WRITER. INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, ASOS. BROOKLYN, NY
There is nothing more admirable than an unapologetically sharp, intelligent and wholly brilliant woman. Often times, people don't acknowledge the strength it takes to be that kind of woman in today's subtly restrictive society and it's important that those who dare to be are celebrated. In turn, those who aspire to be that kind of woman, will be more encouraged to do so. Margaret Meehan, International Editor at ASOS, embodies the aforementioned qualities to a T.
Meehan's resume includes companies like Teen Vogue, Moda Operandi and Bloomingdale's. The list goes on, but you get the picture, right? We sure did. With such a substantial amount of copywriting and editing experience, it was crucial that we spoke with Margaret. Her career has survived, thrived and transitioned well in significant media eras, which says a lot about not just her work ethic but her ability to adapt—an important quality in any industry. Meehan shared a great deal of smart, honest and most importantly, worthwhile information with us. Read on for the goods.
Krav: What did you study in college and what were your college years like?
Margaret: I studied English Literature with a specialization in Creative Writing, which meant my coursework was 60% writing workshops in poetry, fiction and non-fiction and 40% literature, focusing mostly on British, Gothic and women’s lit. High school was a bummer (I was a cliché loner) so I really tried to turn things around in college and step up my social acumen. I made a lifelong sisterhood of friends and cultivated my core interests and identity through my studies.
How did you begin your career?
I entered the job market in 2006-2007, during the recession and the “print is dead!” hysteria. Publications had not yet developed robust online presences (if any at all) so there was a dearth of places to apply to in New York. There were the few hero magazines at the big publishing houses and a few boutique web publications (aka non-paying jobs).
I was also never ingrained in that culture of having excessive college internships – I went to a southern school and was more academically minded. So I had zero internships under my belt. My resume was at the bottom of the pile. No one bit. I worked odd jobs as a nightclub hostess, cater-waiter and shop girl, finally landing my first internship at The Onion (I applied through Craigslist!). I was able to publish and hone my editing skills there. The editor-in-chief eventually hired me to work on his book. Finding my first job (with benefits) post-college was not elegant or easy, but it was humbling and character building.
Have you gone through any experimental phases?
My career has been mostly happenstance and survival. And I think most people’s careers are! But I’ve been lucky to have had my hand in a bit of everything: I’ve been employed as a copy editor for print publications like Teen Vogue and books, too. I have a lot of respect for copy editors and researchers – I think they’re the backbone and unsung heroes of publications. The brainiacs and technicians. But it wasn’t the right role for me – I took too many creative liberties. I remember an editor once called to complain that I was making “editor’s edits” and not “copy editor’s edits.” I eventually decided to transition to copywriting – I liked that it was similar to poetry, which I had written a lot of. You have to say something meaningful – and sometimes beautiful – as succinctly as humanly possible. While it wasn’t necessarily strategic (like I said, survival – gotta pay those bills), I ended up with an interesting mix of editing, copywriting, traditional writing, retail, and branding experience. When I was contacted about the editor role at ASOS, my eyes became cartoon hearts because it was the culmination of all of my skills: digital, print, and e-commerce.
What exactly does your job as ASOS’ International Editor consist of?
As Editor, I oversee all content for ASOS US across every channel. I lead campaigns and supervise the editorial team – together, we conceptualize stories and scout cool, up-and-coming guys and girls to interview and feature on the Fashion & Beauty Feed and Style Feed. Aside from the day-to-day content creation, I ensure that all creative and trends are compelling for the US market. Our headquarters are in London, so I travel there a few times a year to work more closely with the UK editorial, marketing, and fashion teams. It’s a fun, creative job – and I love that ASOS is an ethical brand at the intersection of culture and fashion.
Is it difficult to adjust to the different voices of various brands?
A good copywriter needs to be diverse and flexible — have a distinctive voice while maintaining the integrity of the brand. Before ASOS, I was Senior Writer and Editor at Moda Operandi, a super-luxury brand with full runway collections and rare fine jewelry. It was like going from talking to Nan Kempner to talking to Angela Chase in My So Called Life. Both make for an incredible audience.
Aside from an AP style book (bad joke?), what steps do you advise for someone interested in your career path?
Practically, major in a relevant field. Work for your school's paper or literary journal. Be a person who reads and writes. Start a blog. Who cares if no one reads it. Just be in the daily practice of achieving your goal. Intern at a publication, even if it’s local and close to home. Other than that, cross your fingers and hope for the best — life's a crapshoot, baby! (Sorry, starting to sound like a jaded 90-year-old on her porch.)
For fashion and editorial interns, don’t feel like you have to have that super-glossy job to be successful. There’s a lot of “live your dream” and “do what makes you happy” propaganda out there — but that’s wildly unrealistic and reserved for the privileged few. Do what makes you wacky. Do what’s character building. Do what makes you interesting. Do what’s humbling. Do you the best you can. Life isn’t short; it’s long as hell. Take your time.
We all know internships are vital, but what do you think is the most significant thing a student should take from their internship experiences? What did you take from yours?
Ha! As mentioned, I definitely suffered from a total lack of internships but I made it work. Interns often make the rookie mistake of asking to do something significantly outside the realm of their experience — like, hey, can I rebrand your company’s entire website? As an intern, your goal is to diligently and enthusiastically fulfill the duties of your role with the attitude that no task is above or beneath you. Show that you have true grit.
When I was at The Onion, I started out doing basic research and getting lunch. But then I asked if I could be part of the story workshop process. And then I asked if I could submit headlines. Luckily, I read the room right and the editors were open to it. But I took baby steps. Eventually, I was assigned a story to write. It was dropped. But getting that confidence in my talent was heartening.
That experience also taught me a valuable lesson about accountability as a supervisor — sure, it's the intern’s duty to be professional and hardworking but it's also my responsibility to instill confidence, assign resume-building work, and make it a worthwhile experience.
With the pressure to always be connected as someone who creates content, what are some useful ways you’ve found to disconnect?
I'm in book clubs. I take writing workshops. I ride my bike every weekend. I watch lots of films (bad ones and pretentious ones). I’m really cheesy about New York – I’ve lived here for ten years and remain wholly un-jaded by it. So I make sure to take regular advantage of the museums, orchestra, and the ballet.
What is the greatest thing you’ve learned as an editor?
Exercise impeccable judgment.
While reading articles, do you ever find yourself editing as you read opposed to just enjoying the work?
When I was a copy editor (Teen Vogue), yes! Because I was in the habit of being such an eagle-eyed, detail-oriented reader and fine-tune editor. It was excruciating. But I’ve evolved into a more big picture role in my career, so I can actually enjoy reading without mentally adding an em dash or raising my fist at a dangling modifier.
What is one thing you’d tell a developing professional?
Once you’re steady on a career path, don’t arbitrarily job hop — learn from my mistakes (though it did all work out). Be as strategic as your financial situation allows in planning your career trajectory. If you get a job offer that you’re not super-psyched about, consider staying put in your current role (even if a pay increase is beckoning) until a position that better reflects your end goal comes along.
When it comes to your style, what’s your philosophy?
I’m not sure if I have a philosophy but I have a silhouette: button-ups and high-waisted pants. I like clothes that have a definable reference point, whether it’s Victorian or ‘70s. I admire really stylish people (and tragically aspire to be one) but I've never been fashion-obsessed.
If you could swap closets with anyone who would it be? Why?
Iris Apfel for vintage, Jane Birkin for cool bell bottoms, Stevie Nicks for witchy dresses, Jimi Hendrix for jackets, and Katherine Hepburn for when I want to look like a smart, capable broad.
Follow Margaret on Instagram here.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Andre Gray