Sometimes a Boss Babe comes along that makes you rethink your career path, along with your entire style game. Katharine may be that person to me.
I first stumbled upon Houghton, Katharine’s ready-to-wear and bridal brand, worn by the fiercest ladies in the game (you know, like, Lilly Collins and Kerry Washington), a couple of years back when I had no business discovering bridal lines (I blame Pinterest). I was floored — Katharine’s ability to make the bridal game look cool made me hopeful that not all brides have to look like Cinderella on their wedding day. Katharine started Houghton with the idea that the modern bride is independent and sophisticated; each piece encompasses a timeless feel that casually makes each bride feel chic and sexy without all that frou-frouness. And it doesn’t hurt that Houghton’s line is inspired by the one and only Katherine Houghton Hepburn. See what she did there? Suffice it to say, Katharine has been breaking all the rules when it comes to the bridal world and she does not apologize for it.
Additionally, you can tell she prides herself off of breaking the rules. When you arrive to their incredible showroom, you’re welcomed by a big pink neon sign and framed photos of Bianca Jagger and Keith Richards (not together, of course — Mick would’ve have had it). Every element of the showroom makes you fall more in love with the brand, and meeting Katharine just reaffirms why you’re dying to be a #HoughtonGirl.
We hung out with Katharine and asked her some questions about being a successful entrepreneur, building a lifestyle, and much more. Get to know the ultimate Boss Babe, Katharine Polk.
Go-to spot to get your brunch on with the girls:
Soho House buffet brunch is on point. Where else can you get oysters, omelettes, roast beef and charcuterie?
Perfume/scent of choice:
I like Fresh “Beach” scent which they sadly don’t make anymore, Tom Ford “Vanilla Tobacco”, and this amazing vanilla perfume from Anthropologie.
Jewelry designer you’re currently loving:
I love Mania Mania and Chrome Hearts.
Beauty trend you can’t stand:
Where can we find you on a night out in NYC:
You can find me on a night in…watching Scandal and drinking red wine lol…or if I’m out which is like twice a year then it’s Wise Men on The Bowery. Pre-partying dinner is some sort of greasy Mexican or my favorite little French restaurant in Chelsea, Le Singe Vert, for steak tartare or paté.
I launched Houghton for Fall 2012- it was an all ivory RTW collection and was intentionally designed for women who wanted something other than a traditional gown, and the collection just naturally evolved from there. After the RTW editors took notice and with so many brides contacting us, I started designing and showing the bridal collection separately in Fall 2013. The silhouettes and the aesthetic stay the same between the two collections and the girl is definitely the same. We view it all as technically RTW and our successful “ready-to-wear for the bride” styles come from our strongest silhouettes designed for the RTW collection.
You’re originally from the west coast. Do you feel your California upbringing has influenced your RTW collections? Are there any differences between west coast brides and east coast brides?
I am a west coast girl at heart in terms of loving the beach, but the fashion is here and home for me is really here in NYC. I am so much more inspired by chic east coast women and the lifestyle here.
Yeah, theres definitely a difference between west and east coast brides — theres a different level of sophistication here on the east coast while my west coast girls are more bohemian and style the same gown in a completely different way than an east coast bride does. I would say the east coast bride is a more adventurous fashion girl and is more into a styled editorial look.
Not only were you named after her, but Houghton is inspired by the legendary actress, Katharine Hepburn. What are some key qualities of her that you always love to incorporate into the brand?
Hands down her affinity for menswear. And I think wearing pants and women who embrace their tomboy side and aren’t afraid to be a bit more masculine is way more sexy than a girl in a short tight dress.
It seems that you’re known to break a few rules when it comes to bridal fashion. Where are you hoping to see the bridal world be in the next few years?
I think people are just now embracing that there really is a market for the #HoughtonGirl and we have a valid vision and point of view, so we have definitely had a breakthrough in the market and our customers and stores really show that. Now there are more designers in this space who share similar views and what can I say- imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! Being the 1st person in this space has been a hard few years and now it’s easier not being the only one breaking through. Moving forward I hope that everyone can embrace us taking more risks fashion wise and not be afraid of more fashion forward dresses and gowns and being more open to separates and rompers etc. And not have such tunnel vision for what bridal should be.
If you could sum up your personal style in one sentence, what would you say it is?
Eclectic and tomboy.
Tell us something only your closest friends & family know about you:
Well I did some market research for this question and my BFF says “You’re not as cunty as your eyebrows…”
Drink with anyone dead or alive, who would it be, where would it be, and what are you drinking?
I’d rather have a BBQ and I’m cooking carne asada tacos, roasted bell peppers, homemade pico de gallo & guac, chili cornbread, margaritas with a side of chilled tequila shots.. and maybe mimosas, too. My guests would be the members of TLC like in 1993, Britney Spears, Chloe Sevigny, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Notorious BIG & Lil’Kim when they 1st started dating, and I wouldn’t mind like Paris Hilton circa 2005 showing her face for a few minutes and bringing Nicole Ritchie circa now.
What’s your secret to being a successful entrepreneur, and even further, a successful designer?
Lots of hugs, lots of emojis and exclamation points in my emails! But seriously — I always go with my gut and stick to my guns, and you need to constantly be open to change and be flexible to evolve and figure out how to progress and keep your business relevant. Keep your eyes open and be open to advice and criticism but take it with a grain of salt.
You’ve definitely created a lifestyle within the bridal space, and have some of the coolest, most influential women, wearing your dresses. What do you think has propelled that movement? And is there one bride that you’re the most proudest to say wore your designs?
There was definitely a void in the market and basically the bridal space only catered to one type of girl, so we are doing something different for all those other girls that don’t fit into that cookie cutter image of what a bride should be. It’s 2016 and most women are working and are not going to be stay at home housewives and don’t want to wear a sweetheart neckline and be treated like Daddy’s little girl on their wedding day…
I don’t want to sound like a cheesy asshole and say “I love all my children equally”, but I’m so honored that all these girls want to wear Houghton and I look at all my #HoughtonGirls as a whole. Each one wears the brand so differently and it’s cool to see how many brides are feeling sexy and comfortable in my gowns.
Who would you die to dress?
Gwen Stefani and Jane Fonda.
Words of wisdom for aspiring Boss Babes:
Don’t let anyone with bad eyebrows touch your eyebrows! Keep it sexy, don’t be afraid of Botox. Keep an animal/dog close by…they’re good for the soul.