Five minutes with Cosmopolitan’s Fashion Editor, Rachel Torgerson

Image of clothing on a rack.

By: Colton Madore – 

Sitting at the hair salon and thumbing through the latest version of your favorite magazine may soon be something of the past. Especially since everyone is glued to their phones and needs be in on the latest news. Thanks to this, many print magazines are ceasing to exist. Rest in peace Teen Vogue, Glamour and many more, we miss you!

Luckily, one of the magazines who is still standing afloat – both in print and digitally – is Cosmopolitan. The magazine has undergone many changes within the past few years. So, I thought I’d reach out to an editor to see what’s up – especially in an area that I’m passionate about – fashion.

Check out the interview with Fashion editor, Rachel Torgerson below!

Colton: What is your average day like as a Fashion Editor?

Rachel: It really spans a lot of different paths and roles. We do both online and digital at Cosmo. I might be editing stories that are either shopping galleries or lightly reported features, essays, or testimonials about things people are really loving right now. We also might be planning a big photoshoot with an influencer or celebrity and I might need to help come up with the mood board for the shoot and think about what styles we want to have the person to wear. I might even be preparing for a big pitch meeting in which I want to impress our Editor in Chief with really thoughtful, cool, and strikingly visual ideas.

There are a lot of publications that are switching to digital. What is it like working for a publication that still has print issues?

I actually was the fashion editor for just digital and this year we merged both digital and print. So, now I do both. It’s been really interesting to transition to both because our philosophy around print has really changed, especially because our new Editor in Chief was previously the site director for the website. Many things that we do for print are informed by the relationship that we have with our readers online who are engaged with us through Instagram or Facebook. Everything that we do now is very part and parcel of the digital world. 

I saw that you worked for both Redbook and Cosmopolitan at the same time for a while. Did you ever have difficulty trying to keep the voice of one publication away from the other publication?

I think Cosmo has a really fun and unique voice and it was more so hard to keep that fun energy out of some of the things I would be writing for Redbook. Which, obviously has a bit more of a conservative older audience. I would have to write a first pass and then tone it all done a little bit.

I know you touched upon pitching ideas before. How often do you pitch story ideas?

For the print issues, we have a monthly pitching schedule. In those ideas, we can bring picture digital ideas to the table as well. These would be like huge shoots for digital or big feature ideas. For digital, we have biweekly pitch meetings where we talk about bigger ideas that aren’t necessarily huge efforts. But we are constantly pitching and constantly thinking about ideas just all the time.

How do you get story ideas?

I find that some of my favorite ideas come from just real life conversations because that also means that people out there in the real world care about it, and we only ever want to be talking about things that people want answers to or would organically be talking about themselves.

I’ve seen that you’ve written quite a few short-form pieces. What is the process for those types of stories? Do you find that short-form stories are somewhat harder than writing a long-form story?

Yeah, it absolutely can be. For us, those stories can be just as time-consuming and many times we plan a shoot around it and then we see the pictures and what we end up with. Then, we will write the copy to fit whatever the layout is. Many of the other pages in our print book, we’ll write the long copy first and then we design a layout around it. For many of the fashion stories, we end up writing just to fit because we love the focus to be on the visual and on the actual person wearing the clothes.

The magazine has been going through a ton of changes lately, especially with new Editor in Chiefs. Is there anything you would change about the magazine?

I think a lot of the changes I would like to see in the magazine are currently happening. With our latest Editor in Chief switch, she is really trying to make the magazine more relatable and something that you’d want to pick up. Almost like your big sister talking to you or your friend talking to you, instead of coming from a perspective of someone telling you what to do. She’s trying to lean away from that type of feel where you can almost feel insulted when you read a magazine sometimes. That’s what I want out of a magazine experience. I want a delightful, awesome, reading time when I’m reading one. I don’t want to be told I’m doing something wrong or some trend I like isn’t cool anymore. I just want to have a good time and I think with every issue, our magazine is becoming more delightful to read.

What would you say is the most enjoyable part of your job and why?

The freedom I have to be creative. Whether that means actually getting to write the way that I speak in real life, or expressing personality through the kind of clothing that we pick for the shoots and the celebrities we’re excited about featuring. In past jobs, it’s something that hasn’t been freely offered. I feel like this is the most creative role I’ve been in and people really trust [the editors] to do amazing things.

Have you always wanted to be a fashion editor?

I have always been really interested in fashion and I always knew that I wanted to be a magazine editor. I thought it was very glamorous and I definitely wanted to be glamorous when I grew up. The fashion editor thing kind of goes hand in hand with my interest and likes and that glamour aspect. I don’t know that I always knew I would be a fashion editor, but now being one, it makes all the sense in the world!