Born and raised in Amherst, New Hampshire, art director and stylist Kat Silva discovered her passion for fashion in 2017, following an academic background in biology. Her research interest in conservation, biocultural diversity, and preservation blends with her current interest in sustainability and social and environmental awareness within the fashion industry.
Having worked in London and New York, where she is based now, Kat has also lived in Spain and Australia, which informs her openness and diverse approach. Driven by innate curiosity, her overall aesthetic is a mix of emotion and awareness to surroundings. In her projects, Kat combines creativity with the diligence of research, allowing her instinct to make the final call.
Elena Stanciu: When did you start working in fashion? What first attracted you to the field? Were there any challenges you encountered? How did you overcome them?
Kat Silva: I started working in fashion about two years ago now, shortly after finishing my degree in biology. My interest in fashion came from cultivating my personal style and the impact this had on my self-confidence. I decided not to care what people thought of how I dressed, which was empowering. This stuck with me and I acknowledged the fact that if I didn’t at least try to pursue this passion I’d always regret it. The main challenge is feeling like a complete paradox. I want to be of service to the world, yet I’m working in an industry that perpetuates social and environmental injustice. I wonder: am I contributing to this? But without the participation of commercial industries, nothing will change. So maybe fashion needs people like me. I also think it’s important to follow what speaks to you even if it doesn’t make logical sense. I have faith I’ll find a way to reconcile the two.
ES: What or whom would you name as your creative roots or role models?
KS: I’ve always been quite curious, and I think my creativity stems from that. My parents helped tremendously in nourishing this through their endless encouragement and confidence. Like biology, styling has served as another way for me to explore, interpret, and understand the world. I admire other stylists’ work, but I find more inspiration comes from paying attention: to the present, past, and my surroundings. Being aware of whatever excites me – a song I hear, a memory, a landscape, a piece of art or a person I meet.
ES: How would you describe your overall aesthetic approach as a stylist?
KS: It’s more of a feeling. I just know it when I see it. When I’m working on a project or styling a look, the idea develops until I feel it represents me and has reached its final form.
ES: How do you typically research/prepare for a shoot? Is there any stress associated with your job? How do you manage it?
KS: I like to spend quite a lot of time researching and educating myself before undertaking a project. Coming from a background outside the arts, it’s one of my favourite parts of the process because I often get to explore new subjects. This pre-production phase is really important to the subtleties of styling, to interpreting a message or idea without being too obvious. There’s a tendency in fashion to always reach for the next job; to stay relevant and be perceived as successful. This pressure is stress-inducing, so I think it helps to release the idea of “attaining” success; to produce work because it brings joy. Any work that comes from this place is far more powerful. For me this means working at a more relaxed pace, in order to fully give myself to a project, to enjoy it rather than stress over it.
ES: What is your favourite project so far? What made it special?
KS: One of my favourite projects is a feature I did for Paper Journal on conceptual jewellery line Keef Palas. I believed in the brand’s message and it was one of those shoots where everything worked seamlessly. To see a whole project go from your head to fruition like that, especially on your first time working with someone, is an amazing feeling.
ES: Are there any up-and-coming designers that inspire you at the moment, or whose work you’re following closely?
KS: Parsons grads Amy Crookes and Rui Zhou. Also, Rebecca Jeffs and Dimitra Petsa of CSM. There are many more. I’m more interested in and inspired by the younger generation, so I think I follow that more closely than any other shows.
ES: Did you ever feel disappointment, working in the fashion industry?
KS: I definitely feel disillusioned at times, but I imagine I’m not alone in this. Fashion as an industry feeds the ego and can appeal to the worst parts of peoples’ character. That being said, I am a firm believer that people are innately good and there are a lot of good people in fashion. Once you start to meet like-minded people and build a creative community that uplifts and inspires you, then you remember why you started. I’m grateful this is starting to happen for me!
ES: If you could erase one clothing item from the history of fashion, what would that be? Why?
KS: I actually don’t think I’d erase anything. I feel like every article of clothing lead us up to where we are now. For better or worse, we’re here and it’s all been a part of the evolution of fashion, culture, and humanity.
ES: You are currently based in New York – do you find the city to specifically impact your work or vision?
KS: New York has been a big learning curve, and the frenetic pace of the city was a major adjustment for me, even from London. Being here has forced some introspection on what I want my career to look like. I’m still in the process of figuring this out. I’m happy to be here, taking the opportunities I’m presented with, and relishing in the energy that anything feels possible in New York.
ES: What are you excited about for 2019?
KS: I’m excited to continue building new relationships in New York and hoping to work more with the causes I care about. I’d love to collaborate with sustainable and emerging brands here. It’s only just the beginning really, so I’m trying to remain open to everything and see where it all takes me.
Words: Elena Stanciu