Kate Betts Talks WWD, Yves Saint Laurent, and Her Paris Dream
“You can always come back,” my mother said. “Just go.” Journalist and author Kate Betts tells the story of her career beginnings in the 1980s as a young American in Paris with the memoir, ‘My Paris Dream.’ Intrigued with the fashion world and eager to reinvent herself, Paris became her home. From her start as an editor for Women’s Wear Daily and W magazine to her “meet-cute” moment with an aspiring young shoe designer named Christian Louboutin, this coming-of-age journey inspires with confidence the notion that sometimes the best way of finding ourselves is to get lost.
What inspired you to write ‘My Paris Dream’? I wanted to tell my story so that young people coming out of college today and dreaming of fashion—or any career, really—can see that a career trajectory is never a linear path. There are zigs and zags. Mistakes, wrong turns, hard work, disappointments, fears, and triumphs. You learn the most from those difficult times. I wanted to show readers that my path was not easy and not obvious. I took a few spills. I learned from those – I learned the most important lesson which is that sometimes you have to get lost to find yourself.
What was it like to rediscover your young, professional self through personal artifacts and stories as you set out to write this book? In order to write the book I really had to transport myself back in time to a moment in fashion—and in my life—that was very different. I had to channel my younger self and that was both terrifying and exhilarating.
Initially inspired to become a foreign war correspondent, what was it about the fashion world that drew you in? The people. I fell in love with a world of characters, egos, aesthetics, and stories that you couldn’t find anywhere else but Paris.
What impact did it have on you – personally and professionally – to sit at the foot of Karl Lagerfeld’s desk, to peer in on Yves Saint Laurent, and to meet and befriend emerging designers such as Christian Louboutin? I learned from the best. These designers were—and still are—icons of talent and creativity.
As you describe the first meeting with Christian Louboutin, some have even referred to it as your “meet-cute” moment – do you find your initial encounter humorous now? Very. He is still a good friend, regardless of my poor judgment back then!
What was a common feature of your Parisian life that you soon took for granted? The food and the fact that you could walk anywhere in that city and learn something about French culture.
You talk about the moment you had in Yves Saint Laurent’s studio as looming large in your own personal transformation – the story you wanted to tell about yourself – could you explain? I knew in that moment that their world was a world I wanted to learn more about, a world I aspired to. That was a dream I wanted to live. And I knew that access to that world could be mine through hard work at Fairchild.
Do you have any advice to offer young women setting out to find their professional footing – and more importantly – themselves? Don’t be afraid to be yourself