This week the editors of Vogue made it crystal clear that they are not fans of bloggers or their presence at Fashion Week. They posted a review on Milan fashion week online that was filled with complaints about how bloggers are “ruining street style” and disrupting the inner circle of fashion’s elite. As expected, bloggers have come out with their own responses to the attack, and there are lots of different viewpoints being discussed about bloggers and their role in and influence over fashion.
For some, it’s easy to agree with the Vogue editors and understand their frustration with having less power in the market than these newcomers, but what if you just dig a little bit deeper and try to understand the influencer lifestyle? No cliché’s, no filters, just insider stuff. The things you could only know from asking an actual influencer. As a blogger and influencer myself, I’ve always wanted to meet at least one person who understands what I am talking about. Finally, I did. I couldn’t have found a better person to discuss this topic with than Elma, one of the blogger superstar sisters of the popular ClubFashionista blog. If you thought influencers were just silly, pathetic wannabes who never worked for anything and just walk around getting gifted outfits and clothing, you’re about to learn the other side of the lifestyle.
Elma is not entitled or lazy at all. She is an inspiring entrepreneur who runs a successful business with her sister. If you have ever tried to run a business, you know that success only comes with hard work. If you think that’s not true, go and watch some Gary Vaynerchuck, and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
“Actually, I had a conversation about this with my father yesterday. We were approached by manufactures from California, and they want to start a clothing and accessories line with us. I was really excited , but I still remember back in the beginning when it was basically my friends in law school who said to me ‘what are you doing taking photos of yourself and posting it on the internet?!’ They thought it was embarrassing.” Many influencers have a similar story, and many of them also don’t have the support of their parents who still think, it’s not a ‘real job.’ “My family was supportive in terms of love, education and advice, but with my sister, we were the ones who invested everything we earned into what we were doing.”
While all of their friends were having fun, Amra and Elma had been working since they were 14 so they could buy clothes and afford traveling. Along the way they realized that people actually liked the content they were uploading to their personal pages. “We watched Gossip Girl, but there was nothing much on the Internet about how you can get the looks yourself without spending a fortune.” So that’s how it started. They found the need and started to serve the market while they were working full-time. “We just started doing it, after Amra’s best friend joined us, then we had other friends who wanted to join us, so we created ClubFashionista. So we had a lot of writers, some of them submitted articles 2-3 times a week, and that was the reason why we were able to grow in the beginning.” That’s something that most people don’t realize. They want to do everything alone, when often the key to a fast growing community is a team.
Of course, you can try to handle everything yourself, but prepare to be exhausted all the time. And that happens even if you have the support of a team. “A lot of people don’t realize how exhausting this lifestyle is. You’re living for the audience, and no longer for yourself. You are basically working when you don’t think you are, because you’re looking for the picture perfect moments wherever you are, and then wondering about your wardrobe, when normally you wouldn’t. You would just go out with your friends and enjoy yourself.”
That was one of the reasons why I hit the pause button on blogging. I was exhausted, everything was about the content, and in my case it was self-help. Analyzing your life 24/7 is tiring and not healthy. I will never forget one time when I saw a squirrel in New Jersey in my backyard, and my manager said “She hasn’t even disappeared yet, but you already posted it.” That’s not life.
Like changing time zones every single week. “It effects your sleeping obviously, it effects your eating, so I think it’s a lot of physical work you can’t escape. That was the hardest. Getting organized, and figuring out how to produce the content without exhausting myself.” But there is a moment in most of their lives when they wake up and start thinking there should be a better way to approach this. “No one stays young forever. A lot of bloggers are thinking this is too exhausting for doing full-time and there has to be a better approach.”
Having your own brand or doing licensing is something you can do. That’s what Mariano di Vaio is doing right now, or what happened with blogger Kristina Bazan, who now focuses more on music, instead of posing for street style photographers for Fashion Week (or not to mention the manager James Chardon, who at least a year ago posted about not traveling that much anymore, and now launched his website on his photography project).
This lifestyle is not permanent.
That’s the difference between a blogger who only posts on Instagram and someone who thinks about this as a business.. “I think of myself as a business woman more than anything. I made contact with investors very early on because of Clubfashionista. One of the questions I was asked is how do you plan to scale this? You cannot scale this business, because you cannot reproduce yourself.”
And that’s the point. Try to live this lifestyle for a year, do it on your own, try to learn and test everything, work with sponsors, go to fashion week, manage to be in a photoshoot when you are depressed, and see what you think about blogging afterwards. Because it’s not always happiness, fun and Gucci bags.
And for the girls who get into this world without self-esteem or self-love, it can be even harder. “That was really important for me to learn how to be comfortable with myself. I am not a Barbie, I am not a super model. I am beautiful, and I accept my flaws, and I understand and see my good qualities, and I love the whole package at the end of the day.”
Not everyone has that attitude, and that can lead bloggers at the top to collapse or burn out because they only live for the moments when they can put on makeup and the perfect outfit, and they have no idea who they are without millions of followers or the Dior lipsticks. I’ve seen people like this. Acting crazy like celebrities, heard about some of them using drugs, and not living an authentic life anymore. They seem to lose sight of the fact that they only can live this lifestyle because of their fans.
“At the end of the day what is really important is to not to take a selfish approach, and always ask myself what am I doing for my audience? That’s really important. Its not how good do I look in this selfie! How can I help their everyday life because after all they are the ones who at the end of the day make who I am.”
Quick summary: if you have no idea who you are, what you do, why you do it, or if you have no self-confidence, you will definitely have trouble succeeding as an influencer. People will doubt you no matter what. As Elma said, whenever there’s a new idea that hasn’t been tried, people automatically doubt it. The only thing that matters is to believe in yourself, and never stop empowering each other, and sharing all the mistakes you’ve made along the way so others can learn from them instead of taking each other down.