Friday, June 5, 2015

Q&A with Kate Betts

Kate Betts is the author of the new memoir My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine. She also has written the book Everyday Icon: Michelle Obama and the Power of Style, and she has been covering fashion for a quarter-century, including serving as editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar. She lives in New York City.

Q: Why did you decide to write about your experiences in Paris, and how would you define your “Paris dream”? 

A: I wanted to tell my story, to show young kids coming out of college that a career trajectory is never linear. There are bumps and bruises along the way. It's ok to make mistakes, take wrong turns, take risks!

Sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself and that's what I did in Paris; I lost myself in another culture and  the result was that I was able to see myself more clearly. That was my Paris Dream.

Q: How did you first get interested in fashion, and how did your years in Paris solidify that interest? 

A: Anyone who grew up in New York City in the 1970s as I did was aware of fashion. Style was part of the culture of the city, you couldn't not absorb it and learn from it.

But it was really in Paris--and at Fairchild--where I learned about style and the fashion business. Working for WWD, meeting people like Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld was a fashion education. Not to mention my Parisian friends who schooled me in the codes of French style.

Q: Did you need to do much research about the years you write about in the book? 

A: I kept a journal and I had a trove of photos, articles, agendas, notes, and letters and that was the basis of my research. I also went back to Paris several times and reconnected with the people and places that were important to my life there.

Q: How has fashion journalism changed over the years you’ve worked in the field?

A: The biggest change is the internet--not just the new voice and power of bloggers, but also Instagram and social media and the proliferation of visual content.

We really live in a visual culture now more than ever, so the result is that individuals are the curators of their own content. Magazines, newspaper critics and columnists are less important in this broader mix of voices. 

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I have a content company that creates editorial-style content for luxury brands. And I also have a blog/website called where I write about style, beauty, travel, books, and design. I'm also thinking about my next book.... 

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: My Paris Dream is available on audio books too--I recorded it myself! 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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