Let Go of Fast Fashion with Content Strategist Kate Donahue
I met Kate while working at Uber in Southern California and was immediately impressed by her laid back vibe and her community-driven product development and storytelling skills ...(she created uberESPAÑOL, a product to help connect Spanish-speaking riders and drivers in San Diego).
I reunited with Kate in San Francisco and I am lucky to watch how she takes her skills and style across the country and now globe.
Get to know Kate and her love of layering, her wardrobes that tell a story, and her year of buying only sustainable clothes (bye fast fashion).
What takes up your time in the city? What do you love to do here?
I am on the Web team at Uber and manage the content strategy for everything that goes on Uber.com. I’ve been in SF for 2 years and outside of work I like to explore the city, go to new coffee shops, do yoga, hike, go shopping, and try new foods. [We were eating shrimp tacos a Chisme in Nob Hill during this interview. :) ]
You are from Minnesota, then went to school in the equally as frozen Chicago, and then made a big leap to California. How has your wardrobe changed across climates?
When I lived in a really cold environment I had a lot of bulkier items —a lot of scarves, sweaters, and jackets. I have gotten rid of a good amount of the really thick layers but I have held onto the really high quality knit sweaters. Some people have a shoe obsession, some people love jewelry, my obsession is jackets. I own too many jackets but that is the one piece that I have invested the most in.
In terms of how my style has evolved, I have definitely grown more confident in my late 20s so I have found more consistency. When I was younger I played around with lots of different styles and didn't really know what really stuck as the “Kate” look.
How would you describe your personal style?
There is a good amount of color in my closet and my overall aesthetic is very flowy. I like to keep it loose fitting. Obviously comfort is important so I never want to feel like I am stuck in something. I do think it fits my personality; I am an Aquarius and we are water creatures so I definitely tend to gravity to a more eclectic, laid back beach look.
I think it definitely speaks to my San Diego chapter. Being near the beach, you always want to have your ripped shorts, a tank, and a layered sweater for night.
How did you translate this beachwear look to the brisker SF, corporate tech life?
The layering pieces have stuck with me. But I have sort of started to dress it up, accessorizing it either with a scarf or throwing on suede boots to make it a more professional look. A great staple jewelry piece can also dress it up so I have a lot of longer jeweled pieces, but I do keep it casual from time to time. I’ll still wear ripped jeans to work and have a nice turtle neck on the top. And I do like to stay active so there are some days I’ll do a more active look and dress it up with a cute bomber jacket and cute sneakers to keep it relaxed but sharp.
You travel a lot for work. How does your wardrobe keep up with you?
I optimize for comfort. I travel frequently to Amsterdam for work and if I know I’m going to be on a long flight I’ll wear a really classic slouchy trouser that I know is super comfortable with a silk button up and booties—very polished look, but still very comfortable and I can go straight to the office when I land.
Describe your go-to look. What's most likely lying on the closet floor from the past day?
My go-to look is a pair of stretchy black jeans. They have to be comfortable, they have to have stretch and I like when they cut off on the ankle because I think it looks really great with boots. I pair them with dark pine green suede booties that I bought in Amsterdam and top them with an Oak + Fort flowy shirt and a Free People chunky knit turtle.
What item is something a bit more out there, more fun, that you let out to shine every once and awhile?
I love my Verdura shoes which are a sustainably made and super comfortable. They are made by a man in Italy who started to see fishnets were being discarded on the beaches of Europe because the EU had recently band this particular type and size of netting because they were catching endangered fish. This man went around and collected the nets and soon built a shoe brand. He makes boots and booties from the nets, dyes them, adds zippers. I love them. I love them because they tell a story. People are instantly amazed by where they came from and excited to learn more.
What trends have you happily removed from your closet?
I was happy to say bye to all the fast fashion, silly purchases, fads that you know are only going to be relevant for a couple months and then you are going to be over it.
It’s hard to let go of that habit. How did you do it?
In support of one of my best friends, for all of 2016, I only bought sustainably-made clothing. I did this with a close group of friends so we all held each other accountable and made it fun by comparing purchases and where we were shopping. It was a pledge to only buy upcycled, vintage, or made-in-the-USA clothing so it definitely limited the scope of where you could buy from. I found I was spending less because I was no longer spending on throw away pieces and the purchases that I did make were very high quality and I knew they would be items that could withstand a long period of time.
On top of that, the clothes were typically from a brand that had a very interesting founding and history or company story and I loved that side of it. The challenge really allowed me to invest smarter and build a smarter wardrobe… and instantly the things I was wearing became conversation starters.