For our Q&A series, we’ve brought together the movers and shakers of the creative sphere to find out what inspires them, how they got to where they are and what's next.
Pandora Sykes is a journalist, brand consultant and co-host of epochal podcast The High Low. After an impressive stint as Fashion Features Editor of the Sunday Times Style, she took the plunge and went freelance in 2016. Since then, she’s written for publications including The Telegraph, Man Repeller, The Cut, Vogue, Red, and i-D, designed a highly successful collection of swimwear for the cult brand Hunza G, and collaborated with brands including Chanel and Liberty.
You’ve written for a wide range of fashion publications over the course of your career - did you always know that you wanted to work in fashion journalism?
I actually never intended to work in fashion journalism - whilst I loved clothes and playing with them since the age of 3, my passion was always social culture - but I’d wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember. At some point I decided I’d be better at writing non-fiction than fiction because I was so curious about the world around me.
Your working life must look a lot different now to when you were Fashion Features Editor at the Sunday Times Style. What made you make the move to being freelance?
It was time to embrace opportunities that I was unable to from under the helm of another publication. I wanted to grow my consultancy and broadcasting, I wanted to write for a wealth of different publications, which I do now, from ELLE UK to Man Repeller, and I wanted to build the podcast I co-hosted with Dolly Alderton into the media channel that The High Low is today.
What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the fashion industry right now?
How to evolve. How to eschew the traditional seasonal format they are all set up to support.
Are we finally seeing the death of the high street which has been proclaimed for so many years?
Not necessarily. But we’re seeing more store closures than ever before. M&S is doing badly; Topshop is doing badly; even Next, the stalwart, is suffering. People are looking for a more unique high street experience which is why Trouva is doing so well.
Sell me the High-Low: for someone who has never listened, what’s your elevator pitch?
It’s a weekly news and pop-culture podcast that covers everything from Grenfell to Kylie Jenner’s pregnancy; the Irish abortion repeal to Big Dick Energy. People are not one-note; they like the high brow and the low brow and we aim to offer the whole shebang.
How do you go about choosing topics of discussion from the zeitgeist?
It’s pretty impulsive. It’s if either of us has a yearning to get stuck in to a topic. Sometimes however it’s just obvious what should be covered. To not cover the repeal, or Grenfell, would have been short sighted and actually, I think, offensive to leave out.
The High Low has a massive following, particularly from young women. Does the audio format of the podcast allow you to interact with your audience in a different way?
It does! 150,000 per week, at current count. It enables us to become more intimate, I imagine.
Why did (ex-Vanity Fair editor) Tina Brown’s pioneering of high-low journalism particularly speak to you? How did you come to name the podcast The High Low show?
We adore Tina Brown - she really rails against the idea that smart people can’t be interested in celebrity culture. Celebrities shape the world; ignore them, and their significance, at your peril! We were bouncing a lot of names around; ‘The High Low’ just came to me.
Arguably the most significant socio-cultural event of the past 12 months has been the #MeToo movement, which you and Dolly Alderton have discussed at length on High Low. Just how much influence do you think it has had on fashion, or more generally, on the world we live in?
You have to hope that these movements are not just hot air. Certainly, what Tarana Burke has been fighting for since 2006 is very meaningful. But when the media commodifies something it can become quite shallow. We’re already seeing conversations happening, not specifically in fashion - but then again, look at all the photographers who have been outed for predatory behaviour, like Mario Testino and Bruce Weber - and actions being called out, but we have a long way to go.
Post #MeToo, what do you hope that the world will look like, particularly as you’re raising a young daughter?
I hope it will be a radically different landscape for my daughter; but it takes time for things to proliferate beyond the liberal circles. I think it will take hundreds of years to exorcise misogyny - not a decade.
Follow Pandora on Twitter @pinsykes and Instagram @pandorasykes, and visit her website www.pandorasykes.com to see more of her work.