Mathe is a girl who looks good in everything. The first time we chatted for something like three hours in a Bushwick coffee shop, I had an instant girl crush. She'll buy shoes from Zara and make them look designer. She'll wear a single balloon-sleeved dress and make it look totally normal.
As well as being a casual sartorial dream, she's down-to-earth, incredibly thoughtful and way funnier than most people I know.
Before working in fashion PR, she was a middle school English teacher, and her way with words always shows. She's ridiculously witty, and would probably take home first place in a storytelling competition (call me about this, Mathe).
Most of all, she's resilient. She handles challenges with grace and dignity. We picked up a conversation first started on her bed in Bushwick, and finished it off on mine in Greenpoint, as three dogs ran around us and she sat illuminated by my windowsill.
Bushwick, Brooklyn. Edited for brevity.
Mathe Kamsutchom: I was originally a Middle School English teacher, but decided to pivot careers because I realized that I wasn’t pursuing the things that I truly loved. I had a lot of creative passions when I was younger that were pushed to the side. Initially I wanted it to be in editorial, but a lot of my internships ended up being PR, and it seemed to suit my strengths because I like working with people.
Jess Tran: When you came back to New York, was that a big leap of faith for you?
MK: It was pretty scary. I had a career already, something I felt sure about. I was always interested in fashion, but I had never done fashion internships before. In fashion, you need experience, so I was juggling working at Nordstrom, doing free internships; and because you need to get college credit to even apply for internships, I was doing classes at FIT just so I could do it.
I was working seven days a week and there were a lot of times I questioned if it was worth it. After six, or seven months interning, I was offered a position at a PR agency and a paid editorial internship somewhere else. I wondered if I should do a paid internship in editorial or just take the leap with this full-time job. It was a fantastic, well-known agency, so I took it, and that led me down the path to doing PR.
JT: It sounds like you fell into it.
MK: I totally fell into PR. But, I haven’t been mindlessly swimming through a PR career. Every year I take stock and check in to see if this is still what I want to do. I’m writing, I am thinking creatively a lot, and I do work on events that I can be proud of at the end of the day.
I want to work myself up in this career I’ve built for myself and see if I can attain the goals I initially had. It’s difficult, especially in New York, to stay motivated, especially when you’re working so much, and PR is a thankless and taxing job, even though it can be really exciting. It requires staying grounded and balanced.
JT: Is writing a way you stay balanced?
MK: Writing is my way of connecting to the things I’m interested in. Writing serves as a reminder of why I love fashion. It’s difficult to stay excited about fashion when you’re in it constantly. You tend to check out. It’s super thrilling when you’re on the outside of it, but when you’re on the inside, the glamour fades.
I used to read Vogue and all those magazines cover to cover. Even the Indie publications, like POP, Bon, Metal. My mother would scream at me because you could not see any wall space, it was just editorial, editorial, editorial. Now it’s my job, and I have to do it.
JT: You have to stay on top of everything.
MK: It’s no longer exciting. When I get a burst of inspiration to write about something, it’s reconnecting with the things that I love the most about fashion.
JT: How do you demarcate how you feel about working in fashion as a job and writing about fashion for fun?
MK: I think that there are a lot of brands that are doing super interesting different things that I don’t necessarily have the time to pay attention to while I’m at work. I’m in a completely different brain space, and when I’m at home and I see Eckhaus Latta’s collection, or someone’s making denim shirts out of plastic, or someone’s selling their clothes out of their van, or shirts out of ties; that’s interesting, I want to talk to that person. It ignites an interest and sparks all these other thoughts that I don’t necessarily have the time to think about at work. Because I’m interested in this in my personal life, it gives me the motivation to go to work and I'm grateful to be able to do the things that I do and be as close to it as I can.
JT: What do you want to write about?
MK: I do interviews with friends. I also want to write about certain collections. Not necessarily about the fabrics, but more so about the cultural moments. For example, Off White and why that’s interesting to people, or oversized clothing or oversized outerwear, why? Where is that coming from?
JT: How do you manage your own process of staying motivated to write?
MK: Writing is the things that motivates me! One of the blocks I have is organization; making an editorial calendar, administrative stuff. That holds me back. I don’t necessarily feel like someone has fire to my ass to write. I’m not that disciplined; writing is still a hobby for me. At this point, that's the best thing I can do. It took me a while to even have that kind of time in my life. The next step for me is making the blog cohesive. I have blog posts about food; where does it fit in? Why do I want to write about food? And I have blog posts about trips I’ve been on. Making those distinctions and being able to find direction. I need the guidance to do that. That’s where I’ve been stalled, I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into being just a fashion person, because I do like writing about quite a few other things.
I also have to get over the hurdle of feeling like I don’t have an extraordinary amount of followers, so when I do a post, I’m thinking, who’s reading this? I also work in an industry where there’s a fatigue of influencers, which is putting it politely.
I’m followed by people related to work. Everyone in the workspace, the editors, and it makes me wonder, “Damn, am I a poser?” Do people think I’m a wannabe? No, I really just like writing and putting it out there and I like having a space that looks great on the internet that is me. Sometimes that stops me writing, having to consider what other people are going to think about it and how it will be received. Is this going to be in fifty group chats tomorrow? It’s an insecurity that I have to get over.
JT: It seems pretty normal it’s your personal life but it crosses over to your professional life. The same people who would read it, work with you.
ML: I have very supportive coworkers for the most part. It’s the blog element. It’s not so much the Instagram – it’s blogging and writing.
JT: That’s so interesting because I think there’s a huge backlash against Instagram-only influencers, having something like a blog with long-form content is increasingly rarer these days.
MK: I think people are interested in it, but fashion is a pretty judgmental sphere. You have to be careful as a PR person, because you’re representing brands but you’re also a brand in and of itself. When you think you’re just propelling yourself, you feel like you’re at odds with what you’re really doing.
When I write something, I want to cross-promote it, I want to put it on my Instagram Stories. But it goes against how I feel like I should act at work; my job is to wear black at events and fade into the darkness.
JT: Your job is more than to wear black and fade into the darkness.
MK: When you work in PR, you are not the star. When you’re the editor, you’re the star. It’s not a bad thing, that’s your role. It’s great, it’s fun, it’s exciting, especially when you see your clients go places, but when you’re doing it for yourself, it feels kind of uncomfortable.
JT: I think you inhabit both sides of that coin. You’re working behind-the-scenes in PR and now you’re inhabiting the space on the other side. I think having a concept of what both those sides feel like makes you a little bit more sensitive on how you conduct yourself. How can you truly write about what you want? Have you found a way to manage that?
MK: I’m still figuring it out. I’m realizing that it’s just about being confident in who you are, you know? I think I’m becoming more confident in myself, the stuff that I put out there, what I look like and my general person. It’s being more ‘whatever’ about it and exercising that mentality.
JT: The more you exercise ‘Whatever’.
MK: When I am in that mindset, people are like ‘YASSS’. It’s kind of like testing the waters for me. I can be myself and write what I want, and people will respond positively to that. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter, because at least I’m proud of what I’m putting out there. I think it’s taken me a while to get to that place.