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Wonder Woman Wednesday: Katherine Hooker

We caught up with founder of occasionwear and mother of the bride line Katherine Hooker to learn more about where it all began

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Katherine, founder of occasionwear and mother of the bride label, Katherine Hooker
Katherine, founder of occasionwear and mother of the bride label, Katherine Hooker

Tell us a bit about your background

I was born in Cyprus and grew up in Tunisia, Nigeria and Kenya but both of my parents are American. We moved to the UK by the time I was 10 and I went straight off to English boarding school which was a massive shock to the system.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Kirsty Voce

I left school as soon as I possibly could. My education was kind of messed up by the whole move – I didn’t go to school for about a year and a half so I was pretty wild by the time I got there. I was counting down the minutes until I could get away and do my own thing.

So as soon as I could, I went to live in Paris where I worked as a stylist for interiors. I then went to New York for a while, I also lived in Washington DC for a bit and travelled a lot to India. Then I went into the film industry where I crawled my way up the art department. I was a Production Designer and went and did a TV drama before realising that I’d worked so hard to do something that I wasn’t happy doing so took some time to figure out what it was I wanted to do. I’m a worker, I’ve always been very productive - it was just a matter of life and death to enjoy what I was doing.

I went to India again and came up with all sorts of crazy ideas. Then I began working with a village tailor to create a coat for myself and I just fell in love with the whole process of creating garments. I got into textiles and I was just hooked. I really, really had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know anything about fashion of patterns or retail.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Regine Ellis

How did Katherine Hooker come about?

I started with these coats and opened a shop after about a year. Six months later summer came round and I realised, “Oh God what am I going to do for summer?” Now I’m a real Tomboy, so it has always been a challenge designing something for the girl who hates dressing up, because sometimes you have to dress up, especially if you’re going to a wedding. So I started designing a summer collection that really wasn’t me at all - it was more like a fantasy of mine. It was like, if I dared go out of my comfort zone, this is what I’d wear.

I started with romantic and nostalgic designs with a modern edge, and then I started to design prints and loved it - I’ve lost 72 hours of sleep by just designing different prints. So then I applied that to the summer collection as well.

I realised that people would invest in a really good quality winter coat but with summer clothes people are more likely to wear them for a season and chuck them, so I decided to concentrate on occasionwear because I thought that people would invest in occasionwear.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Tiffany London

What are your secrets to success?

Work hard and be yourself. I started this business by being myself because I was just having fun with it. I was totally enthralled and absorbed by it. I also think that it’s all about good relationships - I really love working with the customer.

What’s your greatest achievement so far?

The whole business itself. I think it’s very hard to build a business, especially in today’s climate, or even 15 years ago when I started my business, when the internet barely existed. I didn’t have any financial backing either. Now I’m still growing organically and sell to 27 countries.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

Connecting to likeminded people who have the same aesthetic and eye for beauty and quality. It’s really exciting seeing someone really appreciate something you’ve created. I’ve had people come great distances to get their occasionwear from us. I had a woman fly over from Colorado to get her mother of the groom outfit because she knew she’d get exactly what she wanted, and for her it wasn’t a big deal paying the price of the plane ticket for such an important outfit.

So yes, I’d say connecting with people who feel the same way that I do.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Anna Cirignaco

Is there anything you’d change about your job?

I don’t think so. My job is my life, and I think about it 24/7 – I’ve geared my entire life around my job. I’ve definitely had times when I’ve realised something isn’t working and I’ve changed it. I’m pretty happy.

How does an employee catch your attention?

By communicating really well and by being available and committed. I also hate managing people, I’m much more of an arty type; I like to be left alone to create things so my team have to be team players and self-starters. I’m really blessed with the people I’ve got working for me, I try and take care of them the best that I can. I’d rather compromise my own remuneration in favour of them because I really rely on them.

Read more: Wonder Woman Wednesday: Jacqui James

What does your typical working day look like?

It starts by grabbing my phone which I really hate. Then I’ll answer emails. I have a bit of a daily plan but that’s mostly overtaken by stuff that comes up. When I’m in Greece, which is about four months of the year, my day is full of calls – just one call after the other.

Can you tell us three interesting facts about yourself?

1. I come from a family of artists: my mother’s a painter, my sisters are both painters, by brother’s a film maker so we’re all very creative.

2. I have a triple life: I spend four months in Greece, three or four months in the US and five or six months in the UK. It really is like having three different lives. When I’m in one, I can’t really imagine the other two. I never feel homesick or fed up with where I am.

3. I’ve lived in multiple different countries and worked in many different industries.

If you loved reading about Katherine’s design background, discover more about the talented bridal designer, Charlie Brear.

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