Kate Wotherspoon is living her dream, your dream, and everyone else’s most fashionable dream. And she’s doing it IRL! Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Kate came to bask in the fashion, inspiration, and urban-setting of Vancouver and Blanche Macdonald’s Fashion Marketing classrooms before embarking on the biggest adventure of her life—a move to the ultimate fashion capital, London, UK. Since then, Kate has taken the London fashion scene by storm. She immediately found work in the hottest of haute couture houses (hello, Chloé and Saint Laurent!) where she made an incredible connection which brought her to the Art Department of British Vogue and then helped start and get new fashion mag More or Less Magazine off the ground. Now, she’s chasing opportunities that will allow her to blossom as an Art Director. Kate is living proof that sometimes the only thing that stands between you and your dreams is. . . nothing at all!
Before I lived in Vancouver, I lived in Toronto and looked into some schools there but no program compared–you could learn everything at Blanche Macdonald! Blanche had the best range of courses, everything from business to PR to styling to drawing... all in only 12 months!
Tell us everything about moving to the UK! What made you choose there?
I had been working while I was living and studying in Vancouver and I knew I just wanted something more once I was done with school. In class [Blanche Macdonald Executive Director, Fashion Design] Tyler [Udall] would tell us stories about his time in London and the places he worked and the people he met. He made a big move like that seem possible. Like all you had to do was commit to doing it and then get on the plane, which is what I did after working and saving for a year after I finished the Fashion Marketing program at Blanche. It’s just endless baby steps and it’s crazy to see how things evolve when you take them! When I look back over the last three years, it’s been full of things I never thought would have happened. I always had this thought in the back of my mind ‘Worst case scenario, it doesn’t work out and I can go home.’ Luckily, it’s worked out!
We’d say! Since moving there, you’ve worked with Chloé, Saint Laurent, More or Less Magazine—alongside previous British Vogue Creative Director Jaime Perlman—and you’ve done a stint in the art department of British Vogue! How did you do it!?
I had worked at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver and Calgary so luxury fashion was something I was comfortable in and wanted to pursue, and one role lead me into another. My experience working in the personal shopping department at Holt Renfrew closely paralleled selling and styling at Saint Laurent. Clientelling was a huge part of my everyday in both positions and making a connection with your client that’ll last is top priority.
At Chloé, I do a lot of store installations and correlate with the Paris team. We re-do the store for new product launches and different seasons. I was really lucky to be the one that oversaw and open the new Chloé store in Harvey Nichols! And of course, I still get to work with their clientele as well.
Saint Laurent was a very high-paced job, it was absolutely amazing getting to see the runway pieces in person. When I worked at one of the Saint Laurent boutiques, I did a lot of selling and working with Very Important Clients (VIC). One of my clients there was the Creative Director of British Vogue, Jaime Perlman. Jaime and I hit it off and we just kept in touch. One day she invited me to a shoot, my first one, and it was with award-winning British footwear designer, Nicholas Kirkwood! It went so good and I just loved being there. Jaime offered me a position in the art department of British Vogue not long after that. It was working at a magazine and I gained SO MUCH experience and was able to work on a lot of other shoots. It kind of put me on the trajectory I’ve been on most recently!
Tell us all about your most recent career path!
By the time my internship at British Vogue had ended, I knew I wanted to find more work within the magazine industry. I started looking for different jobs, pushing myself to find jobs in that direction. Once again, Jaime Perlman called me. She was starting a magazine and wanted to know if I wanted to help. I was like “uh, YES I want to help!” When I started at Chloé, I made sure I had my set days off with them every week, and I’d often be working on magazine stuff on my lunches and during my evenings. It’s really hard to balance two jobs that need a lot of attention and time but I really wanted to succeed, so I worked really hard. Most recently, I’ve been wanting to get more into art direction. I’ve stepped back from More or Less Magazine a bit to work on my own projects so that’s what I’m doing now! And it’s all because of Jaime, she’s a living legend and gave me endless experience. She’s an amazing visionary and I loved working with her. She’s been so supportive of me finding my own path.
During my second shoot with British Vogue, everything was going really well and all of a sudden Vogue by Madonna came on. I looked around and I was standing on a fashion set, with a gorgeous model and a wind machine! I was like 'IS THIS HAPPENING!?'
In all this fashion and magazine wonderfulness, what’s been the best moment so far?
It was during my second shoot with British Vogue and we were on one of the last looks of the day, everything was going really well and all of a sudden Vogue by Madonna came on. I looked around and I was standing on a fashion set, with a gorgeous model and a wind machine! I was like “IS THIS HAPPENING!?”
At Chloé, one of the best moments was taking some of my VICs to Paris Fashion Week. I got to take them backstage at the show and to Maison Chloé where they could view all the samples laid out and choose what they would like to buy for the coming season, and meet Natacha Ramsay-Levi, the designer herself! It was a total dream.
How incredible and surreal! Was Art Direction and working in magazines always something you wanted to do?
With my move to London, there was definitely a lot more opportunities to get magazine experience. As far as Art Direction, I’ve always been into it, I just didn’t realize it! I was a dancer and what I loved most about dancing was bringing the song, the choreography, the costumes, performers, and sets all together for a cohesive performance. Collaboration makes everything real and I love coordinating to bring a final result together.
Tell us how you decided to enroll in the Fashion Marketing program?
Before I lived in Vancouver, I lived in Toronto and looked into some schools there but no program compared–you could learn everything at Blanche Macdonald! Blanche had the best range of courses, everything from business to PR to styling to drawing . . . all in only 12 months! It was great for me because I was ready to put my head down and learn and get working in a career. I felt that I’d learned so much by being physically on the job in various internships, and meeting people who I could connect with career-wise—I was very eager to get that ball rolling after Blanche.
How has the information you learned in class fared in the real fashion world?
If I hadn’t gone to Blanche, I wouldn’t be here. The career help I got there was great. Everyone in my class was supportive of one another, and the teachers do literally everything they can to help. Everything I learned is so applicable in my working life. Peggy’s [Executive Director, Fashion Marketing] decades lessons are incredible and really knowing those timeframes and their influence on fashion is so important because you see it on the runways all the time. Also, her history of the different fashion houses and designers is invaluable to me. Understanding the history of everything in a fashion house’s past is so helpful.
The fashion industry’s backbone is teamwork. It takes a team to put on a show, make a gown, or get a collection out. It’s so important to treat the people who are helping you do what you’re doing with kindness and respect.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about the fashion industry that you’ve come across?
That people are closed off or stuck up. I’ve met so many deeply cool people with interesting stories that have a broad spectrum of interests. I totally thought everyone was going to be scary when I was getting into things but everyone has been so nice! The norm is being welcoming and helpful because we’re all working together towards something. The fashion industry’s backbone is teamwork. It takes a team to put on a show, make a gown, or get a collection out. It’s so important to treat the people who are helping you do what you’re doing with kindness and respect.