Alum and college junior (and book author) is already well on her way to a dream career.
Chasing a dream to work in journalism within the fashion industry may seem like a common pursuit for many young men and women, and perhaps it is. But connecting that dream to reality usually takes a healthy dose of luck and lots of time for most.
But then you meet Notre Dame alum Katarina Kovac ('16). She's not only well on her way to attaining her dream, she's done it during her first two years at Oakland University.
"During my freshman year of college, I spent a lot of time going back and forth between various majors," she said. "I knew what I was passionate about, which was writing and journalism related to the fashion industry, but I initially also felt that I should pursue the economics or business route as a fallback."
However, after taking a few economics classes, she knew that her heart wasn't all in.
"I remembered something I was told about future careers during my high school years at NDP: that one should take a look at what one does in his or her free time, and try to turn that into a career," she said.
And that's basically all it took.
"I stepped back and began to think about what it was that I did in my free time, and the fashion industry was at the forefront," she said. "I was reading all of the big glossy fashion magazines and I memorized every single masthead."
She said she'd rip out pages of the magazines and decorate her bedroom with them, her grey walls soon overtaken by Calvin Klein campaigns, Dolce & Gabbana ads and editorial stories that took place in seemingly exotic lands.
"I could figure out which designers worked at which labels, which labels people cared about the most, and what trends were informing everything from online retail strategy to fall denim," she said. "I also learned everything I could about the designers, including, in some cases, what their favorite ice cream was."
At OU, she would livestream New York Fashion Week during her lectures and wrote almost every single research paper she was assigned about designers. As this seemingly intense infatuation with the industry was absorbed into nearly every fiber of her being, she nonetheless began to understand that her interest was more cerebral than obsessive. So, she switched majors to Oakland's writing and rhetoric department, and at that point, decided that she was going to do everything she could to get a summer internship with a fashion brand in New York City after her first year of college.
"I called and emailed almost every single company or fashion house in New York," she said. "And I ended up accepting an internship with designer Rebecca Minkoff's company. I also began to grow my network base and started to get jobs working at New York Fashion Week runway shows for other designers."
Kovac even wrote a short book about her experiences as an intern in the fashion industry. Titled "The Life of a Fashion Intern in New York City: How I Did It," she published it on Amazon with the hope that it might inspire others who like her wanted to get into the business, but didn't necessarily have the right connections yet.
It was during her New York internship in the summer of 2017 that she went to a fashion event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and ended up introducing herself to a Vogue editor who she'd admired for a long time. The editor brought her in the following week for an interview and, she said, her life changed from that moment on.
She kept in touch with the people at Vogue while she was back at OU for her sophomore year and they finally decided to bring her in to work with them for the 2018 Met Gala, which was held last month.
"At the gala, I found myself working for none other than Anna Wintour — yes, that Anna Wintour — and hanging out with the likes of George Clooney, Kendall Jenner and Blake Lively," she said. "Wow, only 12 months before, I was sitting in my room, studying for exams and watching red carpet events on my laptop. Never did I think that one year later, I would be a part of an amazing team and actually get to be a part of what seemed like the most far-off and glamorous event."
After the Met Gala, Vogue brought her on as a features coordinator. Now, as just a 20-year-old college kid, she's attending the Tony Awards, parties, dinners and galas in New York City with the likes of celebrities and designers (some of whom she said she's able to call friends), while writing for Vogue.com.
"I get to work with some of the most intelligent, world-renowned editors," she said. "It really is quite surreal to be doing what I'm doing now. For me, there was never a question of ‘will this work?’ or ‘is this worth it?’ There was simply no other option because I knew it was what I was destined to do."
Notre Dame 'unparalleled'
Reaching that 'destiny,' however, was not without hard work — and not without a big push from her Notre Dame Prep experience, something Kovac more than acknowledges.
"Attending Notre Dame helped me achieve my goals by teaching me to be independent, ambitious, and to think outside of the box," she said. "From the start of my freshman year at NDP, the faculty encouraged me to be vocal about my opinions and to always ask questions to make sure I understood any problems."
She also said she began to be captivated by the possibilities of social transformation during her days at NDPMA, when her studies in history, literature, current events and ethics began to shape her worldview.
"I feel I developed a social conscience at NDPMA that I don’t necessarily think I could have gained anywhere else," she said. "Plus, the rigorous curriculum at NDP is unparalleled, and once I got to college, I began to receive 4.0s due to the fact that I was more than prepared with an NDPMA education under my belt. College felt easy and my high school education certainly contributed to that."
Kovac's high school education also included a few lessons and a host of memories she holds very dear.
"From English class with Mr. Butorac to math with Mr. Stan, the faculty taught me that there is not just one correct way," she said. "A book can have many interpretations and a math problem can have many ways to get to a solution."
She said she's taken those lessons to heart when approaching hurdles in college as well as in her still-nascent fashion career.
"Instead of giving up, I always ask why, and then proceed to find a solution," she said. "Also, NDPMA is truly special in the fact that students and faculty form a familial bond. "I really miss seeing Mrs. Pasko every morning, giving high fives to Brother Louis at our varsity soccer games, and joking around with Mr. Smith in forensic psychology."
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org