Recently I read the memoir of fashion insider Kate Betts, My Paris Dream, and was fortunate to be able to question her a little about her career and her writing.
Hi Kate and welcome to Beauty and Lace
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, ever since high school. In college I worked for the Daily Princetonian and I dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent–even though deep down I knew I didn’t have the chops! I was in love with french style and culture.
I know you have kept lots of bits and pieces from throughout your career, have you got a favourite story you have written?
I returned to Paris in 2003 after living in New York for over a decade. Even though I went back to Paris four times a year to cover the fashion shows for Vogue and later Harper’s Bazaar, this was different because it was a personal trip. I was retracing my steps: where I lived, the restaurants I went to, the places I spent time with friends. I wrote a story about the experience for travel+leisure magazine and it is still one of my favorites, for pure nostalgia! I wrote about how places and cities change, perhaps more than people, what had changed in Paris, and what hadn’t. There are so many things about the city that are eternal.
My Paris Dream is your memoir, can you tell us a little about it?
My book is about my decision to leave New York and go to live in Paris without a job or many friends. It was a big risk, but it paid off. I ended up working for Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion trade newspaper and it’s where I got my start in fashion. It’s a story about what it takes to find yourself, a coming of age story, and a story about an American in Paris.
What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I wanted to show young kids coming out of college that career trajectories are not linear. Sometimes you have to see the bumps and mistakes and missed opportunities as the best learning experiences in a career. And I wanted to also show young people that you have to get lost to find yourself. There is value in getting lost in another culture, learning another language. You really know yourself when you discover yourself in a foreign language!
Your career has been quite impressive, can you tell us about your career highlight to date?
Writing this memoir was, in many ways, the most rewarding professional experience to date. I had to teach myself how to write in a new voice and that was so difficult, yet so rewarding. I’ve met so many talented, brilliant creative people in my career, and revisiting those moments was also a highlight.
Fashion weeks happen across the globe, have you got a favourite fashion week?
Paris, of course!
Who would you say has been the most influential person on your career?
My mother. She was the one who told me to “just go” when I wasn’t sure about my Paris dream. She really pushed me to pursue what I loved. There is nothing more valuable than that.
Now that you have found your place in the fashion world, how would you describe your personal style?
I am classic in that very French way of always basically wearing the same thing and changing the shoes, bag, or jewelry.
What do you miss the most about living in Paris?
I miss what the French call “la quotidienne,” which is the daily routines–the markets, the cafes, the neighborhoods, the family lunch on Sundays. I love the way the French adhere so strictly to their traditions.
Are you planning to write another book? Is there anything you are working on that you can tell us about?
I do want to write another book. I’m not sure yet, but I think it might be a novel, about three generations of an American family.
What is next for Kate Betts?
Well, I’m really looking forward to a summer without a book deadline looming! And I’ve got a content company called Kate Betts+co. That I’ve been focusing most of my attention on.
What does being a woman mean to you?
Being a woman means being a mother, trusting my intuition.
Thanks for talking with us Kate, it’s been an honour.
My Paris Dream is available where all good books are sold and Allen & Unwin.