AWAY: KATJA HORVAT Interview
Katja Horvat is a freelance editor and writer living between New York, Berlin and Ljubljana. Recently she’s been appointed as an Art Editor at the (re-launched) Hood By Air, and is a contributing writer for Ssense and 032c. In the past, she has worked as an editor for Interview Magazine (Germany) and her writing often appears in noted publications such as i-D, Dazed & Confused, King Kong, Oyster, Purple, Kaleidoscope, to name a few. Katja has interviewed everyone from Juergen Teller, Harmony Korine, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Alexander Wang and Cicciolina to my personal favorite Lil Miquela. Last year (2018), she co-founded and co-curated her first (bigger) group exhibition Good Taste in NYC in July with the second alteration opening at Art Basel, Miami, in December. Alongside the exhibition, she self-published a book of interviews with the artists from the exhibition.
We discussed the importance of being present, socializing and building a good support system.
Tell me about your life and creative career before you moved abroad?
I started in Ljubljana as a stylist. Later on I transitioned into writing, with my focus being interviews, as I took it as an easy access for meeting people I admired and/or found interesting. Sadly, our media system was never one that could offer growth or a platform that would interest/attract bigger names. Consequently, I started emailing magazines I liked with my pitches. I was lucky enough I got picked up by Dazed & Confused and Monster Children early on. Shortly after I started writing for foreign magazines I faced the problem of location, as many stories got shut down due to me not being there live. I so decided it was time to move, and soon after Berlin happened.
When did your interest in fashion and art start?
Very early on – think second or third grade. I was always into dressing differently, but I was more so interested in combinations than in the actual design. I used to sneak outfits to school as my mom would not allow me to dress a certain way (too wild) and I would change in the bathrooms prior to school starting.
I also always wanted to see everything live and be present. I went to my first fashion week in Milan at the age of 17. I got all the invites, got to be seated in front rows (more luck than knowledge) and since then I just never stopped.
As of art, my interest has always been there, but living in Ljubljana put that to a stop. Once I moved to Berlin, I gradually shifted my focus as the city offers plenty of opportunities to either see great shows or meet artists.
You moved from Ljubljana to Berlin first and then to New York where you are currently based. 3 distinctively different cities, why have you chosen them? And what is the next destination?
I still spend quite some time back home, as I need a pause every now and then. New York, though, is the love of my life. It is where I feel most at home and where I am the happiest.
NYC first happened more so as a tourist destination, but literally after a day there, it became home. That was almost 5 years ago. After that visit, which was pretty long, I’d spent my whole summer there – I just kept coming back, to the point where I now spend most of my time there.
Berlin, atm, is somewhere in the back. The magazine I write for is based there, so I go back and forth. But due to my position as a contributing writer, I can move around freely and be wherever.
As for my next destination, not sure yet, but Paris has been on my mind lately. But whatever it is, it will always be mixed with NYC.
How did the relocation help your career?
It made my career, really. If you are not present, in this day and age, it just can’t happen for you the same way as it does if you are there, live, with the right people. Socializing is half the job/game. People give you the chance that way, then of course, it is up to you what you do with it.
Currently you are based in New York where you work as an editor, writer and most recently a curator. Looking back what was/were the most important step/s in your career?
Moving to Berlin and coming back to NYC over and over again, even if I had nothing to do there. Being present and meeting people opened many doors for me.
How do different roles that you’ve done during the years compare? Where do you see yourself in the future?
All the roles that I have done during these years have complemented each other. Curation was a natural extension of my work as a writer and editor. Good Taste consisted of people I have worked with in the past, people I hang out with, my group of friends, etc.
As for the future. I don’t know. I am happy with where I am now, somewhere between fashion and art. We will see what happens to the brand (Hood By Air), how people react to its return, how well we will do. I will also keep on writing and editing, curating, etc., and then let’s see where all of this takes me.
What has been the highlight of it all?
Being recognized by the people I’ve always looked up to. Calling someone I used to idolize a friend, and getting their text messages full of emojis, just because, etc…
What’s the best advice you ever got?
