Interview / Kate Moodie

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Kate Moodie is an award-winning fashion director who has held editorial positions in national and international publications such as Marie Claire, Elle, Glamour, Self, and Women’s Health magazines.

 “Every day is another adventure.”

– Kate Moodie

What was it like to be born and raised with a magazine editor and an artist as parents?

My early years were spent living in the countryside of Bucks County, PA.

At that time, my father was a freelance illustrator and art director. He was part of the group of people who split their lives between NYC and the countryside. My parent’s community of friends was an eclectic mix of creative people: film directors, producers, playwrights, novelists, painters, and advertising executives. My mother did not start working at Conde Nast until our family moved full-time to the city in the mid-60s. Growing up seemed like a very ordinary childhood, but in retrospect, I am sure the creative culture I was born into influenced who I am today. My parents always encouraged me to do what I loved. Inspired by my father, I enjoyed drawing and painting. I developed a passion for art at an early age.

After studying at the School of the Museum of fine Arts in Boston and the Ecole de Leo Marchutz in Aix-en-Provence, France, you came back to NY and worked in fashion. What was at the origin of this shift in your career?

After my 4 years of art training, 2 years in France, 1 year at the Boston Musuem School of Fine arts, and the last at the Art Student’s League in NYC, my father said it was time for me to get a job. My mother arranged an interview with HR at Conde Nast. I was hired as a Rover, a paid internship program and I soon landed a job at Vogue.

Why you did not pursue a career as an artist?

It was ironic that I ended up in fashion…. As an art student in the 70s I was not at all interested in fashion. I was a dedicated artist. But when I had to get a job, and it was clear that waiting tables was not my forte, I knew I had to find another avenue to make money. As I was on my own at the age of 21, and I no longer had financial support from my parents, fear got in the way of not pursuing my dream to be an artist. I did however, stumble upon a remarkably creative industry.

Who or what has had the biggest influence on you?

My father’s artistic spirit and love gave me the courage, confidence, and faith to pursue a creative life, as well as my high school art teacher who gave me the tools to draw and paint and the guts to pursue my dreams.

After living in France and working for the fashion director of French Elle magazine, how did you come to work for the iconic American Elle?

I was the assistant to the legendary Fashion Director Nicole Crassat in Paris. Back in NYC, some time later, Bloomingdales had international themed store events and merchandise buys. One season, the theme was France. I assisted in the production and styling of the one-off ELLE issue, a collaboration issue between the French Elle team and Bloomingdales. It was a great success! From there Elle magazine was born in NYC with Regis Pagniez and Gilles Bensimon at the helm. I was hired 2 years into the launch of the magazine as a senior fashion editor. It was a great opportunity to be apart of the development of such a successful magazine…. tough as well.

Can you tell us about Marie-Claire?

Marie Claire was a joint venture between French Marie Claire and Hearst.

It was very exciting to be apart of the launch team, collaborating with talented creative people, and hiring the original fashion staff.

Trying to keep the integrity of the French Marie Claire brand while creating a uniquely American interpretation of it was challenging. We had a blank canvas in which to mold the two cultures.

You worked with some of the most talented fashion photographers. Who impressed you the most, amongst others?

That’s a tough one, since I was fortunate to have worked with such a variety of photographers during my career…but I have to say that art directing and styling covers with Richard Avedon, for Mademoiselle was one of the most memorable of experiences. Working with Irving Penn was equally as thrilling.

Fun anecdotes about the many photographers, models VIPs and celebs is welcome. Who do you still remember and why?

Having worked with so many celebrities and photographers during my career I have a wealth of stories…A long-lived career means keeping them to myself!

You worked and lived in France for a while. Do you still carry that influence with you in your every day life/career?

Absolutely. Having lived in France for 3 years, traveling back and forth my adult life, marrying a Frenchman, and having 2 half French children has given me a strong affinity to the culture.

Do you have an idol you always refer to? A style Icon?

Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy were the ultimate duo in creating and showcasing simplicity, elegance, and taste ….all qualities I admire in fashion design.

Being a mother, wife, and editor full time, how did you manage all of that?

I have no idea!

Did you encounter any difficulties being a woman in the publishing industry?

It was and still is very challenging.

If so, what were they?

Many women executives, at least my experience in the publishing industry, have little or no tolerance or compassion for working mothers.

What did you find as a solution to overcome the difficulty? Or is it still happening?

With the bad economy, and the threat of job loss, the pressure has only heightened. The only solution is to do your best, and continue to learn new skills.

Are your children following in your footsteps?

They are in the sense of having a profoundly good work ethic and high moral standards. Neither of them has gone into the fashion or publishing industries.

What would be the highlight of your career so far?

I have loved it all. Every day is another adventure.

How did the work of magazine editor evolved with online websites and blogs?

I have been developing an online magazine, Mood of Living, to learn tech vocabulary and understand how I can translate a career that I love into the new medium of technology. I have also been working as an on-set art director for e-commerce sites ….a logical career transition for a magazine editor.

Is there a designer you loved or still love?

I still love Prada and Jill Sander.

Why?

They are still committed to pure, simple, elegant, and timeless design.

You had the chance to work in fashion since early in your career. How did you see it change? Where is it going in near future?

The fashion industry used to give opportunity for creative people to express their original ideas and get paid well for it. With the bad economy, designers, buyers, editors play it safe. The business side of the corporation direct creative. While free access on the Internet of creative ideas has challenged the publishing industry, on the flip side, the Internet allows the artist access to a customer unlike before. I don’t think anyone has any idea of what the future will be except uncertainty, which is tough.

What would be a dream project for you?

Success with my website Mood of Living. I am creating the world I want to live in and supporting artisans and tastemakers who inspire me.

Is there someone you would like to work with or meet?

Many …

Any fun projects you are working on, if you can tell us about.

Mood of Living…

Where is your career heading?

Someplace different…

To get more information about Kate Moodie, visit Mood of Living.

Presented by The International Foundation for Women Artists

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