On the Red Couch with Who What Wear/CMG Co-founder Katherine Power
Inside Flipboard / September 8, 2016
What do you do when you know what you want to read but you can’t find it? If you’re Clique Media Group co-founders Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr, you create it yourself.
The women were West Coast editors at ELLE Magazine when they struck up a fast friendship that was equal parts work and play. Their skills turned out to be highly complementary—Power had an eagle eye for trends and curating images, while Kerr was the adept writer who brought ideas to life—and they wanted to solve the same problems about the way fashion media was evolving online.
“We were frustrated that we couldn’t get the same type of content we were used to getting in a magazine online. And we were also frustrated that we couldn’t shop print magazines in the same way you could shop the Web. So we felt compelled to bring magazine sensibilities to the internet,” Power told us.
When Who What Wear launched in 2006, it made fashion feel accessible and demystified celebrity street style by focusing on the clothes, not the gossip. For readers who were serious about their style (without breaking the bank), the approach worked. Now there’s also a Who What Wear line at Target and sites devoted to beauty (Byrdie), home (MyDomaine) and a community for Gen Z girls (Obsessee), all of which form the formidable CMG. No matter the property, inspiration and utility are there in equal measure.
We caught up with Power to find out how to have a healthy relationship with your co-founder, how her team creates such desire-inducing posts, and how the job of an editor has changed in the last year.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs about having a healthy and productive relationship with their cofounder?
Well, it’s interesting because we could’ve been a disaster. We’re both only children and probably used to getting our way, but we honestly are two very healthy individuals, mentally and physically.
We also have very different skill sets, so I always say that’s an important thing to look for in a partner. If you’re both great at finance but no one is creative, that’s a problem. You want to look to fill each other’s weaknesses and support each other’s strengths.
We also have this kind of unspoken rule where when it comes to decision making, whoever feels more strongly wins. So it would be clear in a discussion if one person truly felt really strongly about something, the other would support her there. We’ve kind of always run our business that way.
I’ve done a lot of therapy, so I like to confront topics and talk through them. She likes that less so, but she allows me to confront her and talk through them. So it works out. And she, by nature, doesn’t like change, and I look for it. But she’s very willing to listen to me and is very open to what I suggest and she takes chances with me, which is really great.
Your sites are almost intoxicating: the way items are presented, you want everything! What are the specific ingredients that you guys think about in terms of creating a shoppable post? How do you create that magic?
We always want to provide some kind of utility because the people that come to our site have a very specific intent, and that is to take an immediate action of some kind. They’re coming to us because they want to buy something: they want to know what to buy, or they want to try something and need to know how to do it. It could be a new hairstyle, a new hair color, a new nail trend or even “I’m looking for a new pair of jeans for this season, what is the shape I should buy?” We are always servicing that intent and all of our content drives some sort of an immediate action. Beyond that, we are very visually driven and we care greatly about the quality of the images—we always have an inspirational image that will entice and inspire you.
When you blend content and commerce, are there unique editorial guidelines you need to follow?
The commerce really supports the content. It’s not really ‘this is a set of products we need to sell. We need to contextualize them.’ We actually start with the context and start with idea, the trend, the answer to the question, and then we find the best products that support that idea.
Clearly, Zara is a darling among your editors. What other brands do you think are the best bets for consumers who love to be stylish?
Well, Who What Wear, which is available exclusively at Target. It’s our apparel collection. We put out a new collection every season, but every month there’s new products. And it’s a combination of really trend-forward pieces—so it allows you to take risks on items that are very of-the-moment without spending a bunch of money—but also really great classics—the Perfect Trench Coat or the Slim Cropped Trouser set we make. It’s really street style inspired, and everything is under $60 so you can’t really go wrong.
Can you talk a little bit about the shopping habits of your readers and if anything has surprised you there?
It’s interesting to watch shoppers as mobile consumption goes up—80% of our traffic is on mobile. We are definitely able to see the sites and apps that are excelling in the mobile environment—like Amazon, which has an extremely high conversion rate compared to most other retailers simply because they have the greatest mobile experience within their app. It’s interesting to see which retailers have been able to captivate the shoppers through their mobile experience.
I’m always surprised—I don’t know why at this point—that our reader really mixes high and low. We do sell $5,000 gowns from Net-A-Porter, as well as $40 sneakers from Zara. So it’s really a mix of high and low and we really love how she shops and styles herself.
How would you describe your own personal style and how it’s evolved?
My own personal style is very classic. I like really classic either all-American designers like The Row or French labels like Celine by Phoebe Philo. I don’t get too trendy. I wear a lot of black, white, gray and navy, and it makes it easier for me to get dressed in the morning, because I don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to that. I always make sure to invest in really classic, nice pieces that can be mixed and matched and worn season after season.
That’s smart. What’s your single favorite thing that you’ve purchased through any one of your sites?
Hmm…I just bought a pair of black Manolo Blahnik slip on flats—they’re kind of black with rhinestones on the toe. They’re like black mules. I discover stuff all the time. You can imagine… (Laughs)
What books do you think every entrepreneur should read?
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist. That was a great book and they have a book on tape as well.
The other one I like which is good for when you get to a larger stage and you’re trying to scale the business is Scaling Up Excellence.
What do your editors have to train for today that they didn’t have to a year ago?
Oh, wow. I mean, I think the idea of an editor has changed so much even over the last 10 years. When we started our business, it was very much like a print magazine where you have someone to do market—meaning someone that found the products for the story and then you had someone that did the writing in the story, and someone who sourced the images, and someone that uploaded it. It was very segmented by department and expertise. And now this new kind of editor has to be good at all of it. So they have to be a social media strategist. They have to sort their own photos. They have to be able to troubleshoot technically, because they’re uploading their own content and doing their own A/B testing on subject lines. So they have to be this sort of 360° editor that we didn’t have before. We’re kind of known for building up those kind of editors and it’s definitely a different skill set and mentality. I mean, you have to be more data driven than the past. In the past, it was really about taste and point of view. And now, it’s really a combination. Being able to forecast trends and spot things that will inspire people, but also understanding the data to backup your choices when it comes to creating content.
It’s Fashion Week! Be sure to check out Who What Wear and Byrdie Beauty team’s ultimate It girl guide to NYFW.
Who What Wear: NYFW: Everything you Need to Know
Who What Wear and Byrdie Beauty team up to bring you the ultimate It girl guide to NYFW.view the magazine