“You don’t have to be everything to everyone.” I sometimes still struggle with that.
Moving away is not always pretty, is it? What has been the biggest struggle for you?
If we think of the beginning phase – building a support system. It is hard to just jump into friendships and trust ‘strangers.’ It takes time to not feel alone.
There is a big Slovenian community in Berlin. Did that help you at all when you first moved there?
No, especially at the beginning as I was trying to break free from home. I moved away for a reason, and I was also really focused on my career so I did hang out with people working in my field.
How often do you return home, to Slovenia?
I come every few months, but I also stay for some time as I can work from wherever.
Would you like to move back to Slovenia? What would it take to get you back?
Right now, I don’t see myself living in Slovenia anytime soon. Family is the only thing that can/could get me back, but career wise, even if the whole system changes over night, we are too small for the things that drive/stimulate me, to even exist.
What’s your opinion on the creative scene in Slovenia?
In short – it’s a shit show, excuse my language. People are mostly too self-centered, to jealous, they don’t pay enough attention, and are too gossipy. There are also a lot of ego issues mixed with laziness and/or authority.
That being said I don’t want to be negative and just talk bad, as we have some amazing creatives doing their best whilst trying to change the scene. I am speaking more generally here.
In addition, we also have many talented people working abroad that need more recognition and attention. I know they don’t operate/work in Slovenia, but they still contribute to the system, opening doors for many that will come after. We have Saša Štucin, Nataša Čagalj, Emil Rebek, Andrej Skok, Yasmina Dexter, Maja Zupančič, Tobias Putrih, etc. All these people are at the very top, and all well recognized and respected by their peers.
Would you be interested in working on projects based in Slovenia?
Yes, but I am really picky and I do not like to compromise in order to do/get something. It happened one to many times things could not be executed in a way I wanted them to be. I expect a certain level of delivery, commitment and execution, and sadly, finances play a big part in that, as culture in Slovenia is not supported in a way it should be, and that affects everything. I rather not do it than do it bad.
But if ever things fall in place, and there is a way to make things look decent and presentable, then of course.
Do you think young people have enough opportunities and get enough support to start their careers?
If we talk Slovenia – support, yes! Opportunities, no! But there are exceptions, and many artists/designers lead great creative lives in Slovenia.
You often support Slovenian designers and your close friends by interviewing them and giving them a platform, styling their collections, even modeling for them or collaborating in another way. Do you think it’s important to support local talent and keep connections with people from home? And why?
Support system is key, and I do wish I could do more. If we ever want to change our scene, we all need to do something, and do it together – one can only do so much.
If I have experiences, I’ve seen things, learned about them, it’s only right I share that knowledge or ideas. And if in any way I can help people through the platforms I have access to, so be it.
That being said I have given out many no’s as well. As there have been numerous DMs , e-mails, and Facebook messages from creatives asking for way too much, and thinking it’s self-evident I do whatever they are asking me for. That mostly applies to acquaintances that play on, “I am from Slovenia too” card, yet they fail to say Hello while seeing me in bars/streets.
And finally, do you have any advice for young people with big aspirations?
Don’t be afraid to just pack and leave in order to get what you want. Sitting at home reminiscing about what it could be like won’t cut it.
Slovenia is a tiny country that offers limited opportunities when it comes to fashion and image making. Every year there are approximately 60 students accepted to study fashion design, not to mention textiles and other similar courses. But there is a real lack of opportunities and internships, let alone jobs for graduates or career guidance. In recent years there has been some great progress in Slovenian fashion with a series of fashion events, boutiques stocking local clothing and popular culture supporting young designers. However young people still aspire to move abroad to one of the fashion capitals for their chance at employment and dream jobs.
Anže Ermenc explores why young Slovenian creatives are moving away. ‘AWAY’ is a series of interviews highlighting their experiences and struggles as well as identifying issues and opportunities in Slovenia. Is it worth moving away from the comfort of home and saying goodbye to loved ones for a ‘shot’ at fame?