Insiders: Behind the Lines {Kay}

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I met Kay Sides of HATCh when I was working at James Perse last year and instantly wanted to soak her up.  Her personality is one that inevitably strikes you as genuine, which is sometimes hard to come by in the fashion industry.  Her loyalty to the brands and people she works with is also fierce, and has enabled her to not only keep her head above water, but thrive in this industry that sometimes seems built to drown people.  Sitting in her amazing downtown LA showroom that used to be an old bank building, we spoke about the industry, her illustrious career and Twitter.  I’m not sure which subject of conversation I enjoyed more, the one centered around fashion or social media.  I will say though that while our talk may not have centered around the ins and outs of the industry, and how to land the perfect job, it was just as fascinating and exciting to hear her talk about her experience in the industry.  It’s a tale of romance and art and old fashioned relationship building and it makes a small part of you long to be in that world.

In our initial email exchanges to set up an interview, Kay informed me that they were set to launch a new social media strategy for the agency soon.  Before we even began talking fashion and careers, I asked her to tell me more about this exciting news.

We have some very interesting goals that we want to achieve for social media and we have a unified strategy.  We revamped our website and started a blog which Sophie Assa and Nicole Saint both write for us.  The blog will be a lot of fashion, but the parts that will make it more personalized will talk about health and fitness and charity.

Kay is a vegan and has been for years, and is extremely dedicated to fitness including yoga, pilates, running and more recently, cycling.  The team at HATCh have gone beyond their ties at work and have recently created a team outside of the showroom focused on healthy living and balance.  The newly formed NY and LA HATCh running & cycling team are committed to each doing at least one event per month, either a 5k or 10k run or cycle event, and Kay herself, along with one of her account executives Charlene are doing the 60 mile diabetes ride next month.  Kay has always encouraged and maintained the importance of work/life balance and incorporating fun into your work, and never misses an opportunity to talk about how grateful she is for the amazing team she has and the chance to work with them on a daily basis.  She’s the type of boss anyone would love to have.

I want to know more about your background, how you got your start and how you came to this.

I grew up in Hawaii and loved fashion from the time I was a little girl, which is so ironic because I was never a girly girl, but I always loved the art and craft of fashion.  After college I was on my way to grad school and a friend suggested I try to get a job at Chanel (the #1 volume Chanel store in the world no less, on the island of Oahu).  I worked there in the summer and it was an incredible experience so I ended up staying and was there for 9 years.

Chanel ended up creating a job for her to help revive their ailing in-store boutiques at the time (in-store meaning Chanel shops within major department stores versus free standing Chanel boutiques).  She was given a box of supplies containing pencils and paper and they told her to ‘figure it out’.  Long before the internet and laptops and google and navigation systems, she hit the ground running and spent several years just traveling all over the United States visiting the shops and strategizing on ways to improve their business.  She was 22 years old at the time.  During her time traveling in this position she helped create standards and policies for the brand that are still in place today.  She also spent a good deal of her job traveling to New York and Paris to help work with the buyers closely to determine the store’s selection since she knew their needs so intimately.  

This is such an incredible story that they gave a 22 year old the tools and just said run with it.  No disrespect, but at the time you didn’t have some impressive designer background, and you just did it.

Oh I did it.  I really did it.  Our team of people was so small and it was the perfect example of that book Outliers.  It was a set of circumstances that happened to go your way and then of course based on your own abilities or how you were raised and your aptitude to just go for it.  At the time there was just a need and there were no boundaries.  I was so young and I was so naive that maybe it worked to my advantage of not knowing any better that I just worked so hard and wanted to figure it out.  I was just really fearless and I wanted growth.  I never had any fear or looked at myself with any limits.

Do you see that happening today, a company like Chanel hiring a twenty two year old to perform such an important role?

No, never.  It was a different time.  I always say we grew up in the best time of fashion.

After she left Chanel Kay very briefly thought a career change to the entertainment industry would be a good move for her, but after some consideration she decided to stay in fashion and sought out a job at the legendary Los Angeles boutique Maxfields after telling a friend how much she wanted to work for Tommy Perse (father of James Perse) because he was such an icon in the industry and it was such a departure from the world she was currently in at Chanel.

I told someone I was going to write my own letter to Tommy Perse, and so I did.  And I wrote him and told him I really wanted to work for Maxfields but only as a buyer.  So he called me and told me he wanted to meet with me.  He made me an offer and I took it.  I was the Style Director and Buyer for 5 years and it was the most extraordinary experience I’ve ever had.  After I proved myself I was given the directive to just go for it with whatever vision I had.  It was a time where you walked in and just thought “Oh my gosh there’s passion on these rails.”  He was so supportive of this vision.  We all got exposed to this visual journey that was just unparalleled.  I thank him everyday for that time in my life.  I remember being at my first Yohji show out in some abandoned warehouse in Paris and I just looked around and thought “this is why I got into fashion.”  It was such an amazing time where it was really all about the craft.  Those shows were just theater.  For me to have that exposure was just really extraordinary.  At the time it was such a small group of people that dictated fashion for America.  At that time there wasn’t the internet, you couldn’t google a designer.  It was about relationships, you had to have relationships, and we had our ears to the ground.

