Evidently, people in the fashion industry do not read Salinger.
Author R.J. Hernéndez, whose new novel An Innocent Fashion chronicles a college student’s experience interning at a Vogue-like magazine under a pseudonym, admits that he too used a fake name for his Vogue internship: Seymour Glass, a J.D. Salinger character.
“I was coming into that industry as an outsider and it became clear early on that I didn’t really belong there. Growing up, I never knew anyone involved in anything remotely glamorous. I’m Cuban-American, the son of immigrants,” Hernandez tells PEOPLE. “When I got the internship, I had the opportunity to redefine who I was. Being somebody else helped me be more comfortable in that environment.”
Hernéndez’s coming-of-age story, which has drawn comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada for its unapologetic view into the underbelly of fashion media, chronicles its protagonist’s experience trying to fit into a world where a person’s social background is scrutinized just as much as his skills and intellect. (“I’d never thought that I could potentially be unfit for a job because I didn’t know people’s names, or because I didn’t summer in the Hamptons,” he says of his own experience interviewing at fashion magazines.)
While the book is a work of fiction, Hernéndez’s protagonist also finds himself becoming immersed in this rarefied, glamorous world in a way that mirrors the author’s personal narrative.
“What started out as changing my name snowballed into having this identity for over four years and then having a bank account with this name,” Hernéndez says. “I found in that world being that character gave me access to more things. I was getting invited to parties. It was the first time I was dressing up in eccentric fashion.”
Predictably, An Innocent Fashion has been drawing comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada, the 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger that was turned into the 2006 film starring Anne Hathaway as a misfit assistant and Meryl Streep as a high-powered Vogue editor, but Hernéndez sees his story as different.
“I found that the fashion industry wasn’t nearly as reductive as stereotypes portrayed in that film and the books that purport to depict the fashion industry. The world deserves more careful consideration,” Hernéndez says. “The familiar stories always center around rich white people. The way that issues of gender, sexuality, race and class play out in that world, people haven’t really explored.”
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Yet like The Devil Wears Prada, his work is already headed to the (small) screen – Hernéndez recently sold the TV rights to the novel.
“They’re aiming for like an Ivy League Gossip Girl kind of thing, but a little older,” he says.
We’re crossing our fingers that Ed Westwick is somehow involved.