LAURA CASSIDY, WRITER (NORDSTROM)
FIELD: PR OCCUPATION: EDITOR AND WRITER FOR OLIVIA KIM
A. | How do you define yourself?
I am a writer and an editor; I work on Olivia Kim’s team at Nordstrom covering emerging and advanced designers, fashion week and more, and at home and out in the world I take a more experimental and abstract angle when writing creatively on issues of human relations, memory and women’s work.
A. | What is your work routine? What does your job entail?
I keep a pretty typical 9 to 5 style week in downtown Seattle; my days involve meetings with our super talented Creative Projects team, emails with top design teams all over the world and interviews that happen on the phone or via email.
A. | How did you become interested in fashion and public relations?
When I moved back to the Northwest after living in New York for most of the ‘90s, I really wanted to take my writing more seriously. I wasn’t really sure what I meant by that, but I ended up getting a job at the Seattle Weekly covering the music scene. Over the years I covered many different ‘beats’ in town—food, restaurants, shopping, retail, style, culture—at the Weekly and then at Seattle Met magazine, and also progressed to the editor title meaning I could really craft longterm content and bigger picture initiatives. After 15 years of journalism I wanted to learn the business side—and to expand to a national or international level, and to be more involved in what I call Fashion—you know, with a capitol “F.” It all stems from a lifelong interest to communicate, share, explain and explore. I’ve never not been interested in writing down my ideas.
A. | What do you do outside our your work routine?
Whereas many people I know are drawn to travel, home is the most important thing in the world to me. My husband and I are both wired to cultivate and create an environment that inspires us to think, feel, produce, reflect and enjoy. So most of our time is spent devising new ways to be within our space, and then simply being there. We are constantly bringing in new elements—whether from nature or from a relative’s archives or a shopping trip—and our number one goal is to finish errands and chores and all that so we can work on various creative projects. That might be taking and editing video, recording music, writing, painting, sewing, or anything else. We also love having friends over for home cooked meals, and we love watching old movies and listening to records.
A. | What are you most proud of in your career?
When I worked in a more regional capacity, that is: when I covered the Seattle scene, I really loved that I got to “shine a light” on worthy makers and doers. Giving someone a page in a magazine or a post on that magazine’s blog was so satisfying. Not only because it helped them reach a broader audience, but because it provided some validation and encouragement, and we all need that sometimes—to feel like who we are and what we’re doing is both understood and appreciated. I’m really proud to have been a part of what I see as a rich cultural shift over the last ten years or so. Seattle has stepped up it’s game, and I loved being a witness to it. But I’m also proud that I knew when it was time to move on, and that I took some time to think about what I wanted next and then went out and got it. The designers I’m writing about now are being understood and validated by the New York Times and Paris Vogue, so it’s less a matter of me “shining a light” on them, but it still feels really great to support such innovative and exciting minds within the context of a family-run business with great morals, standards and practices.
A. | What is fashion? How does fashion play a role in your life?
Clothes are elemental to everything I do. Even on a day when I’m at home by myself writing, what I’m wearing is important. Often I get dressed up to go to the grocery stores. Clothes are a layer of our selves—external but only just barely. Whatever I choose to put on my body directly affects my mood, my mannerisms, and the way I show up for others, as well. I think clothes are a conversation—with ourselves and others.
A. | What are the biggest challenges you have overcome (personally and professionally)?
I suppose I’m my own biggest challenge. My insecurities and unrest get in the way of what I want to do and what I’m capable of doing, so it’s a constant negotiation of quieting those unhelpful voices and getting closer and closer to the real me and my true strength and power underneath it all.
A. | Where do you feel at home?
I’m at home in the world plain and simple. A friend recently pointed out to me that I’m very accepting—and although I’m also very demanding and opinionated, she was right. I’m okay with things as they are and I tend to find value and interest wherever I go. I am pretty much always entertained. That said, I certainly prefer to be in the realm of thoughtfully made and crafted items. I certainly prefer good, soft lighting and interesting music. I like to be comfortable, not formal. I like to environments that abstract the wall separating outside from inside. I like to be around people who like other people, who see the good in things.
