To describe Kathleen Baird-Murray as one of the world’s most prolific beauty writers is no exaggeration. She’s worked at Vogue and Marie Claire, is a regular columnist for the Financial Times and even penned a novel with a beauty editor protagonist. Now, Kathleen is Beauty & Health director of NET-A-PORTER.COM, the style mecca that consumes our browsers and bank balances in equal measure.
Tell us – what’s it really like inside the hallowed walls of NET-A-PORTER? “There’s an amazing team spirit,” she says, “but it can be overwhelming sometimes.” We can imagine – as if getting dressed and out the front door every morning isn’t already hard enough, let alone counting your colleagues amongst the most fashion-forward in the business. “We work in an open plan space in rows of beautiful white desks with floor to ceiling windows and Murano glass chandeliers,” she describes. “It’s the first office I’ve ever worked in that looks like you imagine a glossy magazine should look like.”
With tidal waves of product landing on her desk daily for consideration in the beauty pages of PORTER magazine and THE EDIT, it’s a select few who’ve piqued her interest and proved their worth within her own beauty kit. “Charlotte Tilbury’s make-up has I think made it easier for women who don’t know much about make-up, to really engage and get excited about trying something new. Radical has a great message alongside its skincare as does Chantecaille, who seem to be hell-bent on saving the planet, or at least, certain endangered species.”
She also has a knack for delving right inside the bones a fragrance – just as Eskimos have hundreds of words for snow, Baird-Murray has a singular gift when it comes to writing about scent. “I love La Pluie – it’s so evocative of rain on a hot day. I don’t really have a signature scent but I wear Le Labo’s Santal 33 often, switching up to a bergamot fragrance for mid-afternoon when I’m at my desk struggling with something. It’s a great pick-me-up.”
As a former model, the mother-of-two has experienced the beauty industry from every angle. Unsurprisingly, her ability to sniff out a gimmick is finely attuned. “I’m loyal to the things that work, and skeptical until something has proved itself,” she says. “I’m very low maintenance, and ultimately extremely fickle!”
Kathleen has accrued an extraordinary beauty IQ throughout her years in the business, but she also attributes a pragmatic attitude toward beauty to her parents. “I remember my father trying to take a picture of me – in the days when that was a big deal as it meant loading film into a camera. Beauty was something my parents were keen to play down, but the rest of the world placed a value upon. I used to hate receiving compliments about the way I looked. I then went to a very strict, religious school, where beauty was akin to vanity and very much frowned upon. With hindsight it’s odd that this is now my career!” We’d say she was the perfect candidate all along.
Photographed by Sam Hendel.
Words by Susannah Tucker.