Eventually Kay opened HATCh, a multi-vendor showroom that houses young designer and contemporary brands in clothing, jewelry and footwear.  Hatch represents the designers and sells each season’s line to buyers from across the country including specialty boutiques and major luxury department stores.  Their current lines include designers such as James Perse, Victoria Beckham, Obakki, Rachel Pally, Costello Tagliapietra, Giles & Brothers, Camilla Skovgaard, and they are soon to launch Bensimon for the US next season.  In addition Kay is launching her own jewelry line with Lucas International – la lettre.  A huge part of HATCh’s identity has always been how multi-dimensional they are in the lines they represent, as evidence by the current diverse selection in both accessories and contemporary brands.     

So how did you come to open HATCh then?

It was amazing, my time at Maxfields, but five years later I had my daughter Bella and I wanted to be a present parent.  I wanted to parent my kid.  I wanted to own my own time a little bit more.  So very organically I opened Hatch with my business partner Betsee.  I didn’t even know her very well but we went to dinner and she suggested we start an agency together.  We ended up starting the agency with Katyone Adeli, Rick Owens and James Perse to name a few.  It was really cool.  And thirteen years later here we are.  A few years back we were looking for a new space and were searching around and the building manager told us the bank was looking to get out of their lease.  So we walked in and I was like “we’re moving in.”  You should have seen what we had to do with this place to get it to here.  And what I had to go through to keep the vault because of SEC regulations.  I just ended up wearing the guy out I harassed him so much.  I told the guy I wanted to keep the safety deposit boxes for display and he just said I was crazy.  I just wore him out.

Kay and Betsee are still business partners thirteen years later and what started out as a business partnership has turned into a strong friendship, one of respect, support, independence, love and laughs.  Sometimes tears too, but aren’t there always a few tears in fashion? 😉

HATCh has been open for thirteen years and their philosophy has always been the same, to take in lines where there was a common belief and vision.  The designer has to have the same goals as they have for it, and sticking to that in mind has helped to hone in on who they are and what they represent.  They really know who they are and what they do best.  Hatch LA has expanded to Dallas and New York, which inhabits a cool romantic space off a cobblestone street in SoHo.

What is something unexpected that you love about fashion and the industry?

You are always challenged and always humbled daily by how much learning one always has to do.  Same for me and my own life philosophy, I always profess what I don’t know and marvel at how awesome it is to keep learning.

Kay has enjoyed what many would consider an incredibly privileged career in an industry that has evolved tremendously during her time in it.  Through loyal relationship building, a very clear vision and extraordinary passion for what she does, she continues to grow, learn and finally, breathe a little sigh of delight at the success she’s been able to achieve. 

Before I left I asked her what one bit of advice she could give for someone trying to get their career started in the fashion industry.

Attitude is everything…..positivity, effort, hard work and enthusiasm and caring goes a long way and also being grateful for every initial opportunity that one receives.

Very well said Kay, and advice that transcends far beyond the fashion industry.  In a follow up email, Kay also wrote me something else that I thought was very wise and I wanted to share with you.  In talking about her team and the life she tries to model for herself and those she works with, she said she always tries to be an example of conscious, authentic living.  She went on to say that she’s continually astonished by the new bag of challenges that is always thrown our way, ready to be sorted through, understood and solved and that the more you know, the less you really know.  That’s the thing about Kay, she’s such a cool mix of fashion but also real life down to earth living.  No ego, no attitude, just graciousness, humility and a good dose of perspective.  I think I’ll just visit Kay on a weekly basis just to try to ingest a bit of her way of life.  Thank you for your time Kay and please go check out the Hatch Inc. website to learn more about Kay and the lines she represents.

*All images with the exception of the first shot of Kay were taken by the amazingly talented Miranda of M. Shanti Photo.



Andrea Howe

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • Avatar Mandy @ in the fashi says:

    I want to be her! I am blown away by this story. I think her advice is top notch. Positivity, graciousness, vision. Thank you for sharing such a successful person with us! I am so inspired.

    • Andrea Andrea says:

      I know Mandy, Miranda and I left there after our interview and we were like "crap! she's amazing. What have we done again?" haha!

  • Avatar Miranda says:

    I'm so glad I got to go on this adventure with you! Kay was just as nice and genuine and honest as she is successful – a rare combination! The showroom jaw dropping and you can see the hard work she has put into her business. Truly an extraordinary lady!

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