Image via Garance.fr
Interview

Kate Foley

02.17.14

Kate Foley is a British stylist and creative consultant based in New York. Foley first got her foot in the fashion industry door in London, assisting stylist Charlotte Stockdale and working for Mary Fellowes through the launch of Vogue Turkey. In 2010, Foley moved stateside and transitioned into retail as a womenswear buyer for Opening Ceremony. Last year, Foley left the Opening Ceremony world to stretch her creative side again and began consulting for emerging designers and other brands.

Interview

When did you come to New York?

I came about five years ago.

What were you doing before?

Working at Vogue Turkey in London. I went to work on a couple of styling projects in the years before with different stylists. I kind of got to a point of full magazine knowledge and wanted a change of scenery and move out of London. I wanted a change from everything. I thought buying would be interesting and thought how hard could it be! I went to Opening Ceremony and at the time they only had one actual buyer working on the team – but they were growing and opening more stores and it became less and less comfortable for them do it all. It was kind of a magical scene with perfect timing, it made a lot of sense and I think Opening Ceremony is the one company that would happily encourage someone with not a lot of experience in that field. But that’s their sort of thing; they like that and want you to grow into your thing.

How long were you at Opening Ceremony?

Four years, no it must have been five years. Four and a bit.

Was it difficult to leave?

Definitely, it’s always difficult to leave anywhere. It really was like my family – I joined at a time when the company was a lot smaller and we were all crammed into a little office and we would all hang out together and have little parties. It really was like a family vibe back then. Although I had the most amazing four years it was time to do something a little bit different. Opportunities were coming up and people were talking to me about things and I just thought that it was kind of now or never.

In what way do you think being the buyer there was the perfect job for you?

I’ve always been interested in finding young brands. And working with them and helping build them; Opening Ceremony more than anywhere really, really does that. It was all about let’s take a chance on this, we believe in them, so let’s make other people in them. And to me that was super attractive. I think that’s part of the reason I was able to come there with an editorial background and take a buying role, it’s not the same as buying for like Barney’s – it’s more emotional, of course the business side is incredibly important, but it was really about what we believed in. It made so much sense.

Do you remember the brands five years ago you helped put on the map?

Someone like Suno – Opening Ceremony was the first store to carry them. It was carried in every single one of our stores. Opening Ceremony was very supportive to J.W. Anderson and Simone Rocha – there are so many!

Would you ever work for another retailer as a buyer?

I don’t think I would be a full time buyer. I really, really loved it, but I want to focus a little bit more on the creative side. I want to touch on the business, but focus on the creative. I don’t want to be like crunching numbers anymore – too much admin! But never say never, if the right thing came up.

How would you define your new direction?

I would say I’m a creative consultant. Fashion has changed so much and you can be someone without a specific role if you’re talented and have a creative vision. What I’m doing now is I’m working with a number of smaller brands, they’re all slightly different and I work with them in different ways. I help them with everything depending on the brand: merchandising their collection, pulling references, helping with press or a showroom, pricing, advising them on stores. I think certain things will grow as time goes on, but it hasn’t been that long! It’s been busy!

How do you choose the brands you work with? Why are the smaller brands so attractive to you?

I think it’s just something I love. I realized when I worked with Opening Ceremony that working with smaller brands is what I found most fulfilling.  With different brands I found at the very beginning I was sort of an unofficial consultant, even though I was working for Opening Ceremony, and would help them with everything, like pricing. I would just love the brand and really believe in it and want to see them succeed. I think that’s exactly the same now – the brands I work with I believe in what they’re doing and want to make it great, and think how can we work together and grow. It’s got to be something where the aesthetic is similar to mine and we understand each other.

Would you say you prefer the emerging set over the more established designers?

Definitely, it’s liberating working with emerging designers – there isn’t a million people you have to please and you have to work within certain guidelines and get things ok’d by different levels of people. It’s more authentic and real, fun and easy. What they’re doing is really true creative. The energy is higher and it’s more exciting.

Has it been surprising to you how much your street style status has become so iconic in the past few years?

Yeah! Because I look at pictures of myself and I’m like “oh my God, what am I wearing!” It is really weird because in the end it’s just me and I go out looking totally mad and crazy and terrible half the days. It’s really nice and it’s the funny thing about street style, like it’s become the zeitgeist, but at the same time it is real and isn’t that what fashion is – people having fun? Enjoying wearing things and if you can’t do that then what’s the point. It’s weird, but it’s kind of cool.

Has it added any pressure when you get dressed in the morning?

Not really, I enjoy dressing up and wearing something a little wacky. If I had to wear black jeans everyday I don’t know what I would do! So I don’t think it’s really pressure and during fashion week you can dress a little nicer, maybe it’s less practical but you’re capturing an aesthetic. But day-to-day I spend a lot of time wearing Nike sneakers!

Who are your go-to designers right now?

My number one is Prada. My whole wardrobe would be Prada if I could! I have massive amounts of Suno who is amazing because they have so many fun pieces to mix. Especially in the winter you can have a print and mix with your more drab, heavy winter clothes and it brightens everything up. I’ve been into Isa Arfen – she’s so amazing and the most lovely person in the world. I think her brand is really going to go places. I like shoes by Bionda Castana. I’m a big fur and Fendi fan – it’s a brand you don’t have to think about that much. If you look at the pieces it’s just so cool. It’s technically clever, wacky – it’s my ideal way of dressing. A little over the top, a liitle crazy, but cool.

Will you ever get used to being photographed?

I have moments when it’s totally fine and I’m totally cool with it and then there are moments when you’re freaking out. I think it depends on your mood, if you’re feeling confident it’s fine, but I’m definitely more used to it than I was.

Whose style would you say you admire?

I don’t know. I never really had style icons – I think I change from one thing to the next. I’m not inspired by anyone’s style in particular but I think just walking around the street, and when I get to London I see people dressed in a cool, natural, relaxed way. I think I draw inspiration from wherever. My brain is like a sponge and I’m soaking everything in and it gets regurgitated over time.

Are there any designers you think are going to really break out this season? Anyone you’re excited to be working with?

There’s one brand I’m working with and it’s super young called Bellavance. What’s interesting about them is the way they’ve grown and put their collection together. They start with an idea and really develop on that. It’s almost a real formula and they don’t get lost. I have a good feeling about them and think they’re definitely someone to watch.

There’s a brand called Shrimps I’m very excited about. It’s faux fur in a not so faux way. I’m a big fur fan and this works. She had her first season last season doing a couple of colors of faux fur coats and clutches. And now she’s kind of blowing up. Love Magazine just did big something on her, she got picked up by Net-a-Porter, she’s in Opening Ceremony, Avenue 32. It’s crazy because she’s super young but really cool.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed.