When you read the career guidelines book on becoming a journalist, you
would be hard pushed to find ‘get a summer job selling shirts for Paul
Smith’ as a top career tip but, sure enough, that’s what propelled
Esquire’s new editor Peter Howarth into the ranks of the literati.
Howarth started his career in fashion working for Paul Smith while at
college and ended up touring the Paris fashion shows with the designer
as a translator and house model during his student years. When he
graduated, a job as project manager at Paul Smith beckoned and it seems
to have been a fine training ground for him.
‘I think the fashion world likes to operate a little on myth,’ he says.
‘People see themselves as ‘the quiet one’ or ‘the rock and roll one’ and
I suppose in journalism it’s the same. Journalists have to build a
reputation for themselves in the way someone like Andrew Neil did.’
And the Peter Howarth myth? ‘I suppose when I began writing about
fashion I realised that my background - a degree in literature from
Cambridge - meant that people saw me as a very properly educated man so
I played on that. I was quite cynical about the world of fashion and I
almost deconstructed it.’
As to his proudest moment, it was really the birth of his son Jackson -
which almost prompted him to turn down the job at Arena. He went to see
Nick Logan, publishing director of Wagadon, which owns the Face and
Arena, three days before Jackson was born and explained that he was
worried about taking a job that would keep him away from his child for
the first year. After Jackson’s birth he decided that, if his world
could change that much overnight, then he could handle any job that
world threw at him and took the Wagadon shilling. In his view, working
at Arena completed his education.
‘I have worked with people who are all very different in character and
who taught me very different things,’ he says.
‘From Paul Smith I learnt the fundamental value of ideas - you should
generate lots of them, constantly re-inventing yourself; from Stephen
Marks, the millionaire owner of Nicole Farhi, I learnt about business;
from Michael Vermeulen I learnt about people, about finding out what the
people around you are good at and encouraging them to do it and from
Nick Logan I learnt everything that there is to know about magazines.’
Like most young people in the 1980s, Howarth was very goal-driven when
he started work. He wanted the job, the house, the car and all the
accessories but he didn’t want to work in the City. Time and the birth
of his son has taught him to view things differently.
‘Life isn’t a series of goals, it’s more of a continuous adventure,’ he
says. ‘It just presents you with opportunities and you take them or
leave them. I mean you’ve only got one life, so you might as well have a
crack at them.’
1988 Head of menswear, Nicole Farhi
1992 Style director, GQ
1995 Editor, Arena
1996 Editor, Esquire