There are some people who have been blessed in the world of style. Literally anything they put on, they make it look cool. No matter what.
Meet Kate — one of our assistant accessory buyers here at Free People. I don’t know what this girl eats for breakfast, but she has a way about her that radiates confidence. Cool and collected confidence. The casual hallway conversation in the workplace is never enough to get to know someone, and that’s all Kate and I had really shared in our time here at home office. Her tattoo-covered arms might tell a little bit about her story, but I finally got the chance to enter this girl’s world and get a full lesson. Within the first five minutes of walking into her Old City apartment here in Philly, we talked about Junior Olympic skiing and reptiles… two things that were very real in her Utah upbringing. It’s learning things like that puts the depths of people into perspective for me.
From field science to fashion, this is Kate:
Where are you from? Can you tell us a little bit about your upbringing?
Haha where to begin! I was born in Salt lake City, Utah; moved to Virginia, moved to Philly until I was three, moved to New Jersey… after that I landed in Houston, Texas for about 6 years, then off to Utah for a few more years… then once again picked up and moved to California. My mom lived in Malibu and my dad in Newport Beach so I went back and forth and just about everywhere in between. After living there for five years I moved back to Utah to help my family and ended up in Veterinary School studying exotic reptiles. A few years later I lost my mom and ended up packing my bags to follow my dad here to Philadelphia to help raise my little siblings. Which is what landed me here today.
I hear you were quite the skier. What was it like being so committed to a sport growing up?
Oh man! I grew up in just about every sport I could get my hands on. I grew up with all brothers so of course I had to follow them and beat them in anything I could. As far back as I can remember I had a pair of skis on my feet (both water and snow). When I moved back to Utah (first time around) I ended up jumping into racing with a few friends and I never looked back. Again, I had to beat the boys at everything either jumping off the highest cliffs or tucking and heading straight for the bottom of the hill before they knew what hit them. I ski raced for about 10 years and had the opportunity to travel all over the world in the summer to chase the snow. From the glacier on Mt Hood, Oregon to the backside of Whistler, Canada and all the way to Zermatt, Switzerland, Pitztal, Austria… Germany… and all the way down to New Zealand, I made my way all over the world competing in Nationals and the Jr. Olympics to compete and train with the best. Growing up a skier (and not in fashion) I feel it really gives me the style and competitiveness I have today. Wanting to find the best style, the newest trends and using where I came from and where I have been to put it all together.
What brought you to Philly/Free People?
While living in Utah five years ago I ended up losing my Mom and it was something I didn’t think I was going to get through. I moved out here with my Dad, who at the time found a job that was going to support my younger siblings. I moved out here to make sure I was always by their side, through the worst and the best of times. I helped my dad raise my siblings for the last five years until they recently moved back to California. When I landed here in Philly, I heard that I was in the city of FP HQ and I immediately went after this dream with full force. Not coming from too much of a fashion background I jumped into learning as much as I could with hopes that I would someday work in — and for — one of the most unique and inspiring companies I had ever seen, one I had admired with my mom all while growing up. Free People reminds me of her every day, as I don’t think she ever left the house wearing anything but the brand — and now I don’t either! Haha.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role here? What’s a typical day in the life of an accessories buyer?
Currently I am one of the Assistant Accessory Buyers. For the last two years I was buying/developing hats, scarves and sunglasses but was recently transferred over to jewelry, bags, and tech accessories. I also help with home product and seasonal novelties: holiday, valentines, etc. A typical day in accessories is very fast paced and exciting, it never stops. I love what I do and always having the chance to put my competitive background to work is what I love most. I love being able to discover trends and inspiration that soon turns into product, which comes alive in the catalog and on the site — its truly an amazing experience.
What’s your favorite part about coming to work here everyday?
I have to say bringing my dog, Walt, to work everyday could be the best. Whether I had a bad day or happy day he is always under my desk ready for some love and attention — which I could never get sick of. Also being able to work among some of my best friends and some truly creative and inspiring people has its perks, too.
Any upcoming accessory trends we should get excited for?
Oh man! So many good ones, where to begin! Jewelry: girls, if you don’t already have a few chokers, bolo necklaces, hoop earrings, and shoulder-duster earrings — and a bunch of good stacking rings, too — you are missing out and should probably head to the site to get some! Bags: fringe, embellishment, and patching is on-point, plus who doesn’t love a good everyday classic tote, bucket bag or crossbody… or all 3! Also if you haven’t already caught on, skinny scarves: if you don’t have one for this upcoming fall, you cant sit with us! Haha!
