Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — There was a time not long ago when fashion blogs felt like Neverland, a fantasy island of eternal playtime where its stylish citizens never grew up. True enough, one of the first local fashion blogs to ever make its mark was entitled Little Miss Dress Up, ran by two college students who lived in opposite sides of the world.
Little Miss Dress Up was a space shared by friends Rosanna Aranaz and Hanna Choa-Yu who described their blog as a style diary, chronicling the girls’ daily outfits, vintage market finds, and travel exploits long before social media spawned the OOTD era. Today, the girls live relatively normal, non-explosive lives online. Rosanna works for her family’s eponymous bag and accessories label, Aranaz, while Hanna is New York-based as an adviser of the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations.
At the tail-end of the duo’s blogging run came a new wave of local fashion bloggers, whose debuts marked the the start of fashion blogging in the country as a popular and commercial endeavour. Camille Co, Laureen Uy, Kryz Uy, Kim Jones, and David Guison weren’t the first local fashion bloggers, but they are probably the first batch of bloggers who were able to monetize, diversify, and expand their platforms.
Filipino fashion bloggers (or anyone in the world who started out as bloggers) aren’t just bloggers anymore — they’re “digital creatives”, “Youtube stars,” and in their own right, entrepreneurs with legitimate businesses. The term “blogger” in itself is limiting — considering the vast foliage of social media outlets — but the terminology has stuck anyway, especially for this crop of individuals who started their careers in the traditional digital publishing format.
That said — fashion bloggers grow up, too. Below are stories of how these online fashion favorites carved paths beyond their blogs.
Kim Jones is no stranger to reinventions. After originally migrating to the Philippines to test the waters as a host and model, her foray into fashion blogging proved her most worthwhile venture, if only that it catapulted her success faster than if she had taken the oft-taken local entertainment route. Whether intended or not, Kim poised herself for international success and set her sights on building clout and collabs beyond the confines of a Filipino audience. Clocking in almost eight years in the country, she has risen to be, arguably, the most bankable Filipino import in the international fashion blogging scene.
But the perks of being a global streetstyle darling and perhaps the first Philippine fashion blogger to unlock perma-front row status at all the topbill fashion weeks still render Kim, more often than not, a one-woman team. Most people don't know that Kim is both subject and lensman, relying on the power of self-timer to make her shoots come to life. But it’s this stubborn, independent ingenuity that has made Kim so successful in a heartbeat’s rate: she’s never been one to back down on risks, even if she has to do them alone.
Brewing long in her pot of ideas is The Fore, her solo venture into boutique online retail. Launched last May, The Fore is a hub of creative collaboration between Kim and a chosen co-conspirator, their consummate efforts manifesting through limited capsule collections available for purchase for a finite time on the site. Think of it as a design lab and a pop-up shop rolled into one — aimed to, as its name suggests, bring the best of fashion and design to the fore.
“The idea for The Fore was really the by-product of this general fatigue from opening social media platforms and being bombarded with voices. It wasn’t limited to advertising. I wanted one place where I could find something new and interesting, with a backstory. I didn’t want the top 50 handbags of the season. I wanted to find one and I wanted to delve deeper into that one.”
The Fore’s first collaboration is an innovative line of earrings created by Kim and Filipino accessory designer Ken Samudio, who through his own solo work has succeeded to stock his wares on the shelves of international fashion retailers. However, with most of The Fore’s audience coming from outside the Philippines, Kim welcomes her future The Fore partnerships to be with creatives from any part of the globe.
In July, she released a directorial debut of sorts through a short film entitled “Archetype,” a scored montage of Kim running through the vast expanse of a forest in Louis Vuitton garb. While the minute-long film admittedly still projects inwards back to its director-star (she describes “Archetype” as a way to “…satiate an insatiable hunger for knowledge, experience and the unknown … a manifestation of all of the questions about myself that I wanted to ask through a different medium.”), it’s clearly a manifestation of the blogger’s desire to, well, create content other than your typical blogger churn.
But for Kim, The Fore and her fresh creative outlets have been widely informed by her blogging roots, something she gives due credit to. “We can’t dismiss the reason why blogging became so effective in the first place — it gave brands a face, a voice. They were an effective conduit to brands for consumers. It humanized them in a way that hadn’t been done before.”
She adds: “There is so much that I’ve learned from operating in the digital space for eight years that has helped me set up The Fore in its infancy. I look at customer touchpoints and language, and listen to them in a way that’s very personal. It’s a natural progression for me personally and not because it’s the strategy of others in the same industry. The heart of The Fore is built on the idea of highlighting others and giving my audience access to that.”
Laureen Uy, David Guison, and Kryz Uy
If there’s only one thing to note about Laureen Uy and Kryz Uy’s runaway success, it’s that they led the first wave of local fashion bloggers who successfully managed to popularize — whether by will or circumstance — what was back then a purely personal creative outlet. David Guison, armed with a photography degree and sporadic stints as an event photographer, found himself on the flipside when a then-new international retail franchise made him its first menswear ambassador. This group of contemporaries managed to reconfigure their notions of online journaling to make way for your normal internet consumer to appreciate fashion in a way that’s accessible, relatable, personal, and business-wise, commercial.
