It’s been a while for this series and I must admit, though it’s one of my favorites, it does take the most thought when crafting my my next post. I love this blog regular mainly because I get the chance to interview people who intrigue me, inspire me and challenge me. Whether it’s their zest for knowledge, love of etiquette, a natural penchant for hosting great barbeques or effortlessly lighting up a room when they walk in, I am drawn to the people I interview and want to share with you what I see in them. They choose to eat well, dress well, decorate well, read well, listen well…they live with intention, with creativity and with zeal for life. I love being inspired and in turn, inspiring others with what I am moved by in life. When I get to do this, it gives me a kind of meaning and purpose for why I am on this earth. I find joy in connecting our souls with the beauty this world has to offer.
So to kick my series back off, I thought I would start with Katie. Katie was in high school when I was the middle school youth director at my home church. There’s a bit of an age difference between us but it continues to amaze me that she’s really an adult now. Her infectious smile, gorgeous blond curls and vivacious laugh from her high school days have always stayed with her and it’s a joy to see her every Christmas Eve at Candlelight Communion. She currently lives in New York City, is an assistant buyer for a large department store (sigh) and has a gorgeous apartment that would make any SATC fan jealous. With that, I’ll pass it off to Katharine to give you a taste of what it’s like to be fantastic, young and living in NYC.
I will never forget the day you told me you were applying to NYU. A ping of jealousy (the good kind) pricked my little heart as I longed for the opportunity to study at such a prestigious university…and in such an amazing city. What was it like coming from south Georgia to New York City? What were your favorite parts about studying there?
I remember move-in day Freshman year at NYU. I felt like a science project. Everyone kept staring at me and all the young guys were in awe. On the elevator up to see my dorm room for the first time, I had a group of people who asked me to stay with them for a while, because they just wanted to hear me talk. They just wanted to hear me speak, of anything, about anything, for any duration. My sweet southern accent was something of amazement for them. I just thought everyone was out of their minds.
My first day of work that September, I used the expression “Yes Maam” to my boss and referred to her as Miss Annette. “Do not ever say that to me,” she instructed. She was disgusted. Apparently I just added thirty years to her age without realizing it. New Yorkers are appalled at the phrases “Yes, Maam”, “No Sir”, and the added “Mr.” or “Miss” to their first name, whereas back home, my parents would be appalled if I didn’t use those phrases in their presence. Actually, I would probably be shut out of town in south Georgia if I didn’t use those terms of cordiality. In Georgia, smiling, waving and saying hello to strangers is expected. In NY, people do not accept this gesture, instead they clutch their handbags and hold their children close out of fear, possibly thinking “Is this woman crazy?”
Needless to say, the transitions were never smooth nor quick. However, the endurance and perseverance proved golden when I soaked up my new NYC opportunities-studying in Central Park on Saturdays listening to men earning coins in their top hats from playing ancient New Orleans Jazz songs on their saxaphone, having class in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and having late night study sessions in Greenwich Village with the most eccentric group of 18-22 year olds you could possibly find in America. Being odd was the norm. Looking outrageous was never outlandish. And the Devil Wears Prada was not a movie, it was your everyday existence as every college girl in NYC had the most sought after fashion internships. Bazaar, Vogue, Donna Karan, this was not your normal college experience. This was a dream.
Like me, you live in a part of the country that is vastly different from where you grew up. What do you miss most about the South?
The people. I recently went down south on vacation and was reminded of the sweet voices, the polite nods, the gentlemanly hands that held open the door, and oh, that southern drawl. In the south, respect never goes out of style. And, the food. You simply cannot resist the sweet taints of the perfect peach pie on a summer’s afternoon, the best fried chicken you can get your greasy hands on, and the staple of hospitality. Southern hospitality means being polite, but hospitality is a word that is equivalent with food. Everyone is always baking and cookin’ up something good for their friends, family and neighbors.
I once saw a picture of your apartment pop up on my Facebook page and my jaw literally dropped. How on earth do you finance such a gorgeous place? I must know your tricks.
First, having a good apartment takes time and patience. I refuse to allow something in my apartment unless I fall madly in love with it. I will have an empty corner in my living room until I find something fabulous to put in the space. I don’t believe in “Oh, that’ll do until we get something better.”
Second, it takes good vision and never deterring from that vision. My current apartment evolved from a beautiful teal color etched in a tea set I found in London during my time there. I thought it was the perfect pop of color when I found it and from there had everything revolved around that color.
Third, get creative and be bold! I painted one wall of my living room that perfect pop of teal and created a coffee table by cutting glass and laying it over a zebra trunk. In addition, knowing your own style, and your own personality, is key. Your home should reflect who you are as a person. I personally love decorating my place with little things I pick up from my travels abroad. It always provides a backdrop for great stories and reflects a bit of my eccentric personality.
Lastly, don’t be a décor snob. I will pick up a fabulous piece because I love it, no matter the store it comes from –Target, Pier One, and yes even Ikea.
I would die to do a studio swap with you…me to NYC for a weekend and you to Seattle. I would certainly leave you a long list of places to visit. Since it would basically be my first real trip to NYC, where would you tell me to eat, visit and play?
First, I would tell you to come to NY in October. Autumn in New York is magical. I would tell you to eat, play, and visit places that tourists have never heard of. The worst thing you can do when you visit NY is follow the Frommer’s guide to NY and most importantly, never find yourself in the middle of Times Square.
