Social media has brought on the rise of the “fashion influencer”, making it possible for fashion bloggers to earn a living through their blogs and social media accounts. More and more brands are investing in these self-styled tastemakers, not only for product review but to align themselves with a certain market.
Model and fashion blogger Emma Jane Menteath, whose blog “My Life in Pink” is a go-to source for fresh fashion ideas and inspiration, is one of a few who has developed a winning formula.
“I started generating an income two months after launching my blog. I think it’s mostly because I’m very business-oriented. I had a business-like way of approaching clients and letting people know who I was. It’s important to know how to market yourself in a correct way.
Sometimes people see you as self-centred if you are pushing yourself and your brand, but if you don’t market yourself who else is going to do it?” says Menteath.
My Life in Pink is not only a fashion blog but it documents Menteath’s travels and love of food. Fashion blogs are visually driven and most bloggers often lose readers’ interest with low quality content and pictures, says Menteath.
With one of South Africa’s top fashion and portrait photographers Justin Polkey taking photographs of Menteath at home and abroad, her posts are professional and a feast of creativity and ideas.
“That is partly why my blog succeeded so fast. Putting my modelling aside, I have a top photographer working with me and shooting my stuff… we make quite a good team.
“South African bloggers need to focus more on the quality of their images. If the quality of your images is better, you can demand more from brands that want to work with you. Blogging has been a big industry for a while now and everyone wants to get involved, but a lot of people don’t really know how to go about doing it.
“It’s great when you start out, but if you have a blog that is good quality and you are producing quality images it shouldn’t be free. You are providing clients with content and advertising… bloggers shouldn’t be afraid to stand up and ask for something in return,” says Menteath during our interviewat a coffee spot in Kloof Nek, with Polkey in tow.
Freebies and exclusive invites to events are all part of a blogger’s life, but bloggers should be more selective of the brands and products they align themselves with, says Menteath.
“I find that most bloggers are scared to ask for things. If a client approaches them with some free things, they just say yes and not like ‘here is my rate card if you want to work with me’. A lot of clients know that they can get away with offering bloggers nothing but free products.”
Menteath, whose favourite local bloggers include Trevor Stuurman, New Hipster and Niquita Bento, started My Life in Pink as a Tumblr site about five years ago to keep her parents updated on her travels.
“Instagram became this huge thing and I realised that there is this online environment that allows you to be creative and where you are able to share a part of you with the world.
“I named it My Life in Pink because I was obsessed with the colour pink at the time. I like what the colour symbolises – happiness and fun… I don’t wear it that much but I love it,” says Menteath, whose favourite international bloggers are Margaret Zhang, Kayture and the Oracle Fox Blog.
When the 23-year-old Bachelor of Business Administration student at Unisa is not shooting for fashion editorials and campaigns for local and international clients, she is in Europe or the US.
“My favourite city to visit is Istanbul in Turkey; it’s so special. The people there have such an energy about them. The city is so real and so alive with culture, tastes and smells.”
A model with Outlaws Model Agency, she was spotted by a scout at 17 during her matric year at Parel Vallei High School in Somerset West.
“I started modelling in my final year of school and as soon as I finished school I went overseas. Secretly I wanted to be a model in my teens, but I was the ugly duckling at school. I was very odd looking, extremely pale and had pimples everywhere. Before I was scouted I had approached modelling agencies and they had turned me down… when I decided to give up on it, it happened.”
Menteath made her debut appearance at the New York Fashion Week last year after she was scouted by an agent for The Lions Model Management .
“I always thought that Cape Town was more fashion forward than Johannesburg,
but when I was in Joburg recently I was impressed; people there are looking good.
“I do think we (South Africa) still have a lot to learn when it comes to fashion, but that is understandable because we were excluded from the world for a long time. Social media has definitely opened up the world for people to see what is happening (everywhere). I am
impressed with what SA’s young designers are doing.
“It’s a little sad because you see these young designers during fashion weeks for two or three seasons and because of finances their lines don’t continue. It will be really exciting if corporates or people could support them (so)… they could carry on showing.”
Menteath’s advice for young models is to have a back-up plan because the
industry is unpredictable and fickle.
“I would never recommend anyone do full-time modelling if they only stay in South Africa. It’s fine to model full-time if you are going to travel because you will be opening yourself up to other markets and new clients.
“As a model I was just an ingredient in the whole creation of something beautiful, a fashion editorial or a TV ad. But now, I model, style and art direct the whole blog look post. I’m not just an ingredient anymore; I am involved in the creation process.”
Menteath’s 5 must-have winter items:
1. The “it-shoe”, knee high boots: Flat sole or block heel, the knee high boot is a must-have this season. Show some skin for a touch of sexiness by teaming it with a mini skirt.
2. Sweater up: For a more modern take on the knit, try the oversize chunky polar neck teamed with a button-up mini skirt.
3. Top coat: Be it the shelling jacket or glamorous faux fur, it’s time to embrace this warm and fuzzy trend.
4. A touch of Seventies: It’s time to shelve those skinnies and embrace the flare. Add a touch of fringe or layer your polar necks underneath your dresses and dungarees. It’s the retro revival.
5. Keep it simple: Think clean lines, neutral palettes and white sneakers. We can all learn a thing or two from the Scandinavians this season.
This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on June 5 2015