I can utilise my fashion background. I was ready to make that move — it was time for me to explore outside of what I had been doing for the past couple of years.
Fashion basks in what’s happening now in the culture, whereas tech, while they are still doing that, is way ahead. They are moving a mile a minute. […] The tech world moves super fast because they are always innovating, creating and thinking about what is going to come out next year. Fashion moves fast but not at that same pace.
Original ideas are essential.
What does your day-to-day at Snap Inc. entail?
My day-to-day is never the same and depends on what projects I’m working on: I could be meeting with talent creators, meeting with AR creators, meeting with brands, working with different teams cross-functionally from the product team, comms team, to the marketing or the sales team, and working internally with my partnerships team. It’s really fun in the way that I am able to explore with brands and people what we can do on the platform.
What do you think is essential to working in fashion today?
Original ideas are essential. They’re hard to come by because you are always influenced by something that you might not even know influenced the idea that you created. Being able to create outside of yourself and conjure up something, that’s even better.
You can see it [in] some of the stylists [or] creative directors that have popped up in the past three years where they’re not only styling — they are creating their own universe. I think that is what the fashion world needs — originality in that way and being able to just take it three steps further than fashion ever has.
Working in a creative industry [and] working in fashion, it’s truly meant for collaborations. As you go through, you learn, you try things — that’s not for me, that is for me — you can feel in your gut when things are working well. It’s trial and error.
Discover jobs editorial related roles on BoF Careers:
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Copywriter, Ermenegildo Zegna Group — Milan, Italy
Assistant Copy Manager, Coach — New York, United States
Digital Editorial Copywriter, Nili Lotan — New York, United States
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Content Strategist, Charles & Keith — Singapore
Disclaimer: This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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