The Urban Watch | Create the Opportunity
I recently got to chat with Demi Vitkute, founder of The Urban Watch Magazine. Lithuania-born, America educated and now New York-based journalist and editor, Demi hopes to close the gap she sees in fashion reporting. Also the editor of a fashion magazine, Promo, Demi writes a series of monthly articles, in collaboration with The Urban Watch, on the changemakers in the fashion industry and the problems in the industry. Throughout our chat, I could feel Demi’s natural drive and I realized she’s one of those boss ladies that knows what she wants to see change and is only determined to make it happen.
Walk me through the journey of starting Urban Watch:
Urban Watch began with a friend. We were both recent graduates and home for the summer. We started comparing New York and London, and realized the similarities between both in regards to its fashion culture. The idea was simple - to create a digital platform about two cities that are so different but unite in fashion.
When you say you hope to close the gap in fashion reporting, what in particular do you feel is missing and what do you hope to add?
Most other industries, for example -- healthcare, are covered by a pool of reporters, but fashion is not. There are plenty of fashion writers, who cover the trends and colors of the season, but not investigative journalists who primarily focus on covering the industry as a whole. When I realized that, it bothered me, and that’s when I started my own reporting. The fashion industry has had endemic problems for decades: from garment workers dying abroad for fast fashion to models being abused here in the U.S. I’m moving toward creating a project that holds the fashion industry accountable.
Why is this particular issue important to you?
My mom is a textile engineer so from a young age I was introduced to the heart of fashion: fabric for clothing. She took me to many textile fairs and events—in Paris, Milan, Munich, Moscow. I remember at Premiere Vision in Paris I was in awe with the bursting creativity, trends and colors of couple years ahead, and the designers who came to pick the fabrics for their new collections. But I was always a writer and never imagined getting involved in the fashion world professionally. It wasn’t until recently that I fell into it when an editor commissioned me to do a piece on New York Fashion Week. Like many, I used to have a misperception of the industry as being shallow, but when I met the industry professionals, such as stylists, models, editors, and others -- I was delighted by their friendliness and creativity, and realized just how much alike we all were. So yes, the issues plaguing the industry have become personal to me, as some of the people affected by it are my friends.
Is there any insight you can provide on starting your own magazine?
I think the most important thing when starting a magazine should be its journalistic integrity. A lot of the small fashion magazines are started by people who are not journalists themselves or who do not care about the ethics of journalism. Their content is primarily advertorials, for which brands pay them, but more often than not, that kind of content is not marked as “sponsored” as it should be, so readers think it’s a non-bias article when it’s not. That’s a violation of journalism ethics. It’s misleading and not fair to the readers.
Transparency with the team about the mission and goals of the publication is important. You have to treat everyone in the team with respect and kindness. It sounds simple, but I think many writers, photographers or other creatives, especially in the beginning of their careers, get taken advantage of. Know your rights.
At the same time, it’s important to hold people working for you accountable. If someone messes up, in the end it’s gonna be on your company/organization, and not the person who messed up. A great lesson that we learn as journalists is to fact check everything.
What were some things you have overcome along the way?
I’ve learnt how to not overestimate my time. If you create something of your own, it will be your baby and will consume most of your time, whether you want it or not.
And it’s important to start with a clear vision, but to not be afraid of change. Change is a natural process -- perhaps scary and time consuming, but inevitable to move forward and succeed.
If there was one piece of advice you would give to another women founder, starting on her own, what would it be?
It would be the exact same piece of advice that I received from my woman mentor from Columbia, that has pushed me forward, which is: “You don’t need anyone’s permission to start whatever you want to do.” She is a founder of a news organization and a journalism expert. Her advice is especially meaningful considering the current climate of the industry -- as corporate news organizations are shrinking. The industry has changed so much that there is no traditional path anymore. It used to be that you start out at a local newspaper and climb your way up, but now, a lot of those papers don’t even exist. So sometimes you just have to create an opportunity for yourself when it doesn’t exist.
Another piece of advice: find an incredible mentor. Read about and get inspired by other women founders -- Her Launch is the perfect platform for that.
For more on The Urban Watch, visit here.