I typically don’t listen to novels, but I felt that a book about an online publication HAD to be an audio…on my iPhone. The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes (she’s Plum Sykes’ twin) and Jo Piazza and narrated by Katherine Kellgren centres around Imogen Tate. Imogen is the 40-something editor-in-chief of Glossy, a fashion magazine and its transition from a print to digital-only platform and app. She had been away on medical leave and comes back to find that her former assistant, 20-something Eve Morten, now newly minted with an MBA from Harvard, has practically taken over her job, leaving Imogen with only her title. Eve had also fired most of the “old guard,” known as “grey hairs.” In addition, she has a severe attitude problem, treating her employees, including Imogen like dirt (to the point that it is likely illegal), working them 24/7 and is rude to designers and other potential people that the publication could be working with (or has worked with in the past).
Cover of The Knockoff (audio version via iTunes)
The storyline, which I found a little exaggerated (I’m unsure how a 42 year old woman who works in publishing and has a tweenage daughter can be so out of touch when it comes to tech and social media. At least she doesn’t have a flip phone), is good. And it’s not likely that someone like Eve could get away with that kind of attitude without being reported to HR (and subsequently fired). With a host of colourful characters, including cameo appearances by and mentions of real people such as designer like Thankoon and Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, to thinly disguised fictitious characters (including one who is very obviously Diane von Furstenberg under a fake name), the story does take a look at the cutthroat fashion publishing industry. Speaking as a lifestyle blogger, it is definitely full of mean girls (and boys). And very odd sorts too.
The authors on their book, The Knockoff
The book is a very easy read (or in my case, a very easy listening to – I finished over a course of two days). In addition, it can be quite relatable to those of us who have some sort of connection to the industry. As I have been blogging and attending Toronto fashion events for a number of years, I have seen how things changed. When I first started covering Fashion Week here in 2009, there were fewer bloggers and definitely not as many over-the-top street style gals and guys. It seemed more serious/industrial, in fact. Not anymore. While I’m still treated like media, I certainly don’t “look” like most bloggers. Firstly, I’m in my 30s and I also keep my wardrobe simple and professional – you know, the basic black look (or something by at least one of the designers presenting that day), no noticeable nail polish (and DEFINITELY NO NAIL ART) and hair in a ponytail. My make-up is simple and often, I won’t wear any jewellery other than my charm necklace and wedding and engagement rings. Maybe small keepers for the ears. This way of dressing is thanks to my many years of training at a girls-only preparatory school, a good thing, in my opinion. I take a notebook with me to shows to scribble notes (though I will also take photos with my phone to post on Instagram) and blog quite honestly. I’m not sure if most newer bloggers necessarily do that. It’s often about outfit posts and being “seen” at a show, wearing the craziest outfits. Toronto might not be as cutthroat as New York, but the vibe that Imogen felt is certainly here, too. Like Imogen, I *DO* like standing during some shows – it gives me a better view (and not to mention, easier to take notes) in the smaller “studio” setting where seats aren’t stadium style. And also like Imogen, I like doing what I do and don’t plan on quitting completely any time soon. I am, however, also, in a way, Eve-like because I prefer digital to print (but mostly to limit clutter) at times. I don’t think I’ve bought a traditional newspaper in years.
Whether one is in the tech industry or fashion, this is a book that I recommend. It’s not a “deep” book in terms of being intellectual, but if you’re looking for something to read at the beach or cottage this summer, it’s definitely something to consider. And the audio version from iTunes is great – Ms. Kellgren’s uses a wide array of voices, ranging from the British Imogen to the twenty-something millenial up-talking Eve to the mousy, tweenage voiced Annabelle, Imogen’s daughter. However, there is one point of criticism (in addition to the exaggerated plot): Ms. Kellgren is not that great with the male characters. They all seem to have the “same” voice.