Katherine Ormerod’s To-Do List
Some people are just born into fashion, while others, like Katherine Ormerod, fall into it. "I was doing a degree in history at the University of Edinburgh and aiming to follow it with a law conversion. Instead I got a weekend job at Harvey Nichols and fell in love with Phoebe Philo’s Chloe,” she tells us. "I’d always loved shopping, but that’s where I got the fashion-with-a-capital-F bug.”
Before taking on the role of editorial director at Lyst in 2015, Ormerod cut her teeth at Matches, The Sunday Times, as well as Grazia. "My role at Matches was as their first digital copywriter and I count my lucky stars that my journey started with at least some online experience. Even learning how to use the CMS and how to optimise copy for various platforms was enough to give me a head start back in 2007," she tells me. "Every role I’ve successfully applied for since has required some level of digital know-how and I feel incredibly fortunate to have gained experience which spans both the new and old schools of fashion journalism.” Having worked in both print and digital, Ormerod has seen the evolution of both firsthand. "Storytelling is entirely a transferable skill—but it’s true you have to adapt the way you communicate to a certain extent depending on your platform. The two feel so incredibly interdependent today, especially as so much print copy is consumed digitally, but there are differences which have become just as cultural as anything else. I think the magic lies in being about to communicate digitally in a way that leaves some kind of emotional footprint.”
Before working at Grazia, Ormerod felt the need to pack up, leave London and move to Cape Town. "I was so out of love with London when I left. I can still remember feeling desperately depressed stepping out of Highbury and Islington tube every day. While my Cape Town experience was amazing, it completely changed my perspective. The freedom I have as a woman in London is incredible and I had so seriously taken it for granted. The security situation in South Africa was something that I eventually found completely incompatible with the way I wanted to live my life. Of course there were countless other elements of life in Cape Town which were far more attractive than in London—especially if you wanted to live a slower, beach based life. But for me I will always see London as a haven of tolerance, freedom and relative safety. Ultimately I’m an indoor girl, a total townie and fiercely independent…I would move again, because I can’t say no to an adventure. But I know I’ll always come home."
Ormerod left her job at Grazia to set up her own company, The Fashion Content Agency. "God, you should have seen me week one. I was literally in a tailspin of anxiety, panic and regret. I think the first month is the most challenging part of working for yourself—and I would warn anyone out there considering taking to plunge to expect to feel totally out of control for a moment,” she tells me. "But it does pass and the feeling of creating something all for yourself, being able to balance commercial and passion projects, and generally dancing to the beat of your own drum is exceptionally fulfilling. I have never been happier professionally than when I worked for myself.”
A meeting with Joanna Christie, Head of Brand and Communication, drew Ormerod to Lyst and the role of Editorial Director was too good to pass up. "I had never worked in a pure tech company and the experience has been eye-opening. A lot of assumptions I’d made were wrong in terms of how fashion consumers engage and I definitely feel I’ve mastered an entirely new vocabulary. Fashion tech is still mostly tech—and a world away from digital fashion publishing,” she tells me. "Personally I’ve become very clear about what I do and don’t want from my career and gained confidence to really back myself. I’m finally launching my own site called workworkwork at the end of December and I don’t think I’d have got to a point where I felt comfortable putting myself out there if I hadn’t had this experience." Ormerod, who is leaving Lyst to focus on The Fashion Agency, is setting up workworkwork as a personal project with “the aim to showcase the other, less glamorous side of the lives of women working in social media, fashion, beauty and design—the challenges that everyone, no matter how easy their life may look in the social media fantasy, has to face both in and out of the workplace. It’s ultimately a forum for sharing experiences and being real."
For someone who has had such a dynamic career, coming across inspirational mentors is almost inevitable. "Natalie Hartley, Fashion Director at Glamour is probably the mentor who has helped me the most with quandaries over my career. I was her assistant for 18 months and she has always been so incredibly generous with advice. Her no-bullshit attitude has also helped me navigate hard times in the industry—sometimes you just need someone to keep it real,” Ormerod tells me. "For day to day (read, every day) support in both my career and home life, I’m incredibly fortunate to have Beth Newman, Global PR Director of JBrand in my life. We swap mentor/mentee roles on a weekly basis, and I value her judgement. We sometimes disagree, but it’s always with the utmost respect and love for each other.”
Ormerod shares her plans for this week with us.
I’m going to start the week at SBC - the workout of all workouts. It’s kind of like hell, but it’s so insanely effective that you get addicted. I go with my flatmate Penny—she’s a fitness model and does a lot of combat training, so she keeps me motivated. Every week I hope that she’ll say 'Let's sit this one out,' but she never does! Other than SBC, I do classes at Frame three or four times as week. My favourites are rebounding (trampolining), reformer Pilates and yoga. Working out has been a big part of my life for a couple of years now, but unless I keep changing it up, I fall off the wagon.
My girlfriend Anissa Kermiche is hosting a private ear piercing event with a showcase of her jewellery designs so will head there straight after work. There will be a big gang of friends there so we’ll probably head for dinner afterwards—but as it’s a Parisian crowd it will be somewhere noisy, cramped and hip. I’m the grandma that always wants to go somewhere quiet with good service.
I’ve got tickets to see Fantastic Beasts at the Everyman in Maida Vale just down the road from my apartment. I love going to the cinema—my boyfriend and I do Sunday morning films at The Electric on Portobello Road nearly every week. We saw Nocturnal Animals last weekend which was fantastic but kept me awake with bizarre dreams for days afterwards. I have a love-hate relationship with thrillers, but love science fiction and action films.
Thursday: Ida, 167 Fifth Ave, W10 4DT
I'm having dinner at my favourite local Italian Ida on Kilburn Lane. I’m obsessed with this restaurant—however many swanky dinners I have, it’s always Ida’s hand rolled pasta that I crave. Their mid week deal: a bowl of fresh pasta and a glass of wine for £10 cannot be beaten.
I’m heading to Soho Farmhouse with my boyfriend and our friend, Australian chef Thomas Lim. We’re staying in the tents and I know it will be freezing until we get the fire going, so will be dressed in a cashmere onesie. Not entirely chic, but at least I’ll be toasty.
Text by Nada Abdul Ghaffar