Apiece Apart Woman: Kristen Naiman

Apiece Apart Woman: Kristen Naiman
 
We're starting the new year with a slightly different take on our typical "Woman" interview — intrigued by the candid truths that come from conversations with close friends, we asked the amazing photographer Susanna Howe to photograph and interview her old friend Kristen Naiman (who happens to be one of Apiece Apart's longest collaborators and a core partner in our team). We hope you enjoy and feel as inspired by Kristen and Susanna as we do. Read on!
 
"Kristen Naiman is a force. The creative engine behind Kate Spade’s marketing and image making, she evolves fashion from the inside out. I don’t even know the jargon to explain what she does daily — something about “activations” and “click throughs” I think — but I do know that whether she’s pressing new ideas through old systems or sneaking old gorgeous references thorough questionable new formats, Kristen is always willfully forging positivity amidst an accelerating fashion cycle.
 
Somehow though, and this is not something I see in most New Yorkers, she manages to make a balanced life for herself amidst the mayhem. After several years of professional and personal racing and doing, Kristen is sinking into her new home at the beach and finding quiet time to cultivate new habits, like surfing and writing. This is where I found her and where we took these pictures. While I can’t share the picture of her peeing on the side of the road nude (because jumpsuit), I think you can tell from these pictures that for me, she’s an inspiration."
Susanna Howe

Apiece Apart Kristen Naiman

Susanna: Because I know you, I know you had a curvy road to where you are, professionally. I think that can be inspiring for young people. So first, tell me all of your jobs, since you were 16.

Kristen: A list in loose chronological order:

Shopgirl at RAGs

Docent at the Rye Art Center

Day care teacher at a center for HIV positive children 
Assistant to Davida Cody, doctor and political radical 
Window dresser at Canal Jean Company 
Cocktail waitress at a sports bar

Buyer for Japanese fashion exporters

Waitress and bartender at an all night Jewish diner 
Fashion assistant at Conde Nast

Stylist for the band Hanson

Trend consultant for GAP concept team 
Free-hand embroiderer

Geriatric social work intern

Writer

Sales associate at Williams Sonoma

Creative writing instructor at a senior center
Commercial and film costume designer

Freelance magazine stylist

Personal stylist

PAPER magazine contributing editor

Fashion editor at Bene magazine

Partner at APIECE APART

Fashion director at Liz Claiborne

Creative Director at Isaac Mizrahi

SVP creative at Kate Spade 

Apiece Apart Kristen Naiman


Susanna: Describe the biggest epiphany moment you’ve had in your whole life. The second when you thought, “I get it.” When everything really came together in your head, or split apart, or radically changed your goals. 
 
Kristen: Wow, I've had many of those... sometimes they’ve come in the form of an epiphany and sometimes in the form of a bomb that has been thrown into the middle of my universe and blindsided me. Both experiences have their place. 
Over the last handful of years, my career blossomed right as my marriage fell apart, and the convergence of those two things led me to the questions: What do I actually want, what do I value, where do I want to put my efforts and who do I want to give my love to? 
 
The answer I circle back to over and over, is that none of those questions are answerable without honesty, and honesty begins with being able to be honest with yourself. Creating a life with others, whether they are friends, kids, lovers, partners, coworkers, or collaborators is not about accommodating or suppressing who you are or what you want in service of them; it is about showing up and having the courage to tell yourself and others what you need. Then, when you reach out a hand to others and try to dance across the divide, you do it from a place of clarity. 
 
Susanna: How do you think the quickly-evolving media landscape has changed how we see ourselves and how do you try to influence this through your role at Kate Spade? 
 
Kristen: I believe that the power of this current media landscape, which is rife with issues, is that we are able to speak so directly to so many people instantaneously. Individuals now have voice and power in the cultural conversation and I believe it is my job to listen to them with empathy and compassion. I do my very best to show women that they are seen, understood, and listened to, to reflect back to them what they express with accuracy and maybe along the way provide some insight, comfort, humor, and/or joy. 
 

Apiece Apart Kristen Naiman

 
Susanna: We are all formulating and gathering life hacks all the time. What are the some tried and true tricks that have stuck with you? 
 
Kristen: 1. Make your lunch. A handful of greens, a handful of herbs, some cut up vegetables and beans makes a better lunch than any take-out and it takes way less time than you think.

