“My biggest accomplishment has been finally finding confidence in myself. I think we all struggle with that — no matter who you are — we’re always walking on eggshells with ourselves. But I’m finally realizing that life is what I make it. I’ve started doing things instead of just thinking about them, or watching other people do them. And that shows me that I’m capable, which has given me confidence.”
Growing up in a military family, with a father in the Coast Guard, Katy’s childhood was marked by frequent moves and multiple school transfers. While those transitions can sometimes prove difficult, Katy embraced her ever-changing surroundings by drawing closer to her parents and older brother, as well as developing a fondness for the South and the shorelines she explored.
It was during a two-year technical program in graphic design that Katy’s interest in photography and the creative aspect behind branding really began. After college, she made the move to Nashville to pursue these outlets, and has remained there for the past eight years.
In Nashville, Katy began working with her brother, Travis, and his non-profit organization. When Travis decided to shift gears and launch a for-profit company featuring handmade jewelry from East Africa, Katy remained supportive. She handled all of the visual components for the Red Earth brand, thoughtfully constructing an aesthetic that honored the people behind the product.
The six years she spent with Red Earth gave Katy invaluable experience, seeing firsthand what can be achieved through fashion with a purpose. Not only that, but it allowed her to visit Africa on several occasions, working alongside the local design team and witnessing the care and craftsmanship poured into each piece.
“Traveling to Africa for so many years, I saw so much beauty there. When I hear the word beauty, what comes to my mind is your core. It’s your soul. Any African that I’ve come across, I’ve seen beauty in their spirit. And they don’t have what we have here in America to make themselves appear beautiful on the outside — they just are beautiful. And I think that’s what beauty really is. It’s what your inside exudes from day to day, accepting your life for what it is and deciding to be happy with it.”
In the spring of 2015, Red Earth announced its merge with Nisolo, a fellow socially-conscious fashion brand also based in Nashville. Katy continues to work with Nisolo, contributing creative direction to the company’s evolving identity and vision.
“What excites me about creative direction is the potential to make someone feel something. For me, that’s the core of it all. Whether it’s a photo, whether it’s a color palette, whether it’s a picture of nature — it’s all with the means of making someone feel something. And that’s power, ultimately. It’s a good kind of power, though, a power that will hopefully encourage others or give them ideas.”
In addition to her work with Nisolo, Katy has recently taken complete creative control in developing a brand that is all her own. Seastack — a name chosen for Katy’s love of rocks and the coastline — is an online platform to shop small collections of pre-owned clothing and goods. Each piece of clothing is carefully chosen with a focus on fabric, cut, quality, and fit.
Anytime Katy approaches a project, her intention is clear: keep it simple. “A lot of people get overwhelmed by things, but I try to keep it simple, and move on. I figure it out and do it — whatever it is — and keep going. If you go for it, you can get it. You can be happy.”
Film: Lindley Atkinson
Stylist: Elliott Sikes
Creative Direction: Katy McDonald; Ashtin Paige
Photographer: Ashtin Paige
Makeup Artist: Alexa Brooke
Hairstylist: Alexa Brooke
Copy + Video Commentary: Meredith Kane
Look No. 1:
Dress - Jamie and the Jones
Jewelry - Red Earth/Nisolo
Look No. 2:
Pants - Vintage Emmanuel Ungaro
Shirt - Jamie and the Jones
Jewelry - Red Earth/Nisolo
Look No. 3:
Dress - Love Shack Fancy