“Working in the fashion industry, there’s an interesting balance between dressing professionally and dressing stylishly,” says Kat Collings. And there are few who sit as squarely at that intersection as Collings, Who What Wear’s editor in chief. For those who find themselves striding by her glass-paneled office at Clique’s West Hollywood headquarters, it’s not unusual to spot Collings taking calls and getting down to business dressed in designers that range from Staud to Balenciaga.
In just five years, Collings has worked her way from the bottom up to her current role as editor in chief (in addition to executive director of sister properties Byrdie and MyDomaine—an impressive mouthful, to be sure). “I was an intern at Who What Wear in college,” notes Collings. “That helped me build the relationship with the co-founders to eventually come back on as Katherine Power’s assistant.”
Working in digital media requires the ability to be both flexible and proactive, qualities that Collings calls on to combat a jam-packed schedule. “It’s hard to pin down an average week since it’s always changing,” she notes. “The main pillar of my job is to strategically lead the editorial teams with the goal of making sure we’re producing premium and directional content on our platforms.” Between internal meetings, press appointments, and product development for the Who What Wear collection at Target, a singular title doesn’t accurately describe everything on Collings’s plate at one time.
But don’t let her daunting to-do list fool you into thinking fashion ever takes a backseat. Collings has found a way to make 9-to-5 dressing both polished and unique. “My personal style is trend-driven yet classic and balances feminine and masculine influences,” she notes. “I love peppering my outfits with vintage pieces and interesting accessories.”
While many offices adhere to codified rules of dressing, Collings finds inspiration in dressing for work: “Our dress code doesn’t outline any specific dos or don’ts, but instead encourages employees to dress for the position they aspire toward.”
Aspirational dressing is not a new concept per se, but Collings leads an era of power women who have eschewed ultra-formal styles for a cooler take on work clothes. “If you sway too professional, it’s boring, and if you sway too trendy, it’s not right for an office setting,” she notes. At the start of her career, Collings took an alternative (and slightly unexpected) route to a power wardrobe. “When you’re just starting out, vintage is a great way to get classic professional pieces that are high quality and still affordable,” she notes.
Now, Collings mixes these vintage scores with newer splurges, allowing her to assemble outfits that fit her personality. While in today’s Instagram age, it can feel like every fashion insider wears the same styles, by taking time to build a well-fitted, long-lasting wardrobe, Collings has set herself apart. “Over time you naturally invest a bit more in the special pieces that will last you for many years,” she says.
In Collings’s outfits, details like a contrasting belt or a statement earring make her ensembles feel especially purposeful and precious. But her formula for choosing what to wear is refreshingly easy: “I pick one piece in my wardrobe that I want to wear that day and build off of that. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right!” Creating an ensemble around a single hero piece is a habit that Collings and other industry leaders have spoken to before. Consider it a way to focus on statement pieces while still creating a look that won’t catch the eye of HR.
Read on to see Collings’s weekday wardrobe!
Paley Fairman; On Kat Collings: Tibi dress; Burberry trench; Balenciaga Skimmer Mules ($895); vintage belt; Céline bag; Raen sunglasses
Just as a week in Collings’s shoes is impossible to pin down, her style is equally versatile. While to many, Mondays make for a sleepy start to the week, Collings kicks things up a notch, opting for a statement dress from Tibi. “I’m obsessed with this crushed-velvet dress. It can go anywhere, but I particularly love it dressed down for the office. The dramatic ruche up the front makes it incredibly flattering.” Styled with more classic details like a simple trench and kitten heels gives the eye-catching piece a new twist.
As is true of many of the pieces in Collings’s wardrobe, her dress is a style that sets a high bar, but while it sends a message of exactly who Collings wants to be at the office, it’s not confined to the hours sitting in front of a desk. It easily transitions to activities a bit more buttoned down.
Living in L.A., it’s unusual for temperatures to dip below 60, but that doesn’t mean that Collings isn’t prepared for the occasion. “This day was actually a bit chilly (a rarity in L.A.), so I broke out my warmest layers.” But even when bundling, there’s a certain purposefulness to each piece that makes up this look. “Lately I’m into wearing brown as the neutral base of my outfits, rather than black.” Unexpected pairings like green trousers and a pop of pink make what could be a simple-sounding ensemble feel vibrant.
One perk of Collings’s work helping to develop and design the Who What Wear collection is that the pieces transition easily into her personal wardrobe. “I’m usually repping the line at least once a week,” she says. “This is one of my favourite floral prints we’ve done yet.” While a floaty bohemian dress might not come to mind when you think of dressing for the office, Collings chooses pieces like a structured blazer and pointed pumps to create a balance. “When I’m feeling stuck, I fall back on blazers,” she states. “They always help to add polish to more casual items like flats, jeans, and tees.”
Red isn’t just one of this season’s biggest colour trends. It also has age-old ties to confidence, so it’s only natural that Collings turns to the hue when it’s time to command a room. “I had a big meeting today, so these red power pants felt like the right decision.” By styling her high-waisted trousers with softer camel, ivory, and black, she allows her ensemble to make a statement without being overpowering. Of course, never one to overlook the little details, she adds, “A watch is always a smart idea for a business setting. This classic Rolex goes with everything.”
In Los Angeles, there might be no piece of clothing tied to the culture quite as tightly as those simple blue jeans, so it’s only natural that this trendsetter breaks them out at least once during the week. “Friday calls for jeans!” Collings says about her final outfit. But don’t think that denim means swapping style for something totally casual. Says Collings, “I kept the look polished though with this fur-collar blazer.” Relying on a mix of current styles with cool vintage pieces (à la that retro blazer,) Collings manages to reimagine what Friday dressing means.
While this series is a testament to the Monday-to-Friday style of women we admire, part of what differentiates Collings is that come Saturday, don’t expect to see her dust off the sweatpants and sneakers. “I go through periods of following the rule that if I can’t wear it to work, I won’t buy it,” she says. “I care about how I present myself at work way more than how I look on the weekends or going out, so it helps me decide if a purchase is worth it and focus on pieces that work for on and off duty.”
This approach makes sense when you think about the always-on aspect of Collings’s job. She could be scrolling through Gmail on the way to drinks or hopping on a cross-country call before she heads into the office, so it seems natural that her professional wardrobe is equally equipped for colouring outside the lines of a traditional day job. While you can feel her style sensibility in every piece she puts on, but she never loses sight of the fact that she’s on the job.