Based on the lower east side of New York City, Offaly native Fiona Byrne is living the Irish girl in media dream. Working as an editor in Ireland before arriving in Manhattan, she has effectively built her own mini media empire. Her first foray was the short-lived Naag.com, an endeavour she piloted with her friend Agness Deyn that hosted sharply written lifestyle and fashion pieces during those early days of blogging-meets-journalism. When Naag.com came to an end she set up the immensely popular The Byrne Notice, and is a style and interiors maven you simply cannot not follow. In between all this she’s been writing for the New York Times, New York Magazine, Nylon, Teen Vogue (where she’s in charge of the My Room Makeover section) and NME.com. Now she’s the overnight correspondent for the latest Bauer Media project, women’s interest website The Debrief, which launched to excited acclaim a few weeks ago. Byrne is in charge of the While You Were Sleeping section of the site, posting live content from New York to the UK based publication. We catch up with indomitable journalist to talk about the word ‘influencer’, reading the business pages and how to properly live that New York life.
The Debrief is targeting itself as “constantly connected, influential, 20-something women”. Do you find ticking those boxes tiring? Your job title is effectively ‘influencer’, is that an occasional burden or a constant boon?
I found it a bit odd the first time I was labeled that. Really I’m just being me and sharing all the things I genuinely enjoy. Luckily other people seem to enjoy them too. It’s flattering that people value my opinion.
You seemed pretty okay with the end of Naag – have you any career regrets? Or mistakes you wish you could cure retroactively?
I was never interested in the business side of things until very recently. Now I enjoy learning about all that stuff. It used to make me feel like I was in maths class. Now I read the business pages for fun.
Your leap to NY – was that a going-with-your-gut move? Or were you inspired by any journalistic forebears?
I really just wanted to live here in NYC. I had no idea how I would make it all happen but I said I would figure it out and I did. Anyone can do it, you just have to believe you can. And don’t be scared. People come up with all sorts of reasons not to do the things they want just because they are afraid. What’s the worst that can happen? No matter what happens, you’ll handle it.
You’ve been a NY transplant for so long at this stage do you think the idea of Eire as an eventual home has been guillotined?
I would never say never. I love Ireland and I miss it a lot but I also love New York. I would like to spend more time at home for sure, but always maintain a life here in NYC.
You describe yourself as a perfectionist and your projects certainly attest to this. With the 24-hour cycle of the internet how do you keep your head above the water and not drown in the churning-out-content quicksand?
You carefully choose what’s right for your audience and cover that. You can’t be everything to everyone and nor should you try to be.
Finally, we have 24 hours in NY. Where do we grab a drink? What do we eat? Where do we purchase an outfit that attracts waiting-in-the queue-queries? What book or magazine should we be obviously reading? And coffee – where do we grab the best coffee?
For bars, I like Black Market and Elsa in the East Village. For restaurants I like Galli in Soho, ABC Kitchen, Freemans on the Lower East Side, and for pizza I love Motorino in the East Village. I also love the food at Highlands in the West Village. My favorite place to have a mani-pedi is at one of Jin Soon’s salons, her nail polish lasts forever. For clothing, my favorites are Opening Ceremony, American Two Shot, Reformation and I love Madewell. I love La Colombe coffee. They have their own standalone coffee shops but I prefer to drink it at the Standard hotels either at the High Line or the East Village. And you should def pick up a copy of New York Magazine. I LOVE New York Magazine. I also really like Real Simple, Domino and Teen Vogue – obviously!
Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun
Photographs courtesy of Fiona’s Instagram.