A. | What is your vision for the future of your work?
I am really motivated to continue working on my own voice; to simultaneously set free and reign in my wildest ideas by always finding the perfect context and the perfect word and the perfect time to tell every story. My vision is always extra large.
A. | How does oppression and privilege influence people’s success in your field?
For me and for what I do, it’s about having a story. First and foremost it’s about having talent and vision, so access to education and materials can be a big barrier. Fashion is not an inexpensive endeavor. But as an editor I want to find the story inside the talent. How and why and where? In this sense, one’s struggle is turned into an asset. I know that’s simplistic, but many true things are.
A. | How do you define success?
Being authentic to the voice in your head, and utilizing your full potential.
A. | What does “sustainability” mean to you in the context of fashion or business?
The world’s resources are dwindling on a minute to minute basis. If you’re planning for longevity, you’ve got to be thinking about your materials and how you’ll have access to them in the years ahead. It’s interesting to see the dialogue about fashion’s exceedingly cruel calendar, as well. That’s a sustainability issue in terms of materials and intellectual property. The constant churn of collections and pre-collections results in a lot of losses in terms of sales, and in terms of quality of life. I like hearing about brands that operate outside that calendar, and I like that many emerging designers are just doing two or four collections a year—and feeling okay with that. Growth has to be managed. If it isn’t, it isn’t really growth at all.
A. | What makes a good team?
The old adage about always hiring people who are smarter than you is just about all you need to know in terms of team building. I surround myself with crazy talented people who push me to create and innovate, and even to think, act and react more intelligently. And especially in the workplace it’s vital to have diversity of every single kind. It’s the variance of point of view that allows for the best solutions. Many heads are so much smarter than one.
A. | Did you ever change careers? If so, why? When?
As I noted earlier, I’ve covered different subject matter and gone from journalism to retail. It’s been more of a progression than a change. I did, however, originally set out on a track in social work—but I find that was not so far off, and in any case it was really good training. In both journalism and social work, it’s about getting to a scene (ideally first) and noting who the important players are and who did what to whom and why, and then going off somewhere so that you can report to others about it.
A. | What was your biggest failure? What did you learn from it?
I’ve had several small mishaps that were careless and pretty stupid, and I think those add up to a larger sense of regret for me. I don’t think of them as “failures” per se, but I think whenever I’ve taken an easy route or not done all my homework or somehow not fact-checked myself and gotten the story as right as was possible at that time, I’ve let myself down for sure.
A. | Where do you see room for the most creativity in your work?
I’ve learned from watching my husband’s career evolve (in the photography industry) that everything is creative if you choose to see it that way. He used to have a more hands-on, traditionally “creative” role, but as his career progressed and he became more and more involved with the business side of what he does, brainstorms and on-location photoshoots were replaced with spreadsheets and meetings. But he maintains that solving problems and figuring out new, smarter ways of operating is as creative as directing a photographer or outlining a concept for a series. I really like thinking about work that way—it’s always about using the skills that are most particular and even peculiar to me to do what needs to be done. There’s strategy and art in answering an email and in writing a feature and putting together an outfit. All of it.
A. | What do you think are the most important traits in your industry?
I think that no matter the industry, a willingness to remaining open and a dedication to truth are really important. You can’t need to be right, and you can’t think you know everything. You have to be willing to be wrong so you can learn new things. And you have to be humble so that you don’t trip on your own ego.
A. | For which unexpected events should you prepare in your career?
Always be thinking about what’s ahead, and what it would take to get there. Know when you’re okay with where you are, and when you’re not, and actively imagine the kinds of things that would and could provide a welcome shift. I think imagination is super powerful—much more of a valuable tool than its usually given credit for.
A. | If you could, what would you recommend to yourself 10 years ago?
Get to know yourself more. Slow down and work harder at who you are and what your true value and strengths are about. Cut out the noise. Don’t let the bastards bring you down.
EDUCATION | Western Washington University, Hunter College/City University of New York – degree in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology