Fashion bloggers are a whole new class of newsmakers on the web. If you’re a regular user, you probably have a few icons bookmarked on your browser or YouTube. If you’re a beauty or fashion brand, then you’re probably ready to spend a good budget to get on one of the top fashion blogs.
Maybe you’ve noticed, fashion blogging has been evolving and expanding as an industry of its own. Now, there seems to be a contagious trend of fashion bloggers turning from newsmakers to fashion entrepreneurs, launching their own fashion brands.
With seemingly endless love from users and brands, Rumi Neely’s personal style blog, FashionToast (which she started in 2008) is what got her opinion important for fashion-lovers. In fact, it got so important that Neely went off launching her own clothing line Are You Am I (R-U-M-I, looks familiar?) and that’s what we want to talk about today.
It’s not new for fashion bloggers to launch their own lines. Reviewing top brands for years and collecting thousands of readers and followers on social media is probably a legit reason to become an official trendsetter yourself. Neely’s fashion line, however, is not for every pocket. You would get Are You Am I calf hair shorts with leopard-print for $700, a lace bralette for $120, strappy camisoles for $180 and so on.
Wondering how a fashion startup can afford high prices like these? Just check out her Instagram following as of today (I’ll help you, it’s 657K). We all know that even Chanel didn’t have this much following when it just started, so for Are You Am I, it’s not going to be about finding customers, but expanding the audience.
Neely’s designs don’t come in Large and above sizes, as according to a customer service representative, there are just not enough orders to get the production of those sizes going. But if you’re still a Neely fan and want to have a piece of her brand, you can get a custom order.
Her style is very seductive, hardly anything you’ll want to wear in daytime unless you want to make a statement on your way to work every morning. Low cut V-necks might need a few safety measures if you’re not feeling confident exposing some extra sensitive skin.
Seems like a tough collection to sell on mainstream market. Surprisingly, Neely’s brand is entirely self-branded, no investors, no sponsors, and no pressure!
So how did Rumi Neely start her own line?
It all started on a small vintage shop on a very busy street … not really, it actually started on eBay, where Neely opened her Treasure Chest Vintage shop and started selling thrifted clothing. FashionToast was the next step. Without any social media available, her blog benefited greatly from attending fashion shows and events.
Then came 8 years of fashion blogging. Neely continued building her brand as blogs became insanely popular and then gradually decreased in fame as social media took over the market of instant news. Now, her Instagram account might be just as popular as her blog. It not only helps drive traffic to FashionToast, but also features most of the items from her collection. Neely also has managed to be a part of fashion campaigns by Free People, Forever 21, and even Hugo Boss, got a modelling contract with Next Management (still active).
It wasn’t all easy though.
As the vice president of business development for Bloglovin, Kamiu Lee told Racked, “For a while they were kind of seen as outsiders, folks that are just kind of reporting on fashion but they weren’t journalists.” Luckily, things change. Lee states that the importance of fashion bloggers as key players in the industry has risen due to the popularity influencer marketing is gaining. And Lee is absolutely right, it would be unwise to ignore a devoted fan base that fashion bloggers can now boast with.
Many fashion bloggers are using the opportunity to opt in for creative work in the retail business. This is usually achieved with collaborations with different retailers and designers. Examples of such success stories are Garance Dore’s partnership with Kate Spade, Chiara Gerragni’s collab with Steve Madden, and more. Although there are many drawbacks when a retailer is involved (like less control over revenue, price, and design), such partnerships are all-inclusive packages for bloggers. They get everything in return for their name and reputation sealed on the collection.
Same way, Swedish blogger Elin Kling and her Toteme line (launched in 2014) became instant success. She had already collaborated with H&M and Guess, so a personal line was naturally the next big step. Kling’s collection, just like Neely’s, benefited greatly from the already-existing followers and loyal readers. When you have hundreds of passionate users commenting and favoriting and reading your content every day, whatever you put online is going to sell!
Chiara Ferragni’s collection, on the other hand, set all new records for fashion bloggers. She reportedly not only received $8 million in revenue, but was also featured in Harvard Business Review’s case study. Now that’s a big change from the sparkly fashion blogger perception to opinion authorities and serious entrepreneurs. And this trend is not fading away anytime soon.
And while collaborating with a retailer or fashion brand can get you noticed and in the game, there is really no better option for a popular fashion blogger but to launch a personal brand. After all, that’s what makes fashion bloggers reputable, they don’t just review brands, they also tell you their opinion, give advice and suggestions, and if the style of that blogger appeals to you (easy way to check, head over to their Instagram), you will come back to their blog for more and you’ll eventually order an item from their own lines.
This is their advantage and most of them do, of course, realize this. Brands are far, they are high in the fashion Olymp for us to knock on their doors and get a personal relationship … with fashion bloggers, that’s what their whole industry is built on.
Photos courtesy of @rumineely