Under the Radar with Hattie Brett

Louisa Cavell

This week, I spoke to this year's New Talent Awards host and Grazia Editor, Hattie Brett, about trips to the White House, misconceptions about people working in fashion and the power of learning from each other...

Hattie Brett headshot

What made you want to work in the magazine industry?

I’ve always loved the way magazines are so focused on their specific reader. I grew up reading women’s magazines that approached stories about politics or beauty with equal passion and respect. That’s something I’ve tried to learn from today.

Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?

Like most careers, mine is a mixture of luck, resilience and late nights. I was doing work experience at Grazia as part of my magazine journalism postgrad degree when the most junior job on the team came up – so it really was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I worked my way up there, launching Grazia’s first website, before going on to be Assistant Editor. I was then asked to be the editorial presence on a project group charged with scoping out a new launch in the young women’s market. That ‘Project Rosetta’ ended up becoming The Debrief – Bauer’s first digital-only platform, which I launched and edited. I then moved to The Telegraph, where I oversaw fashion and edited Luxury magazine. And now I’ve come full circle back to Grazia, as Editor.

Do you have a go-to work outfit?

Jeans, a shirt and loafers. A printed dress when I’m feeling the need to look a little more ‘done’.

What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?

Whatever kind of chocolate I can find lying around the office. I’ve even been known to hunt out a leftover advent calendar in February.

What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?

Attending a state dinner in the grounds of the White House, when I was there shadowing David Cameron on his first trip to meet Barack Obama. It was in a marquee at the bottom of the garden and we were driven down in golf carts, a bit like the poshest wedding you could imagine. Albeit one where the guests are Carey Mulligan, Apple’s Jony Ive and Damian Lewis – who was playing Homeland’s is-he-isn’t-he-a-terrorist Agent Brody at the time. Seeing him strolling through the White House corridors was totally surreal.  

What would people be surprised to know about your job?

That people in the fashion industry aren’t actually that frosty. I’m lucky enough to have lots of people I’ve met through work who I consider friends outside of the office.

Walk me through your typical day.

Each day can be so different, depending on who I’m meeting and whether I’m editing, commissioning, writing or presenting – and indeed if I’m in the UK at all. But pretty much every day is rooted around daily news conference; an hour when the brilliant brains at Grazia get in a room and talk about what our reader is worrying about, pondering and obsessing over – and how we can cover it. Often, we end up veering from TV to the tightrope that is British politics right now in the same breath. It’s silly and smart – and my favourite part of the day. 

How has being a member of the PPA helped you/added value to your brand?

Being connected in an industry that’s ever changing is very valuable. We can all learn from each other – especially at the moment, where there’s a constant need to innovate.

If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day? 

As a mum of two kids under four, I’d still choose to sleep.

What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)? Why?

A bit of a building in Warsaw, snatched through the window of the back of a cab. I find myself travelling a lot lately, but never having enough time to explore the city properly, so I end up ‘sightseeing’ on the go. It’s a shame.

Hattie Brett photo

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Eating beans on toast while watching cookery programmes on TV.

Whose phone number do you wish you had?

Michelle Obama’s. Predictable, but true.

What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“A fringe suits everyone.”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers hoping to break into the magazine industry?

Find someone whose writing you really admire, study what it is about it that you think resonates with you – and then get in touch with that person to ask for their advice. You’d be amazed how many people will help if you just ask.    

What one sentence would you say to your 16-year-old self?

I’d like to say, ‘Don’t worry, life will get less angsty.’ But she wouldn’t listen.

What/where is your happy place?

Answering the random but somehow so pertinent questions of my toddler, while I’m lying in bed with her trying to persuade her to go to sleep.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m an Arsenal season ticket holder.

What would be in your Room 101?

People who bail at short notice.

Introvert or extrovert?

49% v 51%, according to a personality test I did once.

Optimist or pessimist?

Optimist.

Film or television? What are you binge-watching at the moment?

TV at the moment… Russian Doll, which is making me want to have a blow-out birthday party.

Sweet or savoury?

Sweet.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee.

Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most?

Thumbs upand Questioning emoji

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