As I was trying on new glasses a few weeks ago at Northern Lights Optometry, fashion specialist Katie Pope helped me. I liked her instantly and I complimented her on her extraordinary sense of style.
On my next visit (according to Katie many people take choosing a new pair of glasses very seriously, and come back many times to make the right decision), Katie helped me again.
I stared at her because her makeup was exceptionally well done and I thought she was charismatic. About the staring, she said later in the interview, “that happens a lot, many people stare at me, here in Whitehorse and down South.”
She always felt different and gravitates to people who are different. Later at Starbucks, I observed that she has a strong sense of social justice, which she says connects to her sense of being different.
“Everybody being different makes us all unique and in that way we are all the same,” she says. Anyway, I ended up with a pair of glasses that I really like.
Katie is a 2009 graduate from F.H. Collins Secondary School. After graduating with top marks, Katie went to Vancouver Island University and enrolled in the five-year program for a degree in Sociology. After one year, she decided to change to a Business and Marketing program, with a focus on Fashion. She finished that degree in 2015.
In 2015, she did an internship in Calgary at Nordstrom’s, an American fashion retailer. The store had just opened in Calgary and Katie worked in management, sales, and personal styling, which she has a knack for.
She got to dress superstars: winners of Canadian country music awards, winners of Junos, and hockey and football players. She thinks part of her success in dressing them was that she didn’t know them, as any born-and-raised Calgarian might have. Hockey players, she said, were hard to dress, needing custom-made clothing.
“Those men have extremely muscular thighs, all of them, and the style of the day is trim pant legs.”
Katie is also a rap and hip/hop songwriter and she sells her lyrics. She also wants to be a fashion model, and appears in fashion shows. Katie aims to “make it” in modeling by the age of 30.
“Anything is possible when you believe in yourself” she says and I agree.
After 2015, Katie came home to Whitehorse, partly because her sister had a baby and because it wasn’t easy living in Calgary on minimum wage. Her personal styling was done on commission, and this created tension in the workplace.
“Compared to Nordstrom’s, Northern Optics is so chill,” Katie says, ”and everybody is so friendly.” Meaning, it’s nothing like the competitiveness at Nordstrom’s. She likes her job here in Whitehorse a lot, but obviously she has bigger dreams.
At the moment, Katie is preparing for her French DELF exam, which shows fluency in French. She wants to continue in fashion and plans to apply for a two-year visa to work for ASOS, an online fashion outlet based in London.
“London is where haute couture is happening,” Katie says. “ I have to go through the SWAP program (a non-profit program for students to be able to work or volunteer in foreign countries). I have friends who have gone through that program and they have a lot of connections to get you where you want to go. I also have connections with Harrods (a luxury department store in London).”
As a child, she loved dress-up and writing. Early on, Katie realized that she could predict fashion trends. Katie understands now that she has a good sense of what is going to be fashionable. Her own wardrobe reflects that, and is based on the style of Kim Kardashian. Kim Kardashian also happens to be married to Kanye West who is Katie’s favourite hip hop star.
“His music always makes me feel good; he is an arrogant genius, a motivation and inspiration.”
A verse from one of Katie’s own hip hop songs:
“Explain to me why I’m here,
No home, car ain’t gassed, can’t pay my bills,
No fam’, no friends, can’t even buy my pills.
Working hard trying to stay on my grind,
can’t even afford to spare a dime –
Dimebag makes the pain go away,
but reality’s a bitch and she here to stay.
Stone cold thoughts rushing through my veins,
God knows I’ve known a life of pain,
And shit’s only ’bout to get worse,
’cause that commission life got me pullin’ at my purse.
Wanna be mad modelling, living life off the rails,
But I can’t even afford a fresh set of nails.
It’s a hard knock life trying to get from rags to riches,
clawing to the top, ballerific bitches.”
Katie’s words of wisdom: “It is very attractive when you own your insecurities.” And her, not-so-well-kept secret: “It’s a crisis for me, when someone happens to wear the same outfit as I do.”