Perhaps the toughest part of going from full time office employee to full time blogger is the solitude. Truly, no one prepares you for this. Water-cooler chat is no longer. There aren't dozens of people waiting to complain about the boss. And you better believe that your birthday doesn't feel anywhere near as monumental as the day when the office would come round with a card and a cake. You learn this quickly, very quickly, and you find ways to mend the situation. For me, it came in the form of a devastatingly beautiful french ice queen named Laëtitia Wajnapel. I say "ice queen" because the gaze she first threw when meeting me could have brought entire countries to their knees in fear. If you were to tell me today that that same human being would come to be my best friend and "colleague" of sort in later years, I would have told you to seek counsel.
Letty and I have become each other's rock in an industry that is anything but stable. Even as I sit here writing, I'm only doing so because she made me leave the house. She is the friend that, when I'm down in the dumps, tells me to put on a pair of jeans and meet her for a coffee and a swift kick in the rear end. And when Letty demands you do something, you do it. We are lucky to have each other, for that I am absolutely certain. But, we're also continually looking for ways that we can push one another and expand our creative souls and this morning an idea was born, a way of sharing our stories and our coffee chats. So, a weekly series is born and you're looking at the first installment.... the tale of how we got started. Well, this is my tale, anyway. You can see Letty's over on Mademoiselle Robot. Each week, we will tell a story, a story that has two sides - Letty's and mine. I hope you'll join us in this new journey of discovery about my own start in the industry and how the picture is constantly changing....
Now, how did FFG get it's start? Let's jump right in.....
“How does an art historian become a fashion and lifestyle blogger?” It’s a question I’ve been asked at least three dozen times over the past six years of writing Fashion Foie Gras. Well, that and where on earth that name came from. It’s not a terribly long story, but it is one with its own twists and turns that are most unexpected, involving at least a few moments where I’m sure my parents and peers were scratching their heads and wondering how long it would be before I was returning home to exist in my old bedroom with no prospects for the future.
In 2002, I graduated from a small liberal arts school, with 3,300 acres of land and 600 women in attendance. I left with a major in Art History and a minor in Studio Art. Surprisingly, I had entered university with the intention of studying medicine. Only, even then I should have known that true happiness for me would never exist in a field where being exact and practical were crucial habits. You see my creative side, with a flare for fashion, has been kicking since my first subscription to Seventeen magazine at the age of 13. My mother gave it to me as a sort if “coming of age gift.” Little did she know she was creating a monster. At the age of 18 I wrote a list of all the things I wanted to achieve by the time I was 28. Under “I want to be a recognized authority in medicine” I had written “I want to have a subscription to every major fashion magazine in the USA, as well as annual subscriptions to international titles such as British and French Vogue.” Oh yes, it was clear I had my priorities well in order at such a young age, right? After my first semester of studying as a pre-med, all it took was the audit of one art history class for me to completely upend up life and decide that my real passion was in the creative arts. Queue the paint splattered jeans and the long nights in a dark room – absolute bliss. This would be a pattern that was repeated, several times, before I found myself here, in London, writing about being a blogger.
After gradation I did what every college student does the day after the big ceremony – I panicked. What on earth would I do with a degree in art history? Head to New York, I guess, and try and find work as a gallery assistant. Such is the way. Only, a friend of mine had suggested we head to London instead – spend six months on the ground there working and have a bit of fun before we come to back to the “harsh reality” of the everyday grind of a 9 to 5 with ten days of holiday a year to look forward to.
I arrived in London on December 9th, 2002. I had no job, no place to live, didn’t know a soul and I had $2,000 in my pocket. Inside of three days, my friend and I managed to escape our hostel, where there was no heat and no hot water (remember, this is the dead of winter), to find a flat in North London. While we still didn’t have jobs, we felt like Queens of the universe. Everything would work out for us in this six month adventure and then we could carry on with life as we were expected to. Only a funny thing happened – I fell into the perfect storm.
Three weeks after arriving and 327-letters-requesting-gainful-employment later (this was before the days of simply emailing your resume or monster.com), I had a call back from a London auction house asking if I would come in for an interview to cover maternity leave for the PA to the managing director of the group. An opportunity. Six months later, I was offered a full time position with the house as a PR. Over the course of the next decade I would move to become head of PR and VIP client relations for the company and would sit on the board of Directors as one of only two females. Life was good, or at least turning out a lot better than I could have ever predicted. And I’ll be honest. About 55% of that I put down to “right place, right time.” The rest, I’m sorry to say for those of you here looking for life’s great shortcut, is just down to hard work.
