HASH BROWNS AND CIGARETTES: AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE STEWART

Published February 2015 in Industry Magazine, University of Oxford.

College: St. Anne’s
Subject: English
Hometown: Dalston, London

By the time I arrived to meet Kate Stewart there was already blood. It was mine, of course. The ride over led me off my bike and flat on to the pavement of Banbury Road, all to the tune of a nearby cabbie yelling, “Learn ter ride a bike!” out his window.

Luckily, Kate was running late too. Arriving with a box of hash browns and a pack of cigarettes, Kate confessed that she hadn’t brushed her hair. “Fuck me, that’s your editor?” she whispered, referring to Stephanie Suh, also waiting in the St. Anne’s Porters. "Must think I’m a total mess. Fucking hash browns and cigarettes.”

Dressed in a high-necked jumper and long beige coat, Kate is quick to claim she’s in no way a qualified Oxford fashionista. She’s got henna on for God’s sake. From Amazon! Most of what she wears her mum gets from the Oxfam in Dalston. If not, she’ll buy from Beyond Retro, the popular London thrift shop. When I ask about her shoes, she tells me they’re from ASOS then whispers she’s a “big spender.” When I ask about her socks, she answers Topshop then tells me she “likes to go where the money’s at.” Her explanation for the red Zara skirt? “Thick to cover all my mistakes.”

Raised in Wales, Kate’s style has developed since her early years of uniform skirts “short as a belt”. Moving to East London to attend sixth form in Hackney, Kate kept to high waisted pinstripe trousers, white blouses and Doc Martins. On the weekends, it was all about the crop top. Lots and lots of crop tops. “I used to go out in short shorts and some weird 90s top with a smiley face from some dodgy person in Holborn.” She takes out a cigarette. A first year, Kate claims Oxford allows her to experiment more with her style. “Plus I have a student loan so I can buy as many clothes as I like,” she says. “Just kidding that barely covers my food.”

When it comes to her hair, Kate tells a different story. Formerly long and dark, her new tonal shading is credited to an “amazing hairdresser” in London’s Emsworth Market. “He doesn’t even let me choose it anymore,” she claims. Last time she went in, she suggested a bit of blue. What she got was a subtle masterpiece of grey, yellow and blue. Next up, it’ll all be gone. “I’m shaving it off!” she tells me. She mutters something about androgyny, performing gender, and the fact that she’s doing it over the holidays so she’ll have seven weeks if it goes wrong.

Kate’s style is merely a reflection of her tireless attitude. When I ask how her night went, she talks of dancing alone at Jericho’s Freud’s Bar with her friend Rudy, a PPE boy from Brixton. Tonight she’ll head to the St. Anne’s BOP as Estella from the Little Mermaid for the Disney/LGBT Theme. As it’s only her second term, this Dalston transplant is still sorting out Oxford nightlife. “Bridge Thursdays were some of the best and worst nights of my life,” she smiles. Recently she’s frequented the Museum of Modern Art, planning future collaborations with London’s Arts Catalyst through the National Poetry Society. Her goal is to create film poems with scientists. “They’re divided completely here,” she admits. “I told a physics guy what I did and he laughed in my face.”

But first up it’s the Easter Holiday and Kate’s off for a week in North Wales, renting a castle with her fellow St. Anne’s freshers. Then she’ll be back to London. “Dancing on the tables, having a rad time,” she stops. “Actually probably revising. Don’t put that in I wanna look cool.” Oh but Kate, you are so cool. Even if you do smell a bit like hash browns on a Saturday morning.

GETTING TO KNOW KATE:

Favourite shop in Oxford? The Mind Shop in Jericho

Most overrated shop? Topshop Favorite drink? French martini Guilty pleasure? Twinkies

What’s the last lie you told? I told my parents I hadn’t eaten all the popcorn. I had eaten all the popcorn.

What are your favorite qualities in a partner? Laughing at my jokes. Being honest. So maybe not laughing at my jokes.

Who and when did you first fall in love?

Yeah I fell in love with my first girlfriend. But she was going through a phase. I was fifteen. We don’t still talk. Think that’s partly cause I moved away.

First thing you bought without your parents permission? A pair of really really high heels from New Look.

Where do you most want to live?

Melbourne. It’s warm and the houses are really pretty. I really will move there. My brother lives there and works in a casino, plus I’ve got an Australian passport. It was my only point of interest in year seven. My name is Kate. I like dogs. I’m half Australian.

Last you watched? Pink Flamingos. Really funny. Well I mean they end it with a drag queen eating dog shit off the pavement. Quite disgusting actually.

Last thing you borrowed? Scarf from my friend that was really nice. She got it from Sri Lanka.

Last thing you bought? Thigh high boots from Zara.

What will you never lend to a friend? I really don’t have one, I have no qualms. I think having nice clothes, there’s not much point if you’re the only one that wears them. That’s a bit boring. It’s nice when you share

If your look was on sale at Topshop what would it be advertised as? “Autumn Boho”

Date outfit? Long skirt, maybe a sheer top and a bra. I don’t usually wear bras.

Favorite dinner spot? I like cooking here (at St Anne’s). Going up to my friends place and bring some dal. I’ve got full kit of lentils to get through in the next few weeks so.

What do you do with your parents when they’re here? I get them to take me to Carluccios and we go to a museum. My dad did an art degree so he likes to go around looking at all the art. Which is very good. He’s the one that got me doing art so that’s very nice.

Last song you got dressed to? Cigarettes and Coffee by Otis Redding.

Last person you called? My mother. She wasn’t there though. Was the voicemail.

Last book you read? Oh fucking. What you call it. It was Chinua Achebe. Things Fall Apart.

Last concert you went to? Jungle in the O2. It was amazing. So good. They had all these yellow lights in the back so you couldn’t see their faces it was just shadows. Big smoke machine and stuff.

What painting do you think you belong in?

John Everett Millais’ Mariana. Because the textures and the colors are all so gorgeous, yeah it’s my favorite painting. Her blue velvet dress is just incredible. But I can imagine being in a Picasso painting would be quite cool.