Katia Coelho - Fashion Insider #7

by Emmanuelle Christ

Katia Coelho is a true self-taught woman who used to be in charge of the fashion pages of Envy and 20 ans magazines for years, and created the “Dealer de Luxe” magazine. Here she is now with a brand new project! SUPERBO* is a unisex brand with one concept of a kind. With its use of the asterisk, SUPERBO* wants fashion items to make sense.

Let’s look at Katia’s experience, from press to design.

You began as a Fashion editor, but could you tell us more about how you got there?

I have a master’s degree in French modern literature and wrote my dissertation on crime novels between the two World Wars! Nothing to do with fashion even though this was my plan from a very early age. I have always liked the general press and women’s magazines in particular. After university I did a one-month internship for the goddess of press officers at the time: Catherine Miran. It so happened that the woman in charge of her office was my neighbor’s ex-fiancée. While discussing with him he prompted me to get in touch with her and told me she would probably find me an internship there. This is how it all began. According to me, this was the best way to discover the different aspects of the job since there is neither a particular course nor a specific training for fashion press editors. Encounter after encounter at work I ended up working as the assistant of two of BIBA magazine’s fashion editors, and then I quickly got to freelance.

What memories do you have of your various positions as chief fashion editor?

It is a very complicated job which requires a lot of energy and diplomacy. Positions are hard to get and quite rare, they are extremely coveted and are the cause of many rivalries and incivility to say the least.

I chose to enter the trade by creating the Dealer de Luxe magazine which corresponded to my wishes and my vision of fashion. I managed this magazine for 12 years and met highly talented people. I worked simultaneously as the chief fashion editor of 20 ans magazine and then of the weekly Envy, launched by Marie-Claire. I was lucky to work with incredible teammates who have become my friends. The chief editors trusted me entirely so I was totally free. It was such a luxury and a true blessing to work under such circumstances.

Tell us about the Dealer de Luxe adventure!

While working as an assistant at Biba I was given pages and got bored very rapidly. I felt there were too many useless constraints and a suffocating lack of creativity. So, without much thinking I decided to launch my own magazine and to make do with what I had to hand. That was not much except my wish and my will. I bought a little book from CFJ (French training center for journalists) and followed it to the letter. I launched Dealer de Luxe with Sabine Villiard, a young fashion photographer I worked, and was friends, with. We worked on this adventure with all our might, along with the casualness of our youth and our lack of experience. We learned from practice and retrospectively I realize how daring we were. We had an unfailing optimism, a solid passion for images and the incredible sensation that everything was possible.

Photo by Sabine Villiard

Your greatest professional encounter ?

Undoubtedly, Sabine Villiard. We did the first two issues of Dealer together and then I carried on on my own. She has had a beautiful career as a photographer. I greatly admire her work and value her friendship.

Christelle Parlanti and Samuel Loutaty too, my former chief editors. I am so loyal and grateful to them for giving me a chance.

What used to be your relation with press officers and press offices at that time? What do you think about this job?

I have had rather good relations with press officers in general, whether they were representing big or smaller brands. I am a rather flexible and respectful kind of person, miles away from scandalous or diva-like fashion editors, and I believe this has contributed to my having a smooth career. However, I have been in touch with arrogant press officers who paid attention to you, or even respected you, only according to your position. This kind of behavior was insufferable and I ended up avoiding the kind, focusing solely on honest and intelligent people.

In addition, I would say it is a difficult world. Success comes more from strategy than talent, it is a superficial job that is best done only for a while.

Even if it is worth the journey, you need not get upset easily. Press officers often have to deal with diva-like editors to whom they need to bow and scrape to be published. As for authors, those with no fixed job, they have to beg to be lent a few clothes in order to try and survive professionally.

Well, I would not get back to it for all the money in the world even though I have had great times. That's the great paradox of fashion!

Your biggest mistake?

Going to a shooting with a star of photography (Jean-Baptiste Mondino) and not googling his face beforehand! Shame on me! This was my first advert shooting, working as Biba's chief fashion editor's assistant, I was to meet the whole team in a café early in the morning, all were incredibly important fashion people, from the hair stylist to the make-up artist!

And now a fashion brand! What prompted you to design a whole new brand?

With this brand, I'm only doing once more what I like, acting according to my wish and at my own pace, that includes images, products, graphic design, photos, ideas, etc. I combine everything I have learned through my fashion years while keeping the distance I need from it to feel good.

As it was the case for Dealer de Luxe, I responded to my own needs when I set up SUPERBO*. I am obsessed with sweat-shirts, t-shirts, ideas and words. I put all these together and added my experience into the bargain.

Which obstacles had you not anticipated when creating your brand?

I did not expect how hard commercializing a brand was! I thought that since the brand existed it would develop on its own, thanks to the website, but I was wrong! That's the sinews of war, and I am a poorly talented sales rep! That is not my thing.

Any pieces of advice for a brand new brand?

Surround yourself with the right people for you, go easy but with determination, stamina and, above all, believe in what you do.

The one mistake you won't make again?

To believe I can do everything and worse, to believe I am capable of doing everything. We all have skills and limits. It is preferable to hire an intern specialized in an area you're unfamiliar with and grow with him or her, rather than to make frantic attempts to perform time-consuming tasks to no avail.

How do you plan your communication for SUPERBO*? Are women's magazines part of your strategy? Do you have a press officer?

I do not have a press officer. I focus mainly on social networks which, to me, are a key means of today's communication. This is why I consider Pressday a visionary and interesting tool.

As far as women's magazines are concerned, I now understand press officers' and young designers' hopelessness. Women's magazines are not curious, they are not (or not enough) interested in young designers, and I am not talking about myself, this is a general statement. There is a kind of togetherness which excludes whoever is not part of this togetherness. Connections as well as advertisers' monopoly have turned women's magazines into a large game ruled by conflicts of interest. And anyway, when you are trendy, by definition you end up out of fashion. And that is not my goal!

If we designed a SUPERBO*: KATIA C* sweater, what would the asterisk refer to?

*The girl who believes she can fly

November 2017

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“Success comes more from strategy than talent.”