How The Hustle Pays Off

THE REFINED WOMAN FOUNDER

KAT HARRIS

I am a Texas girl, that fell in love with Southern California, that now calls Brooklyn home. My days are spent editing photos, practicing yoga, exploring my city, location scouting, and photographing people, managing my Refined Woman team, writing articles, and connecting with a lot of women! The Refined Woman is an online magazine that I started with a friend Emily Scott four years ago. What started out as a disorganized fashion blog has shifted over time into a space where we talk about our lives and create space for a tribe of women to share their journeys, struggles, and the in-between moments life with others. Whether on set photographing, writing an article, hosting an event, or speaking it is the cry of my heart that women know their innate value, that they have incredible purpose placed on their lives, and their voices and stories of their lives matter. .

Kat Harris The Refined Woman

When did you discover your passion for style & fashion?

So much has changed for me over the years. When I first started shooting runway almost a decade ago now I was enthralled with all things fashion. I had subscriptions to every magazine, and would watch Paris Fashion Week on YouTube. I loved seeing each designers commitment to creativity season after season. The color palettes, fabrics, and textures all are an external expression of such an internal thing for the designers I followed. I love the idea of using the clothes we wear to make a statement about who we are as people.

That being said, nowadays I’m much more driven by comfort! I live in a fast paced and demanding city. Last year I started practicing a lean wardrobe. I got rid of 75% of my closet, and got back to the basics. It has been so freeing! I have much fewer pieces, but the pieces I have I love and feel great in. If it’s comfortable, I feel good in it, and I can wear it at least 3 distinct ways, then it’s a winning piece in my book!

You worked in the fashion industry for 7 years. How did you break into this competitive market?

Is it too cliche to say God? No but really. I somehow convinced one of the top photographers in the nation to hire me to be his assistant with zero experience in the photography industry. I hardly even knew how to turn on a camera. (It was really the hand of God). My old boss would shoot runway in New York City twice a year, and I begged him to let me come with. He finally let me, but challenged me to figure out how to shoot runway on my own.

I’ll never forget that first show. I was one of two women in the crowded photographers pit, full of men who had been photographing runway for decades. I had no idea what I was doing. But I caught on quickly. A week later, and dozens of shows later I somehow had the hang of it. Pretty soon there after my boss passed along an editorial job to me that he wasn’t available to shoot. I had never been a head shooter for an editorial shoot in my life, had no idea how to work studio lights, and was up all night the night before googling how to use the equipment. The shoot came and went, and it went smoothly, and ended up being picked up as a cover shoot for a magazine, and running on two national campaigns.

Getting into the fashion industry was a lot of hustle, lots of unpaid things in the beginning, and lots and lots of God’s favor on my life. I look back now with nostalgia at my early years of shooting where I was making pennies, working crazy hours, exhausted, but so alive and excited. I loved every second of it.

A lot of women find themselves in a job or career they never expected. Has your career path come with any surprises along the way?

Yes, yes, and YES. God’s plans for our lives our beyond our wildest imaginations (Ephesians baby!). I was a Bible Major from Dallas with dreams of working at my local church, getting married directly out of college, and having a family. That’s what I thought my life would look like. If you would’ve told me back then that I would be living in New York City, 31 and single, as an editorial photographer and running an online magazine for women, I would’ve laughed!

Never did I ever think I would be here, doing what I’m doing. And things continue to evolve. Through The Refined Woman I’ve gotten opportunities to write, speak at conferences, host events with companies like Soul Cycle. If my career is a surprise to anyone; it’s most of all a surprise to me!

What does a day in the life look like as Editor in Chief of The Refined Woman?

It depends on the day. If I’m in town and not shooting, typically here’s what my day looks like:

7:30 AM: wake-up #strugglefest
7:30-8:45 AM: coffee, breakfast + time with Jesus
8:45 AM: get ready
9:00-1:00 PM: work from my home office: editing photos, writing articles, having conference calls with my team of editors and interns, pitching new projects to brands + PR companies, working on our 12 month editorial calendar.
1:00 PM: Lunch
2:00-3:00 PM: Yoga
3:30—5:30 PM: Client Meetings in the city, and working from my artist collective.
5:30-7:30 PM: finishing up last minute projects and emails for the day.
7:30 PM: Dinner + hanging out with friends!

You have a heart for women to know their purpose and worth. Was there a time when you struggled with your own purpose and worth? How did you overcome it?

I have struggled at different points throughout my entire life with questions of worth. Because of painful dynamics with my dad growing up—you’ll hear more of my story at the conference—I felt forgotten, unworthy, and constantly swinging from feeling like I was too much to never enough. A major breaking point came for me after college when I was in an unhealthy relationship with a guy. Though I externally I seemed confident, I was mystified at myself for allowing this guy to treat me terribly over and over again. Something in me just wanted to be wanted by a man so badly. I knew something was wounded in me to accept such treatment. It wasn’t a quick or easy fix—I’ve learned that most things aren’t.

It was hard work with several years of counseling, being honest with myself, my community, confessing the lies I was believing and replacing them with the truth of my value in Christ. God was so sweet to take me through a process of healing. It was like I was an onion with layers being peeled away slowly over time. I’d go through a season of experiencing deep healing. Then six months or so later, another thing would come up and it was time for more healing. It was such a hard time of my life plagued with so much confusion and heartache. But in my brokenness God brought restoration, healing, and beautiful and healthy friendships. 

How did your experience and knowledge of the fashion industry equip you to empower women in and out of the industry?

Outside looking in the fashion industry is sexy and glamorous. But it is a hard industry. My very first editorial shoot I photographed the model came up to me at the end of the day, gave me a hug, and shyly told me thank you. I was the first photographer that had ever looked her in the eye and asked her her name. Here in front of me was this gorgeous model that has graced covers of magazines, that girls all over the world probably see her face and think she has the perfect life. But all she wanted was to be seen, truly seen as a human being. I was stunned. It was a defining moment for me.

I realized how counter-cultural and transformative it was to treat another woman with respect and dignity. All of us have innate value because we are imago dei—made in the image of God. As a Christ follower I carry my imago dei along with the aroma of Christ and the Holy Spirit into any space I walk into. There’s so much power in that. Being in the fashion industry has affirmed to me that whether you’re a supermodel, a stay at home mom, working the corporate world, or running your own small business—we’re all the same. We’re all longing to be seen, known, valued, and understood. All those longings, all those questions of worth are already fulfilled and answered by Christ. It is my passion to share with women everywhere that truth.

What advice would current Kat have for 22 year old Kat?

SLOW DOWN! You can say NO—and you don’t have to defend yourself for saying no. Simple saying NO is completely fine. Rest. Eat at least three meals a day. You can’t love others if you don’t first love yourself. Open your sweet heart to love. I know it’s scary, but even if you get heart broken; it’s so worth it. To love is to risk, and to risk is to love. 

What is your go-to fashion piece in 2017?

My high-waisted dark denim skinny jeans from AYR. I wear them all.the.time.