Angered by the lack of representation in mainstream media, Tori West started BRICKS Magazine to uplift and amplify marginalised voices from across the creative industries. What started as a self-published bedroom project has morphed into one of the most daring and relevant culture mags of current times. Whilst the independent work process and DIY ethos is still very much the beating heart of BRICKS the magazine has grown exponentially and has most recently seen some of music, art and fashion’s biggest trailblazers feature within its pages. As well as being an editor and freelance writer, Tori has no qualms in calling out the bullshit that young creatives experience within the publishing industry, and offers some much-needed career transparency. We sat down with Tori so she could talk us through big brand etiquette, the launch of the BRICKS office and why we need to abolish professional gatekeeping!
Tell us a little bit about what you do over at BRICKS! How did it start, and how did it grow to where it is today?
I started BRICKS when I was 21, as I recognised a desperate need for a fashion and culture platform that championed marginalised voices that weren’t so London-centric. Even today, only 16% of the creative industry is made up of working-class people. I never felt safe or comfortable working in publishing or fashion because it’s always dominated by straight middle-class people, it always felt like a barrier for me.
You’ve just opened up your first photo and work studio which is an incredible career milestone. How did it feel when you knew this was going to happen?
To be honest, I still don’t believe it’s actually happened! It’s taken 7 years to have my own space! It’s always been a huge dream of mine to create a safe, affordable working environment, not for just myself, but other people just starting in an editorial. Photography studio rental is so expensive in London, to the point, it just further reserves the industry for those who can afford it.
Why do you think it’s important for creatives to be transparent about their experience working with big brands/publications?
Everyone has a very limited, unrealistic view of what working in fashion publishing is like. We can’t afford expensive shoes like Carrie Bradshaw or work in glamorous, high-rise buildings like Miranda Priestly. It’s a lot of work, a lot of running around, a lot of having to still work for free because a lot of publications don’t have money. We have to juggle lots of different roles to have multiple income streams. I have friends who have worked in-house but had to freelance write at the same time as salaries are so low. I lecture, rely on personal social media work and I was a part-time cleaner for two years, no one talks about side hustles and I think it’s quite toxic to pretend like we don’t.
You collaborate with brands on a range of projects. When is a time that you felt as though a big brand or publication did you wrong?
So many times. The thing that hurts me the most is when a company wants to create content surrounding your ‘struggles’ whether it’s something to do with your identity or your experiences in the industry, then they don’t pay your invoices on time, which always further adds to that struggle. It makes you feel entirely used. It’s happened to me so many times. I also had to call a publication out recently for paying an invoice two months late when I was relying on it heavily during the pandemic, all while they championed me as the voice that was ‘changing the industry’ on their website. I’m of course, happy to be lenient as I know it’s a hard financial time for everyone, however, there was a huge global brand sponsoring the entire project. It’s examples like this that so many incredible, talented people give up on their dreams of working in fashion, which is such a shame.
Did they do anything to rectify their wrongdoing?
I didn’t get an apology from anyone. Although recently a brand director did call me to apologise on behalf of his staff, I’m still waiting on 50% of the overdue invoice.
How can companies/publications/brands better support creatives?
Branch out of your inner circle, diversify your talent and offer jobs to working-class voices, Queer voices, POC voices, Black voices. If there’s a lot of work involved or the project is a few months long, pay 50% upfront to help cover production costs. Also, I’d like to see editors offer jobs to writers that aren’t just always to do with their personal experiences surrounding their marginalised identity, it can be really triggering. Yes, I’m queer, but sometimes I just want to write about fashion hun!
As queer creatives, a lot of us have a shared experience within our relevant industries. Why should we all be discussing and sharing our experiences?
We need more spaces that allow us to tell our own stories, but not one version. Again, just because I’m queer, doesn’t mean the company’s work is done because they published one personal essay by me, I can’t speak for the entire queer community as it’s a huge spectrum of voices and experiences.
How do you manage to work on multiple projects at one time?
Caffeine, a lot of note-taking, to-do lists everywhere, and a lot of self-care and rest.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your career in publishing?
Not to be scared to put yourself out there because you’re not good enough. I wasted so much time not being confident enough to try and work with others. I felt as though I wasn’t good enough to earn money, which was just a result of growing up in and out of poverty my entire life. I never had money so felt like I never would, or deserve to have it. But everyone should be allowed to earn through their passions. But remember, your work isn’t only valuable when you can monetise it either.
What is one perk and one downfall of working for yourself?
I get a lot of free things, press trips, parties, clothes and beauty supplies, which helps during the months I don’t have a lot of money. I’m also in control of my own time, which is the most valuable thing for me. The downside is that I only have myself to rely on to feel ok within my work, it can be quite isolating, especially during the pandemic.
There’s often a feeling that only people with a leg up and with certain experience can successfully work in creative industries. Why is this something that needs to change?
I unfortunately would agree. The industry seems inaccessible for most because entry roles require a relevant degree or work experience in a similar capacity. Which leaves many of us having to intern for free. This means only those with a lot of disposable income or who come from a wealthy background and can get help from family members can afford to live in London and work for free.
You can find BRICKS' website and sign up for their newsletter here.
Words: Grace Goslin