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Fashion Memoir

Betts caught on camera chatting with Karl Lagerfeld in 1991. The playful hand written caption on the image almost make it a precursor to today's Instagram.

By Jessica Michault

As a former editor of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Kate Betts has seen the changing world of fashion from the front row. Here, we get an exclusive interview with Betts—who is also a frequent contributor to Bal Harbour Magazine—in which she shares her fashion forecast, words of wisdom and the making of her new book, “My Paris Dream,” which recounts her time living and breathing fashion in the City of Light during the 1980s and 90s.


This is your first memoir, what made you decide that now was the time to write such a personal book?
I wanted to tell my story and I wanted young kids coming out of college to see that a career trajectory isn’t necessarily liner, that there are wrong turns, mistakes, failures, sweat and tears along the way. At that age, when you felt so much pressure to plant a flag somewhere and say “this is who I am,” every decision seems to come with such high stakes. I wanted to demonstrate the benefits of getting lost to find yourself—moving outside of your comfort zone. 

What did you learn about yourself during the process of writing this book?
I learned to write in a whole new voice! I’ve never written anything like a memoir before and I had to teach myself how to write very differently.

What is your favorite fashion memory?
I think some of those early John Galliano shows were magical. Also, that first preview in Saint Laurent’s studio—which is a whole chapter in the book—that was really an unforgettable moment for me. Meeting him, his posse, and being in that sanctified atelier with such huge personalities was so instrumental in changing my view on fashion and helping me to see fashion as storytelling.

What is the most important thing that fashion has taught you?
It’s taught me to look at people, study the way they express themselves. Fashion is very much an expression of who we are at any given moment.

What was the biggest challenge for you in writing this book?
It was hard to write about myself, to see myself as a character in a narrative, to separate myself now from myself then as a young woman.

You have been the EIC of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and also run fashion issues for TIME. Looking at the magazine industry today where do you see it headed?
Oh la la! That’s a tough question! I don’t want to sound negative, but I think magazines are in trouble. Not just because there’s a whole generation of readers who only read content online, but because advertisers are following those readers into the digital universe. Perhaps some magazines will survive—beautiful quality magazines that come out twice a year or quarterly.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice today what would it be?
Stop and smell the roses! When you’re young you don’t look around, you look ahead. Sometimes I wish I’d slowed down and enjoyed the amazing experiences I had. But I was always on deadline so I couldn’t slow down!

If this book is turned into a movie, who would you want to play you in the film?
Gosh, that’s a tough one! Of Course Julianne Moore is my absolute favorite actress; that would be a real thrill wouldn’t it?


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