Project Beltway Interviews: Katherine Kennedy

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Last weekend outside of Cafe Milano – Katherine in a rare pant-wearing moment.

Katherine Kennedy was in town last weekend from London. In typical it-girl fashion, she was posing at a party at The Park in a navy blue satin dress mere hours after landing, looking just as – if not more – glamorous than the other girls who’d had hours to prepare. You might be wondering who Katherine Kennedy is. I heard of Katherine before I ever came to know her. You might call her a socialite, whatever that means in Washington. She’s regularly asked to host charity events and she shows up frequently in the party pages of local mags like Capitol File and was asked recently to be the “socialite columnist” for Verse Magazine.

The night this article came out in the City Paper, I went out to Clarendon Ballroom for a concert with “KK” and a few others, and it was the first time I’d ever seen her in jeans, much less a pair of pants. Since I didn’t really know her all that well yet, the article put me in the position of anthropological observer (which I love as you might know, and why I love Angela’s articles on people in DC). She is overwhelmingly good-natured — the girl making sure no other girl was lost as we moved through the crowd — with a magnetic persona and a kind of social mojo that is pretty fascinating to be around.

Katherine and I caught up last weekend over drinks. Read on for her favorite thing to wear on a plane, what she thinks of being dubbed a “socialite,” and why she thinks brunettes might have more fun.

Tell us a little about yourself: where you went to school, how you ended up in Washington and then London, what you wanna be when you grow up.
I’m from Los Altos Hills, California – grew up a Cisco kid in the Silicon Valley. Went to college at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles (graduated in 2005) then got my masters in business and technology from Georgetown in 2007. I’m studying ecommerce at the London School of Economics hoping to get my phd. Peruse.com started as a class project for an ecommerce course at Georgetown. When I grow up I want to have a talk show using the media as a platform to promote people who “do good” (non-profits, etc – similar to Oprah’s Angel Network). I also want to start a charity for MEN. I was diagnosed with MEN 1 and sporadic carcinoid syndrome when I was 15 in 2000. Its kind of funny it’s called men – the root of ALL of my problems! I owe a lot my ambition and success to the illness as it gave me the chance to live as if I were dying and seize every moment (thus graduating high school and college each a year early, selling a company, traveling the world, etc). I want to start a charity that gives teens who are faced with serious illness a chance to live their dreams in fast forward. I am also selling my jewelry designs at We One You Two, with the proceeds going to the start-up of my foundation.

Favorite thing in your closet and why?
I am absolutely obsessed with my black Burberry trench. I truly believe that you can invest in
fashion, and it is probably my best investment yet. Always classic and appropriate in just about every setting, combining fashion and function… Plus, if you’re wearing a nice coat it doesn’t matter what you have on underneath!

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Ice skating on the Mall in her Burberry trench.

What do you think of being dubbed a “socialite”?
I think the term socialite is pretty hilarious, showing that I have come along way since the times when I would wear orange Umbro shorts that went down past my knees sticking out two inches beyond my plaid school uniform. I admit I have been a little overexposed even for my own liking, but have been blessed as I have been given the opportunity to promote many good causes- including fashion based ones like being a face for Fashion Fights Poverty, a model in Fashion For Paws, and a board member of Suited For Change and Menzfit. I’m not exactly sure how I got dubbed a socialite, being that I came to DC with academic ambitions at 20 years old and never made a sex tape a la Paris Hilton, but as long as I can use my name to help the numerous good causes in the District, I am okay with whatever they will call it.

How would you describe your style? Any signatures or style quirks?
I hope my style is portrayed as a hybrid of classic elegance and eclectic charm. I tend to disregard what is hot this season but mix in some runway ideas into each season’s wardrobe. I wear pearls every single day- something atypical hailing from California – but I try to wear funky, imperfect ones, never the traditional round 16-inch strands.

You’ve gone from CA to DC to London. How has your style changed or evolved depending on where you’ve lived?
I believe that every person’s fashion sense is a work in progress. In California I was obsessed with Juicy Sweats and Uggs. When I moved to DC I realized it may not be so appropriate for a twentysomething to have the word “Juicy” inscribed upon her bottom so I opted for more classic pieces and learned to dress to fit my body, not the trend of the moment. Living in London has given me the courage to be a bit edgier with those classic pieces, trying out different cuts and accessories.

Half of the time I look around London wondering if the hobo look was in, and the rest of the time I’m awestruck and staring at girls who can pull off tights with shorts without looking like my mom in the ’80s. Washington is really conservative so it’s quite a trip seeing Londoners walking around in huge bell bottoms, furs, and elf-toed boots. The eclectic mix in such an internationally savvy city means there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly…but has definitely made me envious!

Any favorite places to shop in Washington and in London?
On my last trip to DC I became obsessed with We One You Two. Since I wear a dress about every single day, I found my little slice of heaven in Georgetown’s two story gift from above! I love dresses with pockets and they had a ton. London has a lot of great shops overflowing with new trends. My go-tos as a fashionista on a budget are TopShop and Zara, where I can always find something of-the-moment, well-made, and at a great price. Shopping online is huge in London as well. Net-A-Porter.com is fabulous!

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With WJLA reporter Pamela Brown in Georgetown over the summer.

What beauty products can you no live without?
People might be surprised to hear that I’m actually low-maintenance when it comes to makeup and hair, probably because my A.D.D. kicks in and I get distracted. I am a big advocate of Mystic tanning…I know it sounds awful, but it’s true. I don’t do sunbeds, but I love the way the Mystic tanning means I don’t have to wear makeup and it makes my body glow from had to toe. On the makeup front, the only three things I have in my bag are Philosophy’s “The Supernatural Airbrushed Canvas” with SPF 15 in Bronze (its amazing!), The Balm’s “Hot Mama” blush/eyeshadow, and Volume Express Mascara. I kind of look like a transvestite when I wear makeup, so I tend to opt for the all-natural look…

Favorite labels/designers?
TranquiliT.com makes the absolute best travel clothing. In London, I’ll travel almost every weekend to Paris, Milan, Barcelona, so I needed something comfortable to wear, especially on the
transatlantic flights. Their Eco-Luxe lifestylewear is both fashionable and environmentally friendly, but most importantly ridiculously comfortable. I wear the jumpsuit (in black) every single flight with the cardishawl in off white. It is uber classy going from flight to dinner- just accessorize with shoes and jewelry and you’re done! Easy packing!

What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever been given?
My favorite professor in college once told us, “Never wear Versace, stick to Chanel.” He was making a metaphor for politics, but I took it to the depths of my closet. You’re the one wearing the clothes, so they should compliment you, not take the focus away.

What’s something you’d never be caught dead wearing?
Plaid. I went to a Catholic School all the way from preschool through graduate
school. so I’ve overdosed on plaid (in every imaginable color-combo). A little Burberry on the inside of a jacket is classic, but a plaid shirt/skirt/etc– never!

What style do you admire but would probably never wear?
I am jealous of the people who can throw on a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt and some urban kicks and look flawless. Clothes give me a lot of confidence, and I’m just not as outgoing unless I have a great pair of heels and a dress on. I also wish I could go brunette as I honestly believe that only brunettes can be stunningly gorgeous, but its just never going to happen I don’t think…

Favorite fashion quote?
“My idea of changing a flat is putting on a stiletto.”

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