Laura Pitcher (she/her) is a writer, editor, and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. She has been published in notable magazines like i-d, Dazed, Paper, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Vice, Teen Vogue, and Vogue in conversation with, amongst other matters, pressing social and environmental issues from human rights to sustainability in fashion. Her work can be found on her website, where she frequently uploads and shares her articles and ventures. In this interview, Pitcher shares her writing journey, giving specifics on how she landed her work on several prominent publications as a freelance writer.
Affinity Magazine: How did you become interested in journalism?
Laura Pitcher: I can never relate when people say they always knew they wanted to write. I didn’t have any singular career goal as a child because I, personally, have never dreamed of labor. I have, however, always had many interests and found it easy to talk to anyone about anything. I also always liked reading magazines on planes and in the hairdresser. I studied design in college and decided to intern at a small, local magazine in New Zealand, Capital Magazine, where the amazing team let me try out anything and everything. I started with a street style column and it snowballed from there. I found journalism was a good fit because I get to research a bunch of topics I find interesting and talk to people about their lives and creative work.
AF: Tell us how your writing journey has evolved, eventually landing your work in the likes of Teen Vogue, i-d, Dazed, Paper, The Guardian, and Marie Claire.
LP: For me, it was a very organic journey of constantly putting myself out there and building relationships. I started writing for publications in New Zealand like Vice then interned at Vogue Australia. I moved to New York knowing no one in the industry and with no work secured but a fellow New Zealander Hannah Ongley, who was an editor at i-D at th
e time, approved my first pitch. Once you’re already writing for one publication, it’s like you’re able to unlock the next one. Other opportunities have come from friendships, though I’m not a fan of the idea of “networking” so I wouldn’t recommend anyone be strategic about it. I made friends with other freelance writers and we support each other like coworkers. One of my best friends and unofficial mentor Sara Radin is someone I met in this way. We share contacts and ideas because we are invested in each other’s career growth. This works well when you don’t view other writers as competition, which does happen, and know your range.
AF: The writing field is a tough place to obtain success. Did you ever encounter large failures or at any point felt like switching careers?
LP: Failures are an everyday occurrence with writing but it’s not personal so I don’t take it personally. Pitches get rejected regularly and jobs fall through. Failure is also an everyday occurrence for anyone in any industry living under capitalism because capitalism itself is a failure. Since I can’t exclude myself from society, I do always have multiple streams of income and also work in the environmental space so that makes it easier if there’s ever a slow month. I think less about switching careers than I do expanding my interests and skillsets. I’ll probably always write but also want to do many other things for no reason.
AF: Has social media given you a platform to write? How can writers use social media to promote their work?
LP: I’ve definitely gained opportunities through social media and rely on it heavily to find new designers or creatives. That’s where social media is really beneficial to me, as most of my story ideas come from things I came across on Instagram. As for promoting work, I like to share my pieces because I feel proud of the artists I’ve written about or interested in the topics covered. I know there’s pressure to grow your platform and establish yourself as a brand but that’s a strange concept so I try not to overthink how I’m perceived online. It’s possible to have a professional online presence, whatever that is, while still sharing what you feel like sharing and not taking social media too seriously.
AF: You write a lot about climate change and sustainability. As a fashion journalist, how do you propose the fashion industry—an industry infamous for producing large amounts of toxic waste—supports the environment?
LP: The current state of the climate crisis makes it abundantly clear that the end of fast fashion is long overdue. There’s a lot of discussions to be had on creating a circular economy and moving away from new clothing altogether but, before that, we need to address the human rights issues in the industry and fight for social justice globally to even consider ourselves interested in sustainability. Indigenous and black voices should lead the way and billionaire brand owners should be held accountable. I love the work that the Slow Factory does in this area and also the work of Aja Barber. I would point those interested in exploring this topic further to their wealth of knowledge.
AF: Is there a topic that you would never write about? How do you approach controversial issues in a sensitive manner?
LP: I once participated in a naked book club for a piece and have been previously known to go into the middle of Wellington city a few hours after a large earthquake to take photos, so I would consider myself generally down to cover a broad range of topics. That being said, there are many things I wouldn’t cover because I’m aware of my range. Most of those would be personal essays in an area overpopulated by voices like my own or a piece needing a large amount of knowledge in a topic I don’t have it in. Being sensitive to people and a wide variety of topics is just being a kind and considerate person who asks for clarity and permission.
AF: What are the benefits of being a freelance writer, as opposed to writing for one publication?
LP: While I do enjoy the flexibility of being a freelancer and the ability to write for multiple publications and also work on a variety of projects in the environmental space, I won’t pretend that the freelance writing model was created for the benefit of the independent workforce. The creative industry as a whole has many labor rights issues because the work is undervalued. Being on staff means more job security and, often, better access to health insurance but it’s also an industry where layoffs are common. A writer in any scenario will have to face those challenges unless we see a shift in how we value the creative work.
AF: How do you come up with article ideas and pitch them to magazines?
LP: Some ideas come from conversations with friends, others can come from books, other articles, podcasts, or a post on Instagram. I rarely search for ideas and instead just come across them in my day-to-day life and note them down on my phone. Every week I look through my notes and work through the ideas I’ve put down, researching the topics more and putting together the pitches. Then I break them up into which ones would work for the different publications I contribute to and send them out. Knowing which editor would be interested in a specific pitch gets easier the more you do it.
AF: Lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring young writers?
LP: I myself would still consider myself an aspiring young writer, so I can only say that if you want to write, start writing. Reach out to some smaller publications and go from there. I’d also say to always ask the pronouns of the person at the very start of an interview. It’s an easy question to ask while getting their first name and other details and should really be standard journalistic practice at this point.
You can follow Laura Pitcher on Instagram @laurapitcher.