Founder and Creative Director, Houghton
Los Angeles native, Katharine Polk is the Founder and Creative Director of Houghton. Founded in 2011, Polk disrupted the bridal industry and blurred the line between Bridal and RTW. Katharine has grown Houghton into an international brand selling in over 10 countries and has been committed to being made in the USA. Polk led the brand creatively through 22 collections, navigated sponsor partnerships such as Birkenstock, MAC, OPI, Converse and Dr Martens, designed exclusive collaborations for FWRD, Free People and Net-A-Porter and grew an organic social following through strategic marketing and branding.
Katharine was the first Bridal Designer to offer a “Buy-Now-Wear-Now” event at her SS17 show and her FW17 Film Premiere was named “The best thing to happen to Bridal Week” by Nylon.com. After telling her own story for Harpers Bazaar about her lifelong struggle with depression and eating disorders, Polk created “Houghton Girl”, a 15 minute documentary shining a spotlight on 10 beautiful, powerful women who opened up about their daily struggles in the workplace and how they succeed despite dealing with depression, motherhood and eating disorders.
Katharine won the 2016 St Louis Fashion Fund Caleres Women’s Wear Award, MADE sponsored designer 2012-2016, 2 time FGI Women’s RTW Designer nominee and has covered 2 issues of WWD. Polk quickly became a red carpet favorite among celebrities, Lily Collins, Kerry Washington, Kate Hudson, Selena Gomez, Hailey Baldwin, Kylie Jenner, Taylor Swift and Angelina Jolie are a few of the ladies Polk has dressed. Katharine has gained editorial accolades from Brides, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.
Prior to launching Houghton, Polk was a stylist and New York Fashion Editor for a London based Publication. Polk styled fashion shows, editorials and celebrity clients. In 2007 Katharine started her career as the Assistant Designer at Badgley Mischka Couture and creatively managed over 20 licensees for the brand. Polk is the U.S. spokesperson for the international non-profit organization, Designers Against Aids and is an advocate for women and youth struggling with eating disorders.
How do you define your purpose & mission in life?
I want to effect change through my creative voice touching those who identify with me, with those who can’t speak out, with those who don’t have a voice and with those who are scared to speak up. I am fortunate enough to have a platform and a clear vision of how I identify with women. My fashion brand has morals and represents women who have real issues like depression, eating disorders, sexual abuse, motherhood and health problems. I believe it’s important to shine a light on these women and create a brand that gives them a place to shine, especially on their wedding day.
What’s a moment that could’ve broken you, but didn’t? How did you get past the struggle?
I was bullied growing up which led to a lifelong struggle with eating disorders and social anxiety. My social anxiety as an adult is still prevalent but I don’t let it conquer me. I was asked to write an essay for Harper’s Bazaar about my lifelong struggle with anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphia about how I almost died 7 years ago. I was hesitant but my hope was to help the millions of women, men, girls and boys going through the same. By opening up and sharing my deepest darkest experiences that I had never told anyone it not only helped me heal but I know I’ve helped others. My essay was the springboard for my film “The Houghton Girl” which is a 15 min documentary that I created in lieu of a fashion show to shine a light on 10 beautiful women despite their own struggles they have successful, powerful careers in fashion. That essay changed my path and gave me a new direction for what I’m meant to be doing.
If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
Everything happens for a reason. (I am still giving myself this advice everyday)
Who’s your biggest inspiration and why?
Anyone who can clearly express themselves and effectively create change for the better. Anyone who gets knocked down and picks themselves up day after day knowing in their gut that they have the answer.