Kay Sides: “Be authentic and truthful”

Try not to let emotional reactivity dictate or control your business decision-making process. As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kay Sides. Kay is a respected force in the fashion space, known for her keen expertise as a brand […]

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Try not to let emotional reactivity dictate or control your business decision-making process.

As part of our series about the 5 things you need to succeed in the fashion industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kay Sides. Kay is a respected force in the fashion space, known for her keen expertise as a brand builder, a tastemaker, and a visionary creative innovator. Her acumen of developing products, brand strategizing, merchandising and integrating marketing, messaging, and distribution has been demonstrated throughout her career. Kay’s most recent venture is her new shoe line, R0AM, which was created a year and a half ago with the commitment and passion to produce an incredibly well made, comfortable shoe that embodied performance attributes as well as being fashionable, cool, and uber comfy.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean I was always fascinated with fashion and the story is told. Not just the clothes, but the makeup artists, the hairdressers, the photographers …how each of these components had their own identity or brand and how through their visual storytelling they inspired you to be transported….

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started?

There are so many, but one I am so appreciative of is that I used to be the creative director/buyer for Maxfield before opening HATCh and ROAM. To this day I am so grateful to have worked with Tommy Perse. He was tough but always so generous with me about sharing his knowledge as he knew I was interested in all things design. He never limited me in any way. He’s not one to hand it out but if you were a person that really worked hard and took initiative he would support you. One day, he asked me if I wanted to go to a design appointment at some gallery and I said yes I would love to…ended up going to look at all this amazing Prouve, Jean Michel Frank, and Gaetano Pesce…and that appointment started my love and appreciation of mid-century design on a whole other level.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During one New York Fashion Week I asked one of my senior account managers why he took so long with a particular client…I assumed he was hanging out with her and having fun fooling around. He went on to tell me that the client had brought her baby and in the middle of the appointment the baby had a massive diaper explosion and he ended having to help her clean it up. It was so funny and especially how he shared it. The lesson I learned from this was — always inquire first before assuming anything!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

From the inception, HATCh has always been and remains the one-dimensional agency in the U.S. We are not just strong in women, but men, accessories, lifestyle, activewear, young designer, outerwear, and now of course creating our own footwear brand….ROAM! It’s always given us a very holistic and dimensional perspective of the industry as a whole versus just one aspect or segment which has been invaluable. Especially as our industry moves so quickly, constantly having this real-time data of what’s actually taking place continues to be a game-changer for all of our brand partners. I’ve also always taken a strong stand in integrating service into my business model from day one of opening, which makes me really happy to be useful to others and not just ourselves.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think it’s really important to create inspiration within yourself and not look to others or something else to keep you invigorated, inspired, and motivated. I work hard on constantly challenging and disrupting myself so I can remain passionate, inspired, and energized. This is the best value I know I have to offer my teams and I always want to support them in that way. Personally, I work hard to create balance by pursuing things I enjoy….teaching yoga, fitness, adventure trips, and sports, studying sports nutrition, studying design, architecture, my spiritual practices…..sometimes I am better at it than others, and when I am not doing as good of a job I just try and be kind to myself and remind myself that I will find my space at some point and just let it ride off balance for the time being….

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Being of service is something very important for me. With HATCh we have incorporated all types of giving over the years….from creating and throwing the holiday parties at My Friends Place and Mount Sinai Pediatric Oncology Unit for years, to raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in conjunction with Waves for Water for both the Japan Tsunami and Hurricane Sandy relief, to working with Waves for Water in raising our own funds to implement over 350 water filters in Nicaragua. I am so grateful that I grew up in nature and raised my daughter in nature. I am passionate about the service aspect for ROAM which is to take as many children as we can outside to have an experience in nature! ROAM is a young company and brand but last year we took 75 3rd graders from East LA out in nature and on a hike…a dear friend of mine, who owns the best outfitter in Yosemite and is an incredible environmentalist and photographer led the hike. We created a lesson plan that mimicked what they were studying at the time and donated school supplies to their 3rd-grade class as, like most public schools, they had a lot of their budget cut which included no excursions or art supplies. 98% of these kids had never gone on a hike before….it was such a beautiful day and we were so grateful to share in this pure joy. We had another one planned in March in Colorado but obviously due to COVID 19 that got canceled. During this time, we have chosen to donate 15% of our profits to 2 incredible organizations — feeding America and Make More Masks! We will continue our outdoor nature experiences as soon as we can as nothing makes us happier than to use the profit from ROAM to take as many children as possible outside and have a learning experience in nature.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

No trading your authenticity for safety….or basically remind yourself to call bullcrap on yourself!

I work really hard with my teams to have truthful and transparent communication. Sometimes that includes and involves tough exchanges. Most workplaces avoid these conversations because it is “safer and easier” to some extent. But, I really believe you move away from growing into your highest and truest self without this type of exchange. Our minds are so powerful we can tell ourselves anything and believe it. All these attachments are just that…attachments. But real change and transformation doesn’t take place unless you can cut the bullshit and really step into the truth. Being this accountable is really the next level empowerment ….

Another lesson I love is that Innovation and creativity don’t take place without failure.

I know everyone talks about not being afraid to fail but it’s true. I created 5 other businesses before ROAM…..a really cool pant line that started rocking it right before 911 — our manufacturer was in India so when that happened everything stopped. This cool jewelry brand was a good idea but the execution of it was too creative and complicated, which was a great learning for me. A transportation company called TOTE. A beautiful retail store that did really well — I ended up giving my half of the business to my partner at the time. And this cool International goods store called Bancomat that was in our agency in LA….We took over a bank space ….it was such a cute and cool idea but we were too ahead of our time 🙂 I don’t really see those businesses as failures but all as amazing learnings.

Do you see any fascinating developments emerging over the next few years in the fashion industry that you are excited about? Can you tell us about that?

I am hopeful that sustainability and less harmful practices will become commonplace along the entire chain…from the supply, manufacturing to retail to end-use from the consumer.

What are your “Top 5 Things Needed to Succeed in the Fashion Industry”?

  1. Be authentic and truthful — it’s not something that can be bought or manufactured. Even if people try, the truth eventually reveals…the best value you can add is truthful alignment with your brand or project.
  2. Once you start, make sure you’re really ready for the marathon — it’s an endurance race, not a sprint so it’s really about being able to sustain on all levels. Every great brand takes time to build.
  3. Never take your foot off the gratitude pedal — it keeps perspective for everything.
  4. Never forget who was there for you when you started and keep supporting those people.
  5. Try not to let emotional reactivity dictate or control your business decision-making process.

Every industry constantly evolves and seeks improvement. How do you think the fashion industry can improve itself? Can you give an example?

In working to create more experiential engagement for the consumer besides sales or other erosionery tactics. Anyone can create purchase ignition by slashing or discounting. It takes a real game to develop a real relationship with your customer, let them know how valuable they are, and create an environment and product people want to participate in and purchase!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Picking up 1 piece of trash a day. 7.6 billion people live in our world, so if 1% of the population picked up ONE piece of trash every day that would add up to over 27.7 billion pieces of trash a year…I would love to be part of the 1% 🙂

Over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year. Over 700 species of marine life ingest plastic so basically 1 in 4 has man-made debris in them. Our plastic problem costs the world 13 billion dollars of damage a year….

How can our readers follow you on social media?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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