2. Leave work by 6/6:30 at the latest. Even if it means you have to be on email all night...when you’re 75 you will remember the dinners you had with the ones you love, not the meetings you sat through at the end of the day. 
3. Love the people around you harder, in the face of it all. It can never hurt you.

4. Say less and listen more.

5. Allow the people around you to help; you can’t do it all and sometimes they’re better at it.

6. Have a guilty pleasure and be peaceful about it (...mine is smoking.)
 
Susanna: Ok, but what about the one cigarette a day philosophy?


Kristen: One cigarette a day is my guilty pleasure. I don’t do it everyday and I go in and out of it for months at a time, but I give myself an allowance that if I want, I am allowed up to one cigarette a day. For me, why even have a guilty pleasure that’s like, four squares of dark chocolate. That’s not a guilty pleasure! That’s just necessary. A guilty pleasure should be something that’s a little bad for you. In the specific culture of New York we run in, we’ve gotten very focused on perfection masquerading as wellness. It’s just another way to beat ourselves up. I like to feel good, I love to cook and eat beautiful healthy fresh food, I love to exercise, I feel better when I don’t drink much, but I love to smoke a cigarette at the end of the day. It’s a pause, a way to stand for a moment and think or look or just breath in. I find it really pleasurable and that has its own health benefits. Allowing yourself to have some messiness, some living for now, not for later is important.
 

Apiece Apart Kristen Naiman

 
Susanna: Where do you find style inspiration for yourself? Do you have people you always think of, look up to, or follow?
 
Kristen: You, Susanna Howe, are my OG style inspiration... and it’s not because I always agree with you. Sometimes I think what you do is nuts, but I LOVE it because it is fearless, confident, wise, full of critical thinking, fundamentally classic, and always YOU. 
 
My other style inspirations are, in no particular order: Lynn Schwartz and Lynn Kroll (two middle age Jewish women I knew growing up), Nina Simone, our brilliant friend Jennifer Vendetti, my grandma Pat, Barbra Streisand in her straight hair phase, 70’s Romy Schneider, a young Sade, our dear departed friend, Maria Gallagher and maybe most importantly, the many many women I’ve had the pleasure to pass on the street. For me, perhaps most of all, it is the sea of strangers and the vast array of beauty and individuality they bring everyday that fill me the most. 
 

Apiece Apart Kristen Naiman

 
Susanna: What about a spiritual practice? Explain. 
 
Kristen: I would say that I am a spiritual person, but not one that has a spiritual practice, per say. I believe in quieting the mind but I’m not that great at it. My mind is a very busy place... but I try. I’ve found that for me a moving meditation has been more effective: weeding, chopping vegetables, swimming laps in silence with a particular effort toward focusing on the movement. 
 
Since I was in my 20s I have always had a piece of jewelry that I wear everyday and that I imbue in my mind with a kind of protective or talismanic power. I’ve had a few of these over the course of my adult life and there always comes a moment where it’s clear that it’s time to take off the piece, the phase having passed, the movement through whatever I needed assistance with completed. I believe in allowing objects to contain meaning. 
 
On Sunday mornings, whenever I’m at my house I go to the beach, which is the closet thing i have to a church or temple. I walk or run and then I get in the water, even in the winter. Water is very cathartic for me. 
 
But at the core of let’s say my “way of meeting the world,” my so-to-speak spirituality, is that through it all, in the face of the pain and failure we all encounter, I choose to believe in optimism and generosity. I believe in people. I believe in being open and expecting the best from ourselves and each other until you are shown otherwise, and even then, I believe in trying again. If you can meet the world believing it is going to give you what you need, than each day what you put out into the world is additive and what comes back at you is built from that core. 
 
Susanna: How does Apiece Apart affect your life? 
 
Kristen: Apiece Apart has been one of the most beautiful personal and professional experiences of my adult life. I have been working on it since its inception — Laura and Starr have called me the third leg of the stool, but I would say that actually Apiece Apart has been a third leg for me, a pillar of stability, inspiration, consistency, identity, and a creative outlet through so many periods personally and creatively. Extraordinarily Laura and Starr and I have been able to flex with each other, through the different periods. I believe we see each other clearly and together we are always evolving, which is pretty much the most you could ever hope for in any relationship.