I Was a Fashion Editor in the ‘90s. This is What I Wore When Anna Wintour Called

On the eve of the launch of her memoir, Katherine Betts talks to Lyst about the day she interviewed for her first job in the Paris office of Fairchild Publications.

As a young American college student at the end of the ’80s, I knew I was in love with fashion and culture, specifically French culture, but, like most bewildered souls about to graduate, I didn’t have a clue as to how to make it happen. I knew nothing of the practical aspects of living in Paris, but I could see myself there. I could see myself in a walk-up in some exquisite limestone building on the Ile Saint-Louis.

“On that bitterly cold January morning, I slipped a pair of black dotted-swiss Dim Ups”.

A few months later I was living in Paris and had an interview at the Paris Bureau of Fairchild Publications, home of Women’s Wear Daily. On that bitterly cold January morning, I slipped a pair of black dotted-swiss Dim Ups (the seamless stockings that stay up with a rubber sticky band that grips the upper thigh) under my red plaid miniskirt and put on a pair of black pointy-toed pumps. I wore big dangly pearl earrings and a rust-coloured peacoat bought on sale at A.P.C near the Luxembourg Gardens. My hair was pulled back in a puffy black velvet bow.

By now I had the BCBG–”bon chic, bon genre“ — thing down pat. I rode the tiny mirrored elevator to the second-floor offices of Fairchild Publications on the rue d’Aguesseau, tucked behind the Hermes shop on the elegant Faubourg Saint-Honore in the 8th arrondissement. The interview was brief, and intimidating. As a test, they asked me to submit a list of suitable feature ideas. I went home, pulled my Canon typewriter off the shelf and wrote “Letter from Paris”. They called me two days later and offered me the job: features writer.

Working at Fairchild exposed me to a wider world, a world of money and glamour and possibility. I stayed there for almost three years, getting promoted to Associate Bureau Chief and Fashion Editor for W Magazine and Women’s Wear Daily. It was an exciting time but it was also a grind, we were working 24/7 and at the end of that time I was getting worn out.

“I pushed the button to play back the messages. “Kate, It’s Anna Wintour.””

One night, as I unlocked the door to my apartment, I saw the light on the answering machine in the front hall blinking. I pushed the button to play back the messages. “Kate, It’s Anna Wintour.”

As told to Sophia Stuart by Kate Betts

Read more in Kate Betts book, My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, Penguin Random House.

Photos: @katherinebetts Instagram

Originally published at www.lyst.com on May 18, 2015.

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