Me, My Desk & I

Elizabeth Paton, fashion writer at the New York Times shows us the view from her study chair.

Me, My Desk & I

As European fashion correspondent for the New York Times, Elizabeth Paton is more often than not writing. Whether it's in the paper's London bureau, in the back of a cab in between catwalk shows or at her desk at home. Ever interested in the stationery choices of others, we visited Elizabeth at her London apartment to get the lowdown on her desk details.

What are your desk essentials?
I need a clear space – I don’t like clutter, which I find distracting when I’m writing. In the office, a key essential are my heavy-duty headphones; a newsroom can be a noisy place and when I am writing a long feature or interview they are a lifesaver in terms of blocking out the rest of the world. I always have my notebooks on hand in great stacks on one side of my desk or filling all the drawers. I have a row of fashion books for references and obviously my iPhone, which has my dictaphone app on it – I don’t think I've ever owned a real one. I have balsamic vinegar – which I firmly believes goes with everything, an emergency stash of Percy Pigs in a drawer and some diamond polishing cloths from De Beers, which were given to me and have turned out to be very useful for polishing smudged glasses, mucky screens and keyboards as well as jewellery, which I always take off while I type.

How would you describe your desk vibe?
At home, enough space to think but also surrounded by things I really love. It's more utilitarian in the office. I am the only fashion writer in the New York Times London bureau so I have a little more colour and decoration on my desk than most of the other journalists. Still, aesthetically I tow the party line – even down to “The Truth is Hard” badges and signs we have everywhere at the moment.

Anything that is useful in transit I put more thought into, from pens and notebooks to laptop covers. I spend a lot of time on the road, so for four months of the year my desk is wherever my computer is. It helps if you like what you are looking at when you are far from home.

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How does it change during fashion month?
My desk during fashion month is usually on a bench at a show, a hotel room late at night or in the back of a moving vehicle. The 24/7 news cycle means a lot of writing in between shows and events and usually on my iPhone, filing straight to editors over email. On the rare occasion I make it back to my desk, there are usually mountains of paper invitations and tickets to sort through. I also keep all the paper editions with stories in of which I am particularly proud.

What are your fashion show essentials?
In no particular order: iPhone, phone charger, notebook, at least three pens, water, sweets, a pair of flat or high heels (whatever isn’t on my feet at the time), headphones, sunglasses, dry shampoo, hair elastics, an umbrella and at least one black Alaïa dress which requires minimal thought at the time I am most stressed and which always tends to make a good impression. I want to look polished, but as a reporter I am much less interested in my own image than those of the people I am talking to.

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What do you use your notebooks for?
I tend to always take notes when I am on an assignment, be it when getting a short quote from someone on the go, or a longer interview which I am recording – usually I will write a reminder of any thoughts or lines that I don’t want to forget to include and where I can find them on the tape. I love writing lists; it is a ritual that calms me. So there are often filing schedules and advance ideas on stories to pitch, and then life admin for home that tends to fall by the wayside like people I want to see, tickets I want to buy or bills I still haven’t paid.

What's your best fashion week story?
It involves champagne, a rubber duck and a global superstar. The rest, I’m afraid, is off the record.

What are the best fashion shows you've been to?
I really have seen some spectacular things in my time and sometimes I have to remind myself how easy it is to get jaded in this business. My very first Chanel show, where the Grand Palais had been transformed into an airline terminal, was very exciting. So was a trip to Rome for their Metiers d’Art show, where they had transformed some movie studios into an idealised Parisian arrondissement. Dior held a masked ball in January during couture which was pretty jaw-dropping; Moncler once did a show on the Central Park ice rink and there was a real sense that something new was happening when Burberry unveiled their first ‘see-now, buy now’ collection in September last year in the shell of the old Foyle’s bookstore in London’s Soho.

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