If you weren’t an FP accessories buyer, what other profession could you see yourself having?
I have to say I miss the mountains. I would love to be in the back country — lost — with only the snow around me and a pair of skis on my feet, jumping off anything I could get to. Other than that, my huge freaky obsession would have to be reptiles. I know its weird but ever since I was a kid, if you couldn’t find me, I was in the bushes probably catching a frog or lizard. When I lived in Utah I was studying to be an exotic animal vet. Growing up I had two 12-foot long pythons, huge 5-foot monitor lizards, exotic chameleons (yes, like Rango!) and much more. I would have to say if I wasn’t here I would probably be the crazy reptile woman.
In my opinion, your one of the most stylish gals here at the office. How would you describe your personal style?
Haha, right back at ya! I feel like I am always trying new things, but with a mix of the old. My go-to would be my Paige Platform Shoes (see here) and a pair of destroyed baggy jeans (here) and always with a leather jacket! I feel like you should never be scared to wear something new and different- whether its print on print or an awesome pair of metallic shoes to pair back with a jumpsuit and a skinny scarf. My inspiration comes from all over the place from Instagram to Pinterest I never know what I’ll wear until I’m out the door.
Has your style evolved with age? Who are some of your biggest style icons?
For some reason this question always has to be one of the hardest for me to answer, I never know who I’ll be each day. I feel like I go from a total boy to a Candy/Ginger fiend all in about five minutes – I feel like you should never be afraid to try or put on something you have never tried before.
I love the vibe your apartment gives off. Where do you source most of your décor?
I feel like I am always scouting out new vintage markets, there are tons here in Philadelphia! I always seem to find myself walking out of there never knowing what I actually bought! A lot of the stuff in my apartment is actually from my travels growing up as well. I have a lot of vintage cow bells from all over Europe. These are still used in European ski races to help cheer on the racer coming down the hill. The entire crowd goes nuts shaking these, it’s quite a sight! I also have a lot of vintage beer steins from my travels, these mark all the places I visited for my races growing up and all have meaning to me . They’re one thing I refuse to buy at the vintage markets here, they have such a story to me that I cant add to or even give them up.
Can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhood you live in here in Philly?
I live in old city- quiet little area about a mile away from Center City. I love the feel! Everything is so unique and has so much character- from the cobblestone streets to all the best little shopping corner boutiques! <3
You have some pretty rad tattoos. Is there one that means the most to you?
Actually every single one of them has meaning to me. They are all in other languages, not because I think it looks cool, but because since they are so personal I don’t want others to be able to read them. They are special. Starting with under my right arm, growing up my mom and I had this song we would play literally over and over called I hope you’ll dance. she got “dance” tattooed on her for me, and when she passed away I got “I’ll Never Stop Dancing”. I will always keep moving forward for her and dance at every opportunity to make a fool out of myself. Below that I have VII (7 in roman numerals), this is for my siblings since I am one of eight siblings this tattoo is for them. I have a feather on my outer wrist for my grandma who passed away of breast cancer when I was young, she was wild and free and always wrote with a feather pen. Next I have (of course) wanderlust in scribble on my arm to represent my travels – and a small snowflake behind my ear for my skiing. I also have my mom’s initials on my foot followed by the coordinates of her birthplace. I also have her birthday in roman numerals down the top of my spine and a saying on my ribs for my dad. I have just a few others but would have to say those mean the most.
What are three things you can’t live without?
Music! Currently can’t stop listening to Kings of Leon, the Black Keys (always a go to), Grimes, Odesza, RAC – and many more..
What 5 things are currently in your FP shopping cart ?
Well lets just say I have a few more than 5- haha but if I had to name my few favorites it would have to be the Suspender Maxi, the Estella Mod Shift Dress (dream!) vintage Nirvana T, Unbutton Me Set, like 3 lace up tops since I cant just have one, Tweedy Tunic, Silver Storm Mule…list goes on!
What does being ‘Free’ mean to you?
Hiking in the mountains of Utah, water skiing, when my skis are pointing straight down the mountain, feeling the fear/excitement before jumping off a backcountry cliff, vintage shopping, being with the people I love, looking at Walt’s face (my dog), eating Chinese food, singing in the shower, listening to the best of records, driving down the PCH, being with my sisters and having what we think are “cool” photo shoots together which never end up leaving our phones… feeling limitless
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