The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
If you have any interest in fashion or living in New York City, then you know the name Kate Bartlett. After starting a TikTok account in her parent’s backyard over quarantine, Bartlett ‘blew up’ and now boasts almost 600,000 followers who live to see her NYC and FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) vlogs along with her financial advice for students and transplants in the city. Kate delves into these topics along with her response to the recent hate NYC influencers have been receiving in our most recent chat.
Q. Did you have any idea that your “spend a day with me in NYC” videos would blow up the way that they did?
A. I really didn’t. At the time I had about 50,000 followers and then I posted that video, “What I Spend in a Day as a Fashion Student in New York,” and I went up to about 100,00 — it’s when the ball really got rolling. I had no idea. I had seen those videos on YouTube but I had never seen them on TikTok before, so I just thought it would be a cool concept. I’m all about budgeting and finance — it’s a big passion of mine — and I had no idea it would get the response that it did. I’m very thankful that I posted it.
Q. I know you were bullied in high school for focusing on fashion and having a blog. How do you navigate criticism? What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a project but is unsure or too afraid to start?
A. I started a fashion blog when I was 16. I didn’t have the best high school experience — I felt directionless and lost for so much of it. I didn’t know what my passion was. I tried getting into sports and hated it, and tried so many different things and avenues and realized “oh, wait, I like putting outfits together.” I got to a point in high school where I was just so over it. I lived for so long caring what everyone was thinking about me and it got to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I thought that I’d just put something out there. I made a website and fearlessly threw up my outfits. My mom took my outfit photos every single day. People thought I was weird, but I adopted this mindset: you can take it or leave it and people did still think it was weird.
My friend, Audrey Peters, always has said “people will think it’s cringey until it’s successful,” and I think that that is so true. Any successful person I know has put themselves in an uncomfortable position where people were judging them but that is what you have to do, especially if it’s something you’re really passionate about. Learning that lesson of “oh I don’t really care what anyone thinks” at such a young age is something I’m really grateful for because I still know so many people who do care. My best advice is to go for it as early as you can. There is no point in waiting for the right time — there will never be a right time. Just diving into it headfirst if you know it’s what you love is my best advice.
Q. What do you think of the “NYC influencer” phenomenon and the backlash that comes with it?
A. There really has been a lot of negative backlash. I think living in the city it can become very easy to get caught up in portraying and creating this image for yourself that, oftentimes, is not reality. Everyone wants to look like they’re eating at the best places and wearing the best clothes and a lot of this transfers to TikTok. People want to make it seem like they are doing all of these things so well. I can see why people think there is glamorization behind it. Personally, I’ve always tried from the start to be open and transparent about the influencer lifestyle. I just feel like when I started, I noticed that a lot of girls living the “fashion” and “fun” influencer lifestyle weren’t being open about the reality of the business. I would always try to show the “not-so-glamorous” portions of my life whether it be dragging my laundry down the street or buying cheap coffee. That’s what I’ve been personally doing to counterbalance everything, but people will definitely try to make it look more glamorous than it is.
Q. Working social media and being in school full time is definitely a handful. How do you balance content creation and school? How do you balance being in the moment and present while also working on social media all the time?
A. There is so much that goes on that people don’t realize if you’re not a creator. With TikTok, you’re either pushing out content or you’re not. It’s not like Instagram where everyone has their own platform. And if you’re not doing it, then it can be really hard to understand the process of creating a video. I think I kind of lucked out in that a lot of my content surrounds my life so when I’m out doing something with my friends or am doing schoolwork and I remember to document it, that’s just part of my content creation. You don’t always necessarily have to set aside time to “do content;” my life is my content. That has made things easier in terms of balancing it with school because I can use it to my advantage and knock out two birds with one stone. It’s definitely more work than people think it is. My friends all love taking photos and videos. I’m like the photographer of my friend group so if I see a cool moment I’ll snap a picture or I’ll take candids of my friends which I love because I feel like everyone appreciates a good picture of themselves. I used to edit my Instagram stories — literally through uploading them in VSCO and editing them — but then I moved into “throwing up” stories and putting my phone down. I think being more natural with what I’m doing — less filtered, edited, strategic — has helped me be more present. Also, I really do try and put my phone down when it comes to being with my friends.
Q. Before content creation, you originally planned to get into fashion through your education but, obviously, things have changed. To those still on a more traditional route, what is the best way to break into the fashion industry?
A. What I tell everyone is to dip your toe in any avenue that you can. I worked so many retail jobs in high school, I started my blog, I’d reach out to news channels. I used to harass news channels in my hometown begging for them to let me come on and do a fashion segment. Work with local charities that do clothing drives. I used to do charity fashion shows in high school. Once I moved to the city, I worked sample sales and there are always opportunities on LinkedIn and Indeed for people looking for part-time or even volunteer work.
Every opportunity is valuable, you never know who you can meet. When I was doing these things, I would introduce myself to everyone, get their emails and follow up when I got their contact information. You have to start low on the ladder. My first retail job was at Ann Taylor Loft and I hated it, but you have to start somewhere.
Q. Do you have any tips for saving money in the city?
A. I try to be transparent on my platform. I try to curate this cool image of this life in NYC doing fashion and everything, but even though it’s such an expensive city, it really is possible to live here for a very affordable price. I personally save money in so many ways. I have this thing “no sober ubers” which basically just means I bike and walk everywhere. I love walking because it’s a great form of exercise and it also saves you so much money. A lot of times people think of New York and think of expensive coffee shops, gyms, or grocery stores and while that may be the glamorized, romanticized way that some people live, it’s not the only way. If you really want to make it work here, you can find the cheapest option for those things. It may not be as bougie or pretty but I think that there are so many affordable options for even everyday things. I try to post a lot of those things on my platform, but really looking out for alternatives and making a conscious effort to cook your Trader Joe’s dinner rather than buying a $17 salad can make a huge difference.
Q. Living in NYC as a newcomer can be daunting. You went through it before having the life you do now. What do you say to those wondering how to make friends outside of school or work?
A. I might be biased, but social media. Before I had any social media platform at all, I’d DM girls in the city who I thought were cool and would ask them to get coffee. At the end of the day, most people want friends so just putting yourself out there is really what’ll get you towards finding your best friends.
Q. Another extremely daunting aspect of moving to the city is finding an apartment. From the specific rules on timing to the accessibility, apartment hunting here is no joke. What are your tips for post-grads or interns looking to find an apartment in the city?
A. Definitely use StreetEasy — that’s how I found my current apartment. Facebook Marketplace is also a great tool — that’s how I found a couple of my past apartments — especially if you need to sublease or find an already furnished place for a temporary job or internship. There are also a lot of really great Facebook groups that help too. Ask anyone you know — someone is always looking for a roommate.