A MOMENT WITH KAT
Kat wears TATE in Silver from the LITE collection.
Kat on living the life she always imagined: Currently the buying director for high-end fashion boutique Labstore London, Kat veered off from the path set out by her academic education and classical piano training into the creative fields that has allowed her to inhabit exactly who she is. Often travelling with friend and collaborator make-up artist Ophelia Liu, a celebrity in her own right after winning BBC and Netflix Glow Up series, the occasional model has an undeniably otherworldly presence. Something that quickly falls by the wayside in conversation, where she reveals her open, fun, and absolutely human nature.
We wanted to start by asking, how did you imagine your life would be when you were a child?
Um… exactly as it is now actually. Just being able to do what I like to do, living where I'd like to live and having good people around me, good looking things. Better access to treats and snacks, just like what everyone else wanted.
Do you still feel connected to the child that you were?
Well, I'm definitely as irritable as I was as a child, and I get as grumpy as I did if I don't get something I want.
What were your favorite things to do when you were a kid? What made you the happiest?
Doing nothing. Doing nothing always made me really happy. We’re all living in metropolitan places, and the era I grew up in was a very busy era. So nothingness and void was always what I was after. I think a lot of people find that sounds relatively dreadful – emptiness, nothingness – but I think it's the safest, most calming thing to just imagine. And even as a child, my favorite thing was when there's nothing going on, I don't want to go out to play on the playground. I don't want to be hanging out with mates. I don't want to be going to school. I don't want to be taking tutor lessons, practicing the piano. I wanted to sit there and do nothing. I wanted to stay outside and do nothing. I just wanted to space out. And I'm still very good at that.
Do you feel like the world exerts a lot of pressure on people to constantly be doing things?
I don't know if it’s necessarily external pressure. We give ourselves jobs, we give ourselves purposes. I'm definitely still motivated to create what I want to create and achieve what I want to achieve. But the idea of emptiness and void is not just as plain as it sounds. I think it takes some type of strength to be able to be comfortable with just quietness. That’s also why my favorite color is white.
Why is it your favorite colour?
Other than all the aesthetic reasons, I think it really represents sharpness and void. Those are two seemingly contradictory concepts, but it's exactly that which makes sense to me – the calmness against the chaos is the sharpness.
Do you do you see yourself as sort of a conventional person?
I do see myself as completely conventional. I mean, I think what we perceive as conventional has to do with our immediate surroundings, and arguably everyone around me might just be already very, very weird. But, I do consider myself a very conventional person even if some people might disagree, because there really is nothing extraordinary about me. I’m after the same things everyone's after, I want to achieve the same things. I like what I like, sure, that might be specific, but we all have stuff we’re more drawn to.
What has been the biggest turning point in your life?
I'm from Beijing and my parents sent me to boarding school in England when I was nine years old. As you can imagine, those are two very, very different worlds. I do wonder sometimes what my life would be like had I stayed in China. Would I think the way I do? Would I like what I like? Would I know the same people?
Have you faced any challenges with your background in the UK and finding a way in life?
The easiest thing for me to say here would be yes, with my background, racially, it's different and all that. But truth be told, the way I grew up, racism was never really experienced in my community. It was all very welcoming and England is already very racially diverse and international. I don’t want to dismiss anyone's problems, but my experience was pleasant.
That's good to hear. Have you ever made a decision were you surprised yourself?
I think the whole idea that I'm working in the creative fields is a kind of turning point. I had always been very academically driven up until I started working. I was in a completely different world and with a completely different set of skills and knowledge. I think until around 2018. And then a friend of mine was like, do you want to do a clothing shop together? And I didn't have much going on, so I thought, why not? And then somehow from that hobby it became what I was supposed to be. I create something beautiful, choose merchandise, and that's my entire life.
Can we talk about that switch from academic to creative? The creative world from the outside can seem like this strange thing, perhaps because it's a bit vague, but how was that move for you? Did it feel good?
Well, I think it goes back to my fondness of the colour white and the concept of void. The fashion industry was then my void and to occupy myself within the void where I'm comfortable was very exciting to me. Plus, I was not very accomplished before that, I hadn’t done much, but I had a very academic background, lots of piano lessons and so on.
You were a pianist?
Classically trained, yes. I mean, I am Chinese, you find a lot of us are. We were taught to do those things, y’know, your parents signed you up for piano lessons, and you go for, like, two hours every day for years on end. First you hate it, during the middle you still hate it, and at the end, you're still hating it until you perform once and you have this revelation of, I can do this! I don't perform at all anymore, but it took up a whole chunk of my life.
But you enjoyed the performance aspect of it?
Well, performance is scary in front of a crowd. It was thrilling, exhilarating. But I prefer when you notice you can entertain yourself with it. I think that's when it became fun for me. At first you practice, your mentor teaches you to practice, and then you learn the theories and it's all very dry and boring even though it’s musical and lyrical, but it's still very academic, the way I was taught at least. But then, when you have that skill set and you are able to play around with it – it’s a bit like with a camera. Once you fully mastered all the functions on it, you really can express yourself or entertain yourself. Truly, that's the most important part for me. I can entertain myself just playing on the piano now. It's a form of entertainment and another form of killing time, boredom, all of those things. You create as well as you are reading in another way. You're reading someone else's score and instead of it being words, it's notes, it's sonic. And to hear someone else's thoughts in a different form than words or painting is really fun for me.
Kat wears MISAKO in Silver from the LESSRIM collection.
How do you most like to express yourself?
Good question. The most obvious way is visually, like how I dress myself. Although, that’s not necessarily expressing myself as much as a medium to express the designers. I can showcase who I'm fond of, but it’s not necessarily my language to speak. Otherwise, I speak, I communicate in the most foundational way
Looking back, do you have any advice for your younger self?
No, I was doing perfectly fine. I was a cool kid. She was fine. She didn't need advice.
Great, very confident. Thank you, Kat … actually do you have a last name or just Kat?
I go by Kat, so.
Thank you, Kat, for sharing your story and laughs with us.
This conversation is a part of our interview series that goes beyond the surface with the multihyphenate talents of our Eyes Wide Open campaign, celebrating self-expression and the many individual paths in life.