Photos c/o Sara Kerens
One of our favorite Boss Ladies Duo–the gals from Freda Salvador–recently interviewed us for their ‘Live Freda Series’. It was so fun to talk about how we started, and reminisce on what has brought us to where we are today. We’re so honored to be #FredaGirls! Be sure and check them out!
How did the idea for The Refined Woman come about?
Kat: After years of shooting street style and runway at New York Fashion Week, I left September Fashion Week four years ago feeling inspired by another season of beautiful clothes. But I also felt discouraged. As a working woman on a budget I knew I could never afford the clothes I was shooting, and even if I could they probably wouldn’t be flattering to my athletic figure. I wanted to look feminine, and still have functionality when I worked.
I was curious about what other photographers were wearing so I reached out to a few of my fashion-forward working friends throughout the U.S. to have them start sending pictures of what they wore to work. Each week they’d send me an outfit with a few sentences of why it did or didn’t work. After a few months of posting this on my wedding blog I knew it needed to become its own thing. That’s when Emily and I decided we wanted to do it together.
I was living in LA so I packed my car and drove up to San Francisco for a week where we dreamed up The Refined Woman, shot 3 months of content, built a Tumblr site, and ordered business cards. The next thing we knew we were buying flights to February Fashion Week in New York and sneaking into shows as bloggers.
What started as a style blog has morphed into so much more as Emily and I have gone through different life stages, struggles and victories. I never thought we’d be where we are today. But I’m so grateful we decided to take a chance move forward with it!
Em: I was so excited to shoot those first few outfits for Kat’s blog. I believe that we became friends right when we were supposed to. There was a certain destiny about it. The minute she told me she was ready to turn it into its own blog I was 100% in. I was really excited about the challenge. It’s definitely grown into something much bigger than the two of us, and much more than just a fashion blog. I love that the idea for the Refined Woman has grown and changed as the two of us have grown and changed as creative business owners and women and friends. Because we’re still growing and trying to turn The Refined Woman into more than just our passion project, we are constantly having to evaluate why we are doing the things we are doing and where we want to go.
The Refined Woman is bicoastal, how do you balance work and personal life while keeping in touch with each other?
K: One of our core values is balance, so we fight for a healthy work/life balance. For the first few years it felt like we were treading water, with last-minute texts like, “Am I posting today or you?” We both started to feel pretty burnt out.
Last fall we hired our editor who is also one of our mentors, and one of the first things she challenged us on was balance. If we were telling our readers it was important, we had to be living it in our own lives.
There’s been a lot of trial and error. But I think the most important thing we’ve learned is to communicate with one another. A lot of people say you can’t run a business with your friend, but I think it’s what has made things work so well for us. We’re able to have hard conversations and be ok.
Practically speaking a huge way we’ve been able to achieve balance this past year is by bringing on a team. We were trying to do it all on our own, and it wasn’t working. Now we’re learning to delegate! Needing other people is a strength, not a weakness. And letting others into our journey has been crucial for us.
E: It’s tough! We have definitely had to learn through trial and error and our fair share of disappointing each other. Being friends first and business owners second is our key to success. We have to be honest with each other and have a lot of hard conversations, but I think that’s what keeps us honest with our readers.
What would people find most surprising about your job?
K: It is not sexy! People say things like, “oh you have a blog and are a photographer… must be nice.” It is nice, and I love what I do. But it is more than a fulltime job, and I have to be on my A game at all times, organized, with checklists and alarms to stay on top of things. People see our posts on social media and think we have fancy lives. But most days we’re in our yoga pants working from our computers and making things happen!
E: I think people don’t understand how difficult it can be to be your own boss. Even when I’m traveling for work, it never feels like a free vacation, even though on my Instagram it looks like that. It’s a challenge to turn off my work brain and even harder to actually turn off my email notifications. It can be lonely and challenging when the pressure is all on you to get things done all the time. Even though we’re a team, we each have things individually to accomplish, and when there’s a deadline, I’m working even if I don’t feel inspired or motivated. It can actually be hard to take days off.
How do you define success?
K: Success is having a life of balance, and using my voice and my gifts to impact the lives of others. Success is writing a post and getting an email from a girl telling me how much it touched her. Or walking away from a shoot with someone saying that I bring light and positivity to the space I enter. To be able to live my dream, and share a message to women that they matter, that they are loved and perfect is such a gift.
E: I feel successful when I remember that I have the freedom to create art and express myself on a daily basis. I feel successful when I think about all the amazing friends I have made on this journey, and when I get a chance to sit down with one of them, catch up and dream up new ideas together. I feel especially grateful when a friend tells me that a post we did on the blog resonated with them, or moved them in some way. That is the best feeling in the world – to have a positive impact on someone else.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
K: You can say no.
E: As a new mom, the best advice I received was that babies are just tiny insane people. It’s so true. You can do everything right and they can still be crazy. It’s totally freeing.
Tell us a little bit about your personal style and what’s important to you?
K: Since moving to New York City my style has evolved so much. The things that are important to me now are comfort, quality, versatility, and fit. I have less clothes than I ever have simply due to the lack of closet space. But the pieces I have are for a purpose. I know I can reach into my closet and grab something that fits well and will be comfortable as I run all over the city. My style has become much more laid back and casual. I do love those times where I can get dressed up and throw on some heels and lipstick. But I’ve learned that it’s the everyday things that I wear the most that need to be my focus.
E: The clothes I wear have gotten looser, more casual and comfortable — especially since becoming a mom. It’s still important for me to feel good in what I’m wearing. I love wearing clothes with a story, and since starting The Refined Woman and moving to the Bay Area I’ve been exposed to some amazing independent clothing makers. I love the interesting things I see them creating — especially the soothing colors, neutrals and basic pieces. I am always seeking some sort of combination of classic yet different. It’s important to me that my style represents things I love and appreciate. My favorite conversations with strangers are always about something I’m wearing. Anytime I leave the house in a pair of Freda’s I end up meeting someone new — wearing them feels like a secret handshake when I find another Bay Area woman wearing them.