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Book review: Tales from the Back Row by Amy Odell

Article by NEXT


Amy Odell, currently the editor of website cosmopolitan.com, was last year featured as one of Forbes magazine’s ‘30 under 30’ most influential people in media. However, things weren’t always so rosy.

Her first rung on the career ladder just a few years ago was as an editorial assistant, filing invoices in an office suitable for a hobbit. The work was dull, the pay appalling and when she got fired it turned out to be a gift because Odell, who knew next to nothing about the rag trade, went on to land a job as New York Magazine’s first fashion blogger. Her memoir, in which she dishes the down-low on everything from trendsetters and designers to celebrities and editors, is a sometimes snappish, often laugh-out-loud account of her years rubbing shoulders with the VIPs (“various inflated personalities”) of said industry.

She puts the reader deep inside P Diddy’s launch party for his fragrance Unforgivable Woman, where she was given strict instructions from her boss to ask celebrities, “What do YOU smell like?” with, um, interesting results. And she casts new light on Fashion Week attendees who will wear anything (like glittery pineapples on their heads or furry tails attached to their purses) to grab the attention of the increasingly influential street-style photographers and bloggers.

Sprinkled among the anecdotes and humour is a depth of knowledge about the world of fashion, which Odell points out is an exaggerated mirror of human foibles and fallibility. Despite her considerable influence, Odell is still seated 12 rows behind the likes of American Vogue editor Anna Wintour at Fashion Week, from where “I look upon these beautiful, ornately dressed people in envy, marvelling at how I’d never think to wear two sheer blouses at once.”

Whether you’re reading for entertainment or a how-to guide to make it from the bottom rungs of the blogosphere, it’s a fun and illuminating read.

Tales from the Back Row, Amy Odell
Simon & Schuster, $40

From the editors of NEXT