Photo: Elena Molina for The Upcoming. Here you can glimpse my glorious Ops&Ops flats that I was wearing around Somerset House. Their new collection is released on March 4th. More on them soon...
Photos: Simbarashe Cha for Lord Ashbury
Why do I blog? I’ve asked myself this at various points since I began – often at times when it has seemed like a struggle to keep up with posting, or when I've experienced frustration at the way page views have diminished slightly in recent years. Maybe it’s classier not to acknowledge the challenges. But it’s certainly more human, and honest.
Plus, the answer that I consistently come back to is this – I blog because I love it. I blog because I adore great clothes and dressing up and interesting ideas and online conversations. I blog because, really, very little beats the satisfaction of knowing I’ve written something I’m pleased with (that doesn’t have to be passed through an editor, or given a news hook). Those evenings where I sit down in a fizz and flutter of thoughts, rapidly working my way through a first draft of three or even four posts in a row – oh, they’re the best.
Plus there’s the added satisfaction of occasionally meeting people who visit this little corner of the internet I’ve carved out for myself. I’m still kind of surprised whenever it happens. Sitting in front of a screen, you end up creating stuff in a weird vacuum-style space – not quite sure who (if anyone) is seeing it and responding to what you’ve flung out online.
I’ve now had this blog for a significant portion (more than a quarter) of my life – something I was reminded of when I spent a day at LFW recently, and got talking to various (very wonderful) people I originally met there, aged fifteen. That first time/ season, I’d taken my mum along – a detail that plenty of the photographers still remember, and they continue to ask after her. Some of them told me that I had made a bit of a stir on the street style circuit at that time. Although I was aware of the attention from cameras, everything felt so new and exciting that I just kind of took it for granted. I was from a tiny village. Suddenly having all this appreciation for my outfits was a form of both adventure and validation.
Many of the other bloggers I first met then have since turned their blogs into full-time careers, with huuuuuge followings, brand collaborations and brightly lit photos a-plenty; while lots of the the street style photographers are working for amazing publications. Fashion has sped up. It’s about the instant, the insistently ‘now’, the Instagram post put up quick-smart. Essentially, the relationship between social media, PR, the fashion industry and blogging has evolved beyond measure in recent years.
It's easy to fall into hard-line camps when discussing that evolution though. Innovation or frivolity? Creative or commercial? Airheads or clever business heads? Revolutionising the fashion industry or transforming it in damaging ways? Exciting growth or unsustainable pace? (I mean, yeah, it is definitely the latter with that one). It's easier to retreat into the realms of generalisations rather than interrogate these divides with any sense of depth.
Besides, you're allowed to hold two conflicting views in your head if you so wish. By way of example, I'm not the biggest fan of the kinds of style blogging now overwhelmingly celebrated (or at least gaining the most exposure) - slick, brand-led, frequently featuring white, model-slender figures. In fact, I've discussed the lack of diversity in the upper echelons of fashion blogging before – as well as giving an overview of what’s changed in recent years. Yet, despite all that, I can still respect the ways in which often relatively young women have built themselves up from scratch, working damn hard to get to the point where their blog becomes a business. They are usually enterprising, driven and very committed. That deserves to be applauded. I must admit, I admire it that little bit more if they weren’t already super-rich and very well-connected (isn’t that the same in all creative industries though?) Oh, and I DEFINITELY reserve the most respect for those bloggers who are genuinely nice and relatively uninterested in pulling rank. I mean, that’s a general life thing too, but it’s worth holding onto.
However, there's rather a lot of continued handwringing about commercialisation - as though the very presence of ads or collaborations completely undermines all sense of veracity. But bloggers do have bills to pay too. It's a time-consuming endeavour. Most of us dive into this online realm because we love clothes or conversation (or, for others, cupcakes - and beautiful food), but there's no harm in transforming that platform into a career - in fact, it's pretty impressive if you can manage it, and orchestrate your online presence into something lucrative.
There are some very interesting posts written by bloggers on this very topic that offer thoughtful insights. First, Olivia’s on why it’s ok to earn money from blogging. Also Emma’s, now a few years old, on the blogger/ writer divide and Kristabel’s on her answer to people asking her ‘So what do you do?’ All make immensely salient, smart points.
If we’re talking business though, this Texas Monthly piece is… eye opening to say the least – raising plenty of questions about transparency, the creative/ commercial divide and what ‘authenticity’ actually means now. I personally found it a pretty disheartening (but very compelling) read, reflecting a blogger ‘industry’ that’s so consumer oriented that there’s little mention of joy in dressing up, or approaching style as something inventive or intelligent. There are lots of exceptions to the rule, like Leandra Medine, but, well – they’re still exceptions. Plus, the article reflects a rapacious rate of consumption, with that persuasion to buy, buy, and buy some more buggering up our environment and leading to big worker rights problems.
I pretty much missed out on the first stages of the social media revolution – keener to focus on my blog (and to apply to uni!) than build up a following on lots of new platforms. Now, having belatedly hopped on board I spend a tad too much time on Twitter and Instagram, but enjoy them both on my own terms. Maybe one day I’ll use affiliate links, although that would be somewhat problematic given that most of my wardrobe is sourced second hand…! If I ever do though, I won’t feel guilty, because I know how much energy I pour into not just keeping the integrity of the blog, but keeping it going – full stop.
But I had a real moment post-LFW of wondering what might have happened if things had moved differently; if I’d monetized my blog, worn more ‘labels’, gone to a London-based uni and fully launched myself much more into the fashion industry? Where would I be now? Would I have tens of thousands of Instagram followers? Go to lots of parties? Measure my worth and professional standing just by page hits?
However, then I remembered that all my choices have been active ones, and that this is an immense privilege. Just as others have made canny, active business decisions, I’ve chosen to make room for the things I want to engage in while I’m still in full time education; before I have to earn a monthly income I can live on. For me, this has meant time spent in intellectual engagement and improvement; a huge focus on writing; assembling an immensely diverse social group; developing a span of aspirations that range from performance poetry to modeling to working on books. There are so many crackling ideas to develop and experiment with. There’s time to form an identity that isn’t predicated on maintaining an online profile; time for a working life where blogging is a part, rather than the whole, of my output. Space to muck up, make mistakes, and take chances.
This is about as subjective as it gets. Not a judgment on other blogging paths, but rather a recognition of what was right for me. Dipping back into the chaos of LFW for a single day this season was special. It allowed me to reflect a lot on how we define success and status, as well as to dwell on the experiences I was beyond lucky to access as a younger teen. But it also let me know that things are doing ok as they are – and that there’s still so much time ahead.
Thanks to all the lovely, lovely photographers who took my photo at LFW. Wonderful to catch up with Dvora and Craig in particular - and there was a fabulous moment of serendipity as the day drew to a close and I bumped into Simbarashe, having posted an old photo of his on my Instagram that very morning!
I was wearing a hand-made vintage 60s/70s dress from Rokit, a green vintage coat that once belonged to my mum, a second hand shirt, my great-grandma's necklace, and a hat that first appeared at LFW in September 2011 (Craig and Dvora took my photo then too!) Both the bags were from charity shops. If anyone happens to see any other photos of me floating around, I'd really appreciate you letting me know.
It's been a busy month. This weekend just past was pretty momentous for all sorts of reasons (mostly to do with the book I've been writing) - all to be properly revealed soon. Take a look at my Instagram for some clues though.