photographer / Karen E. Evans
story / Erica Russell
hair / Kim Garduno
makeup / Andrew Sotomayor
stylist / Monica Wade
assistants / Betsy Steed
location / Affinia Manhattan
Audrey Kitching is sitting in a bubble bath, her trademark cotton candy tresses twisted into a perfectly messy ballerina top-knot. It’s been a long day, overflowing with campaign photo shoots, networking, fashion blogging, last minute sushi delivery, and analyzing samples for her upcoming collection. There have been meetings, Skype video chats, phone interviews, and countless emails to attend to. Oh, and lest we forget: lots of social media.
“Consistency with social media is everything. At the end of the day, it’s about being consistent, and keeping followers engaged,” Kitching explains as she types rapid-fire onto her hologram-encased iPhone 4, no doubt shooting out some mystic 140 characters to her almost 98,000 followers on Twitter. Within seconds her phone is already buzzing from retweets and replies from around the world.
In total – and not counting her insanely impressive monthly blog viewership which teeters in the millions – Kitching has over 450,000 followers on all of her social networks combined. But just how does one attain almost a half million followers? For the pink-haired fashion darling, building foundations, and taking a few risks, is key.
“I grew up in Philadelphia, but moved to Los Angeles when I was twenty years old with just $1,000 in my wallet and two suitcases. I had no idea what I was going to do or even what I really wanted. I think I knew I wanted to work in the [fashion] industry, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity or how. At the time I was doing hair for Aveda,” she reminisces, settling back into the soothing, steaming water in the hotel suite tub.
The sense of disorientation didn’t last long, though, and soon Kitching was being noticed for her unique candy-colored style and thrifty sensibility. “After I had been blogging on sites like Xanga and MySpace, I started doing style editing and blogging for Buzznet, who would send me to cover and represent the company at red carpet events in Hollywood. Hollywood is all about the quintessential LA-girl style. But that wasn’t me, and people started to take notice of my colorful, crazy style. At the time I didn’t have money so I would buy cheap clothes at thrift shops and go to craft stores and create my own outfits inspired by the runway looks.”
That’s not to say the attention was always comfortable, though, the blogger-model-designer admits. “I remember standing next to the Gossip Girl crew and the cast of Twilight on the carpet for the Young Hollywood Awards one time. So there’s Ed Westwick and Rachel Evan Wood and people like that right next to me in their Dior, Chanel, and Prada… And I’m wearing a cheap Forever 21 dress. I was mortified to be surrounded by such luxury and celebrity,” Kitching laments, pausing in thought, before stating, “but that’s and illusion and not what’s important.”
Suddenly, her iPhone buzzes and illuminates from the corner of the tub. It’s an email from an Australian luxury clothing brand with whom Kitching is working on a capsule collection with. She’s working on a number of similar collaborations, including two more international clothing collaborations and a high-profile footwear collection with a company based in Milan due out in 2014. There’s also Crystal Cactus, Kitching’s holistic accessory line, as well as her upcoming luxury fashion brand, Luna. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.
Dress, Lover. Shoes, Converse.Jewelry, Lady Grey.
“You know, I think that living in LA taught me the difference between waiting for it and going for it. Networks like VH1, MTV, Bravo would take me to meetings and brain storm sessions and wine and dine me, pitching reality shows… Thankfully, none of those things came to fruition, and though at the time I was upset, I eventually realized that I was too real for TV! TV likes people who you can manipulate, which is depressing. I realized it would never work out because I was not willing to compromise my character. In the long haul, I want success, not fame. So I started to work really hard. Five years later, I’m still working hard.”
And hard work has paid off. “I wouldn’t say that I felt like I’ve made it completely just yet, but there’s always that moment that tells you that you’re really on your way to where you want to be, that validates all the energy you’ve put into it,” she explains, dropping a handful of raw Dead Sea salts into the bathwater. “I was told that I was everything that a model isn’t: short, with crazy colored hair and beauty marks and a weird nose. And then I was featured in Vogue Italia wearing French runway couture. So what does that tell you?”
As for the backlash to Audrey’s success – the hordes of semi-obsessed cyber-bullies on the witch-hunt for anyone doing anything out of the box – the savvy businesswoman shrugs it off, taking a sip of green tea. “I just don’t allow. I don’t defend myself anymore because I don’t need to. It’s much easier in some twisted way to be negative rather than positive, so I just block it. Not allowing it is healthy for my readers, because I think it sends the message that it’s not okay to accept it.”
Despite staying out of petty online drama, not being on reality TV, and not aligning herself with popular pseudo-celebrity tabloid culture (Kardashians, anyone?), Kitching’s relevancy and following has managed not just to maintain, but has grown steadily and tremendously over time. Many might see this as an anomaly. For the fashionista, who regularly Instagrams uplifting and positive photos and messages to her followers, it makes perfect sense.
“The problem with today is media. Everything is instant and people feel like they have to do crazy things to stay relevant. When this instantaneous media culture didn’t exist, people could simply be themselves for art’s sake, not cheap publicity stunts,” she explains. “Back then they were creating brilliant art. Like, Vidal Sassoon – he created the mod style! It just wouldn’t exist without him. People made a lasting impact by simply doing what they loved to do, not for attention, fame, or money.”
Of Kitching’s personal legends and influences, there’s no question about it: “David Bowie is such a legend to me. So are Elvis and Priscilla Presley. No one these days has proven to be legends like [them]. Some people think of people like Katy or Gaga, but that’s skewed. Maybe in 20 years, sure… But to be a legend, you have to transcend trends, and never get too comfortable.”
And for a moment, Kitching does get comfortable. She closes her eyes, her neon pink-tipped nails grazing the bathwater and swirling around the remnants of fragrant organic essential oils, a must-have for a conscious traveler concerned with health on-the-go. But the moment doesn’t last long.
“Can you hand me my towel? I think it’s time to get out. There’s still work to do.”
more pictures of Audrey here!