Ushering the post-Lookbook.nu era by redirecting reader behavior to follow their personal domains instead of aggregated OOTD sites, Laureen, Kryz, and David are disruptors in their own right. And as the shift of mobile internet consumption gave rise to microblogging, this crop of bloggers seemed to eschew regular blog posting in favor of Instagram content production. While their blogs are still up, running and regularly publishing content, Instagram has equally taken a huge chunk of posting priority — sticking to domain-based blogging would be nothing but self-sabotage.
David admits: “When Instagram came into the picture, the platform offered more engagement than 10 of my blog entries combined. Frankly speaking, I did lose interest in blogging and shifted my focus on creating beautiful images for Instagram.” Today's pressure for content creators is often the diversification of their daily churn, and rather than chalk it up to neglect, David’s move to maximize his Instagram presence was a rather smart (necessary, even) move to survive.
Now, Laureen, Kryz, and David have turned into fast-rising YouTube vloggers, who have dared to extend their mode of content creation from shooting stills to moving images. YouTube is the fastest-growing platform for self-published creatives, second in number of users only against Facebook. And with the world spending one billion hours per day watching YouTube content, it’s no surprise that these bloggers — all with their proven panache for new platform adoption, and thus, disruption of their followers’ digital consumption behaviors — would want their share of the pie.
For these bloggers, YouTube is a playspace where their styled Instagram aesthetic can be slightly let go in favor of what Laureen calls their “kalog” selves. In YouTube, these bloggers’ thematic fashion or beauty-related content are interspersed with candid videos of their travels, food challenges, day-in-a-life chronicles, scare dare videos, and lifestyle topics other than clothes or makeup.
But while the long form video platform allows for letting loose, David says filming for the ’tube is considerably harder work. “The best thing about being on YouTube is how it brought back my drive. I had to work extra hard to gain an audience from the YouTube world. Working hard means filming three videos in one day, editing almost every single day, conceptualizing topics or angles and posting at least once a week.”
But what their YouTube videos lack in glossy aesthetic, these fashion bloggers wildly compensate for in authenticity and subject diversity. YouTube allows them to unlock a vast landscape of content, which not only allows for a wider reach in audience (say, the ones that don’t really care about #OOTDs), but also breeds a deeper relationship with their already-established fan base, who now see them peel off the layers often hidden in their fashion-centric platforms.
Kryz, whose six-year run in YouTube makes her the longest-staying in the platform among the three, has recently used her page to let followers in on the various events and activities leading up to her upcoming wedding. Meanwhile, Laureen’s highest rating videos are her non-fashion ones, such as her dancing or Tagalog-speaking challenges with fellow celebrities and her home renovation video, which raked in more than thrice her average number of views.
While a Youtube space opens up wider monetary and commercial streams for these bloggers-cum-vloggers (via the Google AdSense payment scheme and the increasing clamor from brands to hire influencers with YouTube accounts), David shares that it’s the level of fan interaction he finds most exciting. “YouTube fans can be intense. I attended my first ever YouTube Fan Fest this year and it was an entirely different world. I guess when you're a YouTube subscriber, you feel like you personally know the vloggers you watch because they share so much of themselves.”
OG fashion blogger fans can attest to this — we’ve seen Laureen, Kryz, and David grow up right before our very eyes. This time around, we get to see it on video.
Duality has always been Camille Co’s best suit. Originally a fashion designer by trade and a fashion blogger out of curiosity, Camille’s reluctant foray into blogging is captured in her ambivalently-titled domain, Camille Tries to Blog. Today, seven years into her fashion blogging career, Camille has turned her initially circumspect endeavour on its own head, raking in international brand partnerships and enjoying the obvious perks of being the fourth most followed Filipina fashion blogger on Instagram, her almost 500,000 followers leveraging her success.
But what her legions of readers are only momentarily reminded of (and what’s still etched on her website’s About Me page) is that the 30-year-old is, and has always been, a fashion designer. An audible but steady hum running behind Camille’s flourishing blog career is Coexist — her long-time fashion label — where she is commissioned to design mostly evening and bridal wear, some making it into her own feed as she wears these bespoke pieces in the fantastic places she visits all over the world.
That’s why when Camille launched Curio Cavern in June, all this blogger was really doing was fortifying the design roots she never let go of in the first place. Curio Cavern is a collective of modern Danish furniture and South African decor, a business she founded with her sister Charlotte Co, and her boyfriend, Finnish businessman Joni Koro, who has long been in the business of Scandinavian workspace furniture.
Perusing Curio Cavern in its dedicated space at the famed LRI Design Plaza in Makati will tell you about the fashion sensibilities Camille has always shown through her platforms: luxe, chic, and unapologetically modern, as told through the fine assortment of six-figured couches and a rich selection of Scandi design sources featured under the label.
This time though, Camille’s muse is no longer herself. With this furniture business, the blogger-designer’s stakes are higher, as she takes her two-pronged fashion savvy in designing not just dresses but homes, and curating actual living spaces instead of her digital media feed.
Camille states: “Now that I'm in my 30s, I want to push myself even harder and see what else I can do. I'm constantly looking for something more stable and practical to help me prepare for the future, and since I'm an entrepreneur at heart, I'm doing this by turning my passions into businesses.” Indeed, Camille’s done with trying — she’s really making it happen.