My favorite thing to do in NY is to wander throughout the various neighborhoods. Watch the locals. Buy a good book from one of the last locally owned bookstores in the West Village, head to Washington Square Park and read by the fountain watching the NYU students intermingle. Take a shopping detour through SoHo, walking its cobblestone streets. Take a vast long run around Central Park’s reservoir, watching the sun set as the famous West Side luxury apartment towers cast their lofty shadows over the park. Eat at the MOMA’s Modern restaurant, as you peer out the windows to the famous sculpture garden. Sit on the steps of the Met and cross over to Lincoln Center for the legendary Swan Lake (my favorite!). Enjoy brunch al fresco in the Village at Extra Virgin or the many other lovely cafes on West Fourth Street. Put on your favorite heels and LBD for the Lower East Side or Meatpacking, order a dirty martini, and let the city that never sleeps fill your night with surprises, because every day in New York brings on a new unexpected companion and unforeseen adventure.
How do you choose something to wear? Are you influenced by color, trends, labels, cut or something else?
I refuse to live by labels. I believe that finding clothes that flatter your figure is essential. Choose colors, shades and styles that accentuate your best features and also add flare to your personal style. Are you a skinny or flare jeans girl? Are you a scoop neck or v-neck? Do you like dresses that pinch at the waste or ones that make your hips dissolve like the uber 60s shift? Do you look dashing in pink? Or, is a blue hue your best friend? You should be able to answer these questions wholeheartedly. Choosing your clothes should all be dependent on your own personal style. Figure out what that is for you!
My own style would be described as very romantic, ladylike and feminine. This works for me because I hues of plum, lavender, Bordeaux (reflective of ladylike luxury!) all work well with my skin tone and hair color. I love to accentuate my hips and waste (think of 1950’s party dresses) because those are the cuts that work best with my body. Anything with lace, ribbons, bows, ruffles, or floral has my name written all over it. However, I pull it off by trying to pair something modern with my ultra feminine pieces. I can always be found in heels (no matter the walking distance) and I LIVE by color. NY is a dark cloud of noir, so I try to stand out with my colorful pieces. I hardly own any black at all! It’s just too depressing. If I had a label that fit me, it would be Christian Dior! It shows off a historic opulence and freedom of expression all while befitting the most ladylike woman.
What is it like working as an assistant buyer for a large…and very popular…department store?
In my day to day job, I wear many hats in many different roles. An Assistant Buyer will attend market, visiting various showrooms in the Garment District to choose and select the upcoming season’s merchandise. We have to pay very close attention to trends- watching what people wear on the streets and studying what was on the runways, so we can ultimately give men & women the luxury they desire. We place trends in the market to give consumers that little bit of happiness when they stand before the mirror feeling like a new person, all because of a dress, bracelet or shoes. That is the fun part, but there is much that goes on behind the scenes: we decide what price the merchandise will be sold for, we decide when the merchandise will go on sale and get marked down, we play a significant role in marketing and advertising the products, and most importantly, we analyze the business to see what styles are selling. We have to decide what colors and styles will sell in certain areas of the country. What sells in Atlanta, GA is very different than what sells in Santa Monica, California, so we take that into consideration when we choose which styles (and how many of each style) get allocated to each store.
For my own division, we design and create a lot of the merchandise ourselves, because it is private label. We choose styles, cuts, and colors, and like a puzzle piece, put all sorts of inspired ideas together to create a line that our customer wants. This involves lots and lots of samples going back and forth! We also pair very closely to the sales associates in the stores. I love to help put merchandise on the floors and interact with customers when I have a free moment in a busy day. It is very fast paced and sometimes stressful, but it is very rewarding when you see girls on the streets of NY wearing the clothes you are putting into the stores.
You can take a girl out of the South but you can’t take the South out of the girl. What pieces of “southernness” have you held onto after moving to NYC and why?
I refuse to lose my soft spokeness (no matter how many times it goes against the grain of aggressive NY) and I refuse to let go of my manners even if it makes me appear naïve. Most importantly, I have to remind myself each day of the “Steel Magnolia” I have inside of me. Because in NY, you have to fight to survive. And all southern women know when to whip out their steel magnolia when its needed!
If you could visit any three cities in the United States, where would you go and why?
- Cape Cod- It’s the quintessential New England beach town.
- San Francisco-perfect blend of west coast art, food and culture.
- Santa Barbara- It’s the polar opposite of New York City.
What’s your signature scent, if you have one?
Ah, a woman always needs a signature scent. My first experience with my favorite scent was in the Piazza Duomo in Florence in Fall of 2006. Viktor & Rolf had just launched their new perfume Flowerbomb. And these Italian girls were dressed up as massive flowers luring everyone into the perfume shop. I smelled it and I’ve been hooked ever since on its feminine sophistication. It’s dramatically alluring for evening and has drawn a magical sweep for many romantic nights in Florence, London and NY.
Top three underrated NY Restaurants. What would you order?
- Red Rooster in Harlem – the fried chicken with gravy.
- Degustation in the East Village – enjoy their tasting menu!
- Po- They have an excellent pasta con guanciale!
Tell us a couple of your favorite quotes.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the live you have imagined.” –Thoreau
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” -Maya Angelou
“Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.” Hans Christian Anderson
And finally, the question I leave everyone with, how do you think one creates a fabulous life?
A fabulous is not created from rich clothes or expensive parties. A fabulous life is created from releasing yourself to life’s best adventures. Have a free spirit and see where life takes you. My best memories and adventures have all been from sudden whims and having deep conversations with strangers have created lifelong friendships.
Looking back 40 years from now, you will remember that random vespa ride through the Italian countryside and the excitement it brought. You will remember New Year’s countdown shouting with a million strangers in a random NYC bar. And the time you began conversation at a café with the old lady that led to an invitation at her gallery party. You never know what’s around the corner, if you just unleash yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s the unplanned and unforeseen that you will remember. Take a chance and roll the dice. Don’t worry about your clothes or the food you will eat. Because tomorrow you will forget what you ate and you will forget last season’s fashions…oh, and always bring along a good book.