Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Photo by Mikayla Mallek on Unsplash
Remember that girl in your class that looked like a Mandarin duck sitting in a pond full of ordinary ducks, trying out all sorts of hairdos, blue, green and purple highlights, the differently colored nails, and always a unique piece of jewelry she made herself or bought but then adapted to her own style?
I was that girl. Fashion and innovation have always been my forte, and mixing and matching styles, hues and materials felt like a safe haven for my imagination. Like many kids, I explored numerous other skills, and it was clear that math will never be my number one career move, while writing always maintained a special place in my heart.
But along the way, there were several key crossroads that brought me to the blogosphere and helped me find my way to a fulfilled life that is still creative and brimming with novelty and innovation.
The School of Stylecraft and Fashionry
For the longest time, I believed that my road was mostly set – my early childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer had its place in Aussie society, and I was eager to enroll in a local fashion design school where my skills would be refined and developed further. Learning about various style eras, problems of the modern-day fashion world and the various forms of self-expression through garments alone was a revelation in more ways than one.
Of course, as my education advanced, I was introduced to many prominent and up-and-coming names in the design world, so I did my best to gain some experience from anyone available – from internships to occasional paid projects, my professional development had a linear feel to it, which at first didn’t bother me one bit.
However, as rewarding as it was to work alongside some of these designers, my knowledge and opinions were rarely taken seriously, and most of my daily tasks were in fact errands and taking notes in meetings, with an occasional minor contribution such as research for an actual project. I absorbed as much as I could, and used this time to take on as much work as they would trust me with, but the hierarchy was painfully rigid, and competition was fierce.
Photo by Jimmy Bay on Unsplash
The Real World Design
Riddled with questions, I joined the working ranks fairly quickly, but to my disappointment, I soon realized that in order to make it in the world of fashion design, I would have to work for others. This was the norm, and still is in many other professional spheres. But my independent, entrepreneurial spirit wouldn’t settle for the norm and the mainstream, so I picked a different route – going back to my writing roots and mixing them with my passion for fashion.
I started out as a guest blogger and a contributor for several websites, and my credentials and experience ensured credibility, which was especially appealing to those who were already looking for someone trustworthy to join their online community and contribute with an authentic fashion perspective. Their advantage for having me on board was the sheer fact that I had access to first-hand information on the ever-changing world of fashion trends and style, hence they were happy to open their doors for me. The challenge then became to create a unique enough approach that would make me memorable.
My Personal Pick ‘n’ mix
In order to stand out in the constantly growing world of blogging fashionistas and still remain true to my beliefs, I had to follow the most recent trends, anticipate changes, discover the greatest influencers on and off the catwalk, and still make sure my writing has that personal touch and a perspective that would give my pieces that special zest.
Photo by averie woodard on Unsplash
As smooth as this journey sounds, it wasn’t without its setbacks and temptations. Since I’ve always been an avid shopper, and now I had the perfect excuse to spend hours perusing stores, I started shopping for dresses online to save time, money and energy, and dedicate more time to writing. Frankly, had I spent the same amount of money on clothes as I did before I quit my day job, I would have lost all of my savings in less than two months.
Although I was smart enough to save up as much as possible while still working in the industry, it was close to impossible to personally try out every garment by purchasing it myself. So, I partnered up with bloggers who already had access to fresh fashion items, and I became their review master. Every single piece I wrote was genuine, so at the risk of ruffling some fashion feathers, I remained an honest reviewer.
That is why even brands themselves started approaching me online and inviting me to write reviews for their latest collections. But I was true to my calling, so criticism was as frequent as praise. I established a loyal relationship with some Aussie brands, and even opted for affiliate programs with the ones I liked the most. Freelance writing gigs were easy enough to come by, but I did my best to stay in the realm of fashion design, because I never wanted to lose sight of my ultimate goal – building a reputation in the blogging community as an authentic fashion voice.
I grew my personal network of fashion writers and designers networking at various shows and meetups to build my portfolio. With so many people aspiring to become writers and influencers in the Australian fashion scene, it was grueling to keep my spirit up and consistently repeat my name to people until it started being remembered and recognized.
Many Pieces Of My Happiness Puzzle
Photo by STIL on Unsplash
Not a day goes by that I don’t ask myself what would have happened had I stayed in the field of design without allowing myself the freedom to explore my other passion. But these thoughts only give me the reinforcement I sometimes need to push through the writer’s block or find a new angle on a fashion story.
I’ve met so many people I call friends and colleagues to this very day, I have the luxury of doing exactly what I love while earning enough to travel and live my life at my own pace, and somehow, my work never quite feels like work – it’s too deeply rooted in my personal preferences, that my inspiration is only fueled and not drained by all I do.
Written by our first international guest blog post, Claire Hastings from Australia.