Then in 2009, seven years into my employment in London, I started to get that “upending” feeling again. I was jittery and my creative side was aching. Corporate was all feeling a bit too much like an old suit. So I did what many of the other creatives in the world were doing at the same exact time, I jumped online. I looked for daily inspiration in the blogosphere. Then reading other people’s stuff wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to be the person creating the content and starting the actual conversation. I remember reading a bio on Perez Hilton, at the time, and how he was working from a coffee shop and pushing out content endlessly. His fan base was growing at an unprecedented rate and he was providing a service to the people – gossip. And the people, well, they were absolutely ravenous, devouring every new blogpost as quickly as it was published. I wanted in.
I wrote “Fashion Foie Gras” in my journal at 3:13am on a Saturday night, after an evening that was fueled by a bottle of wine and a cover to cover read of the latest issue of American Vogue. I know it was 3:13, because I, for some reason, thought it was relevant to write the time and date next to the words. I wrote it thinking “fashion faux pas.” Then, after saying it out loud, thought it sounded like Fashion Foie Gras. Yeah, my French accent ain’t the best. But somehow it all made sense and seemed to fit what I wanted to do. It was a play on words, really, for an industry that was known for not eating and an industry that I was going to “force feed fashion news daily.” On Monday, I bought the URL and on Tuesday I had written my first piece of content.
Try not to laugh, but my first blogpost was merely a love letter of sorts to Cindy Crawford. It was a piece on how the supermodel had broken so many barriers in her profession. It was both newsy and personal, but it was a first step into creating content for the purpose of imparting information. I deleted it a week later when I decided what it was I really wanted to tackle – breaking fashion news. It took seven days of writing absolutely horrendous content before I found my stride. This, I believe is a process that can take anyone anywhere from seven days to seven years to master, and it’s never perfect. Six years in, I’m redefining daily what Fashion Foie Gras is meant to be and where it will be going.
Keep in mind, through all of this, I was still working twelve-hour days in central London with a profession I absolutely adored. In fact, my love for my day job only increased the more and more I wrote FFG. At night, I would come home, settle into some comfy clothes, make a cup of tea and turn on my laptop, tucking into emails and news forums to uncover news worthy of publishing. I would put on a different hat, turn into a different person, and I was burning that midnight oil. I was publishing between ten and twenty pieces of content daily, and as most of my content was coming from sources in the USA, the time difference worked perfectly. For three years, if my head hit the pillow before 3am it would be an absolute miracle. Sleep wasn’t an option. Only then, there wasn’t any real financial advantage to what I was doing. It was all about the growth in readership. My numbers skyrocketed in the first six months and I had a reader base I enjoyed feeding daily.
I was a publishing demon and had an appetite that was insatiable. Only, three hours of sleep a night isn’t really sustainable is it? Well, in 2009, there were only a handful of recognized bloggers that were blogging full time. This was never an end goal for me. This was a fun hobby that enabled me to access a creative fire that was burning me alive before I found the appropriate outlet. Work was work and the blog was play. But, these people were an inspiration for what was possible.
For two years things carried on in this fashion. I lost friends in the process, aggravated family members and didn’t take even a single day off from writing. Fashion Foie Gras was the new love of my life (well, that and a most excellent caring and understanding boyfriend…who I still, to this day, owe so much credit for propping me up and supporting me during the madness). Then, in early 2011, things started to change. The world became obsessed with “the blogger.” Brands were starting to use us in major fashion campaigns around the globe. Bloggers were sitting front row at fashion week, major print publications were openly expressing their hatred for the “blaggers” and blog numbers were making even some of the leading magazine titles look paltry in comparison.
Everything changed, and rapidly. In 2012, I found myself submitting my letter of resignation to my managing director at the auction house. I walked out of his office feeling free as a bird and shaking like a leaf.
Now, I find myself sitting across from my best friend in a coffee shop on Portobello Road, typing away on an 11inch portable Macbook. I have no permanent office and I’m lucky if I’m ever in London for longer than seven days. While every day comes with a new set of challenges, there isn’t a moment I’d amend, not a second I’d switch. It’s all lead me to where I sit today – someone who gets to indulge daily in employment that regularly tests my creativity and ability to be adaptable to any situation.