jill wanless and biba the pyrenean sheepdog
Meet the Deputy Editor of Hello! Fashion Monthly magazine and her 'finest friend' Biba
Words: Simon Glazin Pictures: Rikki Percival
I wish I had gotten in touch with Jill when I qualified from journalism college and was in need of work experience. She is the nicest, most down-to-earth editor I've met. The fashion industry is a fickle one, but Jill is neither affected by it nor bows down to it. It's her job, and she's very good at it. Working under her, I imagine, is a very lovely experience. But don't get me wrong, under her calmness is an industrious, determined editor who knows what she wants, and delivers. You don't end up having 25 years magazine experience without being diligent (and fabulous!).
A few things struck me once Rikki, my photographer, and I had done the double-cheek kissing thing with Jill when we got to her house: how amazing the house is, with all its eccentricities ('The '70s wallpaper got put up purely for a feature I was doing for a magazine, and we loved it so much we kept it!'); how amazing Jill's skin and figure are (you'll agree she's incredibly photogenic); and how sprightly and youthful Biba is... for 15-years-old (about 80+ years in dog years).
Jill's house is full with age-old wooden furniture, more '70s references, a super fun vintage hair salon hooded dryer - now a lamp, and stacks of magazines from yesteryear, as you'd expect in any fashion/interior editor's house. Biba ran around, and in and out of her dog flap when we arrived, all excited, but an hour in and she was hiding upstairs, exhausted from her time in front of the lens. She's SUCH a lovely dog!
Scroll down to hear about the time Jill met Barbara Hulanicki - of Biba the clothing brand fame, and some great nuggets of career advice!
'Styling Debbie Harry in New York a couple of years ago was a particular highlight!'
On naming Biba: Yes, I love the 60’s and Biba was such an iconic brand. I met Barbara for the first time a month ago and she laughed when I told her I’d named my dog after her label. She’s very similar in character to Biba, still cheeky and full of mischief. I had the name Buster for her originally but when we saw her, she was definitely more of a Biba. Her pedigree name is Folie Bergere Rambaud, but that’s a bit of a mouthful in the park.
On life with Biba: Everyday she makes me happy. She’s my wake-up call in the morning at 6.30am (no exceptions on the weekend) and she paws the side of my bed until I lift her up. I cuddle her for about 15 minutes and that’s my mood enhancer for the day. I used to get straight up and run with her in the park when she was younger, but I discovered it was actually bad for her legs (the arthritis has set in). So now I dispense her leg medicine in some milk then she slopes back up to bed while I go to work.
On work: I’m the deputy editor of Hello! Fashion Monthly Magazine. I direct and edit mainly the fashion and beauty content of the magazine. I’ve been there for two years now (we launched a year and a half ago) and it’s fun and full of challenges. My favourite part is seeing ideas come to life on the page and knowing that the readers love the content when they engage with us on social media. I’ve worked on fashion magazines for the past 25 years and I know by now exactly what the reader wants. I did a degree in fashion journalism before my first internship at The Independent before landing a job as fashion assistant on the launch of Minx magazine. Since then I think I’ve just about worked or freelanced on every publication, travelled all over the world, made friendships for life and had some magical experiences. Styling Debbie Harry in New York a couple of years ago was a particular highlight.
On a plan b career: My dream would be to be an interiors stylist and work for Marie Claire Maison. I’ve dabbled a bit in interiors but I always seem to get offered another fashion role, I can literally spend hours thumbing through interiors books and magazines. I bought a place in France 12 years ago and that’s been the outlet for my passion, it’s been my greatest achievement seeing it finally finished.
On her daily routine: I get up at 6.30 or 7.00 (thanks Biba) and get ready for work. She follows me everywhere, then lies in my bedroom while I dry my hair. Then it’s breakfast and she puts her head on my lap under the table or paws my legs until I get her one of her treats. We call them raskers but they’re actually Dentastixs to help clean her teeth. She gets half of one every day which she snaffles down on her little rug next to my chaise lounge. Then I’m off to work and she spends the day with my husband who works from home. They’re a little team, he walks her and she loves she getting up on his knee for a cuddle while he’s editing. I get in from the office usually around 7.00pm and she’s there to greet me. She usually checks the supermarket carrier bag to see if we’ve brought her anything, then she’ll lie next to me all night while I read and relax, I always have to have one hand on the dog. She tells me when it’s bedtime (usually 10ish, we’re getting old) and I let her out in the garden before carrying her up to bed. Dogs love routine, so this is ours.
On career advice: Never under estimate the value of work experience. The fashion magazine industry is relatively small and jobs are rarely advertised. The only way you’ll break in is if you do an internship, someone recommends you or you’re in the right place at the right time - and you’re good! Use every day of that placement to impress your peers and show willingness, enthusiasm and initiative. The more you shine, the more responsibility you’ll be given and the more benefit and experience you’ll gain to help you get that first job. Expect to support yourself for at least 6 months while you intern and learn how to make a good cup of tea.
On her wardrobe staples: When you’re surrounded by clothes everyday, you’re own look tends to become more pared back. All my friends who are stylists have the same uniform. Usually a colour palette of navy, grey or black and denim, simple cashmere jumpers, breton tops, classic coats, mannish shoes, a ridiculously expensive handbag and low maintenance hair. We might make more of an effort at fashion week but day to day, comfort and not looking to try hard are key. Some stylists might give the impression we’re all wearing back to front shirts and silly shoes, but the reality is quite different. My favourite look this week is a pair of silver boots, cropped mum jeans and a pie crust collar pink blouse, but that’s about as jazzy as it gets.
On her favourite Biba tale (or tail!): When she was really young (she’s nearly 15 now yikes!) we were walking her in Shooter’s Hill woods and a posse of joggers ran past. Being a fun loving pup, she chased after them and the dumb asses carried on running. We were completely distraught wandering around miles of dense woods calling her name (although the numb nut joggers finally realised she’d followed them and were now all calling out ‘Beaver’ I mean as if?) After frantic efforts to find her and plenty of tears we went back to the car and there she was just sitting next to the door, she’d somehow managed to make her way back. Since then she never lets us out of her sight and we hate joggers.
On what breed of dog she'd be: I’d definitely be a Pyrenean sheepdog like Biba. She's fearless, proud, smart, sassy and devilishly cute. She charms everyone she meets, gets her own way with one look of her eyes and is big on kisses.
On who would play her in a movie: I’ve been told I look like Rebecca De Mornay in Risky Business so I guess her. Then again I’ve also been told I look like Sally from Coronation Street, I blame a particularly bad hair cut for that one.
On one thing people should know about her: They should know that I don’t take kindly to being likened to Sally from Corrie and that Biba is my finest friend.
Jill lives in south London with her husband and Biba.