My Digital Life: Katie Rose, Director of The Bridge Co.
From Lulu Kennedy’s right-hand woman to fashion entrepreneur, Katie Rose has worked her magic on some of the industry’s most celebrated emerging designers. Natalie Hughes talks Instagram Stories, teenage screen-names and bibliophilia with the London-based boss.
I can’t remember exactly how Katie Rose and I first crossed digital paths, but within a couple of times of meeting IRL, we’d already exchanged our cringeworthy teenage online aliases and our mutual love for a certain trashy TV series. That’s the thing about Katie; she’s as irreverent and personable as she is cool, possessing both a keen eye for sartorial zeitgeist and a sharp business mind – qualities that have fuelled her success as Director of The Bridge Co., the fashion consultancy she launched in 2014.
The Bridge Co. speaks to emerging and contemporary labels regarding business, brand-building and everything in between, counting the likes of Ashley Williams, Claire Barrow and LF Markey as clients and carving a niche as the agency to propel fashion’s rising stars from start-ups to fully-fledged businesses.
Katie may be future-looking, but her personal style is a tribute to the 1970s. When we meet at Shoreditch House, she is clad in a peppermint-striped shirt and red lipstick, complete with her signature waves and heavy fringe – a ‘do not dissimilar to the black and white snap of Kate Bush she Instagrammed a few weeks earlier. You’d be forgiven for thinking she’s in a band.
As with so many digital girl bosses, Katie’s career journey featured a few twists and turns. ‘I didn’t study fashion’, she explains. ‘I was at UCL doing a course called Language and Culture – it’s basically German, Spanish, and then lots of little cultural bits on the side, like literature and film and art history.’ (Certainly, her Insta-feed is a mash-up of film stills, collected artworks and cultural icons.)
A year abroad in Berlin followed, during which time Katie set her sights on becoming a fashion writer. ‘I was like, “Fashion’s it. I’m going to go for it”’, she remembers, ‘By the time I graduated I had quite a lot of experience under my belt.’ But it was 2010 and, in the wake of the Great Recession, magazines weren’t hiring. ‘I freelanced for 18 months’, she continues. ‘[Then] one day I woke up and went, “I’m self-employed.” I hustled lots of odd jobs. I worked with brands on things like PR, trade shows, helped them with budget, copywriting.’
The hustle paid off. ‘A job came up at Fashion East to be Lulu [Kennedy’s] right-hand girl’, Katie says. ‘They offered me a six-month job and it turned into two and a half years.’ But once a multihyphenate, always a multihyphenate; Katie continued to freelance in her spare time, penning fashion features and copywriting for brands. ‘I got jobs on Twitter’, she says, musing on the platform’s community spirit in 2009. ‘I’m actually meeting someone in a couple of weeks who I’ve been Twitter friends with for ages.’ It was at Fashion East where Katie witnessed how difficult it was for young designers to access business advice; The Bridge Co. was born.
Now that Katie helms her own agency, does she still consider social media as being instrumental in driving business? ‘Absolutely crucial’, she asserts. ‘Maybe 30% of the clients we’ve worked with came through an Instagram direct message.’ She practises what she preaches, offering social media consultancy as part of The Bridge Co.’s 360 approach. What brands are doing social well, I ask. ‘I really like Bruta – the shirt brand. LF Markey has a really good feed as well.’ I nod in agreement, telling Katie that I actually bought an LF Markey sweatshirt after seeing it on Instagram.
The morning we meet, Instagram Stories has just launched, prompting a Twitter frenzy and more than a few Snapchat comparisons. ‘Yay or nay?’ I ask Katie. ‘Yay, but only because I feel like I’m too old for Snapchat’, she laughs. ‘What I love about Stories is that everyone I already follow is there.’ Social media – and its enticing new developments - brings more opportunity to procrastinate, some might suggest. Katie’s got a different view: ‘[I use it for] research, and I’m always looking for new brands or people [we] can work with. I’m constantly on my phone looking at social. It’s the first thing I do in the morning – have a good scroll [on Facebook and Instagram] before I’ve even properly woken up.’
Having spent a large portion of my teenage years Livejournaling and perfecting my aerial-angled MySpace pics, I’m curious to find out about Katie’s social media history. ‘I used to spend a lot of time on AOL Chat and MSN’, she admits. ‘And MySpace. [My] profile picture was me and my best friend, we’d swap shoes. It [was] just a picture of the bottom half of the legs and the shoes. They were the best shoes… I don’t even know where they were from, maybe Ravel. Oh my God, they might have been Ravel. They were a bit sporty.’ I reminisce about my fervent desire for a pair of Dolcis platform wedges.
I ask if Katie remembers her AOL or MSN name. ‘Yes, but I don’t want to say it’, she laughs. It couldn’t be worse than mine (punky_fairy), I assert. ‘Mine was…this was on AOL. Stormcloud012. I was very tortured.’
In between social scrolling, running a thriving business and speaking on various panels and podcasts – most recently ASOS’s My Big Idea – Katie still finds time to stick her nose in a book - and not the digital kind. ‘I would never get a kindle’, she vows. ‘I music-magpied everything – all my DVDs are gone – but I can’t give up my books. I love the idea of one day having a library in my forever house, with the ladder that goes around the walls.’ Right now, her bedside table is filled with business books. ‘I recently finished Lean In, and I’ve got Linzi Boyd’s book, Brand Famous: How to Get Everyone Talking About Your Business.’
Contrary to what her packed schedule – and prolific reading – may suggest, Katie doesn’t have a time machine. Her multitasking secret weapon is Trello, a task management tool. ‘I find it so intuitive to use’, she says. ‘Everything is in boards. I’m trying to get to the point where all my staff are using it as well, instead of plugging up our inboxes.’
Apart from using Trello, what should budding digital entrepreneurs be doing? ‘Get yourself out there and tell everybody about your business idea. I’m stealing this advice because I heard Ross Bailey from Appear Here tell a room full of people this. He’s a genius.’
And brands? ‘The more feedback you can get, the better’, Katie advises. ‘Don’t think, I’m going to wait until it’s perfect. If you’re selling online, the first thing you should do is get your Instagram going. If you don’t have a database of people to purchase, what is it all for?’
Words: Natalie Hughes