Kim Gray is an online fashion columnist and stylist who runs a successful fashion oriented blog. The interesting thing about her is that just three years ago Kim didn’t even know what a blog was! We caught up with her to find out how she made the transition to the online realm to engage with a new and evolving audience, to share her insights, tips and anecdotes on fashion and styling.
After assisting at Marie Claire magazine, Kim went freelance in 2004 doing fashion, décor and lifestyle shoots for both magazines and above-the-line campaigns. It was just two to three years ago that she started her blog as a hobby, with the help of her husband. “I realised I had a very niche yet broad topic of conversation, and so my blog was born as an extension of my fashion, décor and lifestyle styling portfolio. I was hooked from day one!” She used her blog to document behind the scenes on shoots, highlighting items that she loved and various things that inspired her and her shoots. Today she has a regular feature, Beauty Feature Friday, where she reviews beauty products – these blog posts feature on www.all4women.co.za while her blog feed is featured on www.womenshealth.co.za. She also has an online shop where she sells items and garments she recommends and has attracted some fantastic advertisers and has a few online projects up her sleeve. Watch this space!
When asked what the online sphere offers that differs from the traditional environment she came from, she believes it offers more of a conversation between consumers and a brand. Engagement is key, with consumers able to question and respond to their favourite brands though mediums like Facebook and Twitter. The benefit of opening these channels of engagement is that the brand is able to create hype through online mediums like Twitter before the traditional print campaign is released. She gave an example of this in the form of Elle magazine, which tweets behind the scene pics of their cover shoots. It’s like an online sneak preview that leaves the audience dying to see what the final product will eventually look like. “In order to survive, most traditional media has to adopt online mediums to engage with a new audience and an evolving one.” She also touched on the fact that these days, most people have mobile phones, so although they may not go out and buy your magazine, there is a lot of information they can access using their phones with Internet capabilities. “The trick is making your work accessible to them through these emerging channels.”
Naturally, making the move online requires a slightly different approach when it comes to engaging with an audience. Kim said that the traditional environment offered very little in this regard - especially when it came to feedback – so she was often never sure if people loved or hated what she had put together. However, the online audience allowed a channel for feedback and customer involvement and engagement. “I think the challenge with online is managing negative feedback and trying to turn it into a positive, or taking the bullet and learning from it.”
When we discussed whether fashion and pop culture was a natural fit with digital, the conversation came back to the fact that fashion industries have to cater for a “global village”. Kim says that a few years back, she would have never realised just how huge online fashion blogs would be and how it would have such an impact on the way fashion is changing. “International fashion blogs like The Satorialst, Face Hunter and Garance Dore have sparked a surge of 100s of other street style blogs, fashionistas and wannabes to share their individual styles and engage with each other on these blogs”.
"The designers in the industry have cottoned on to this trend and now employ top fashion bloggers to sit in the front row at shows, causing magazine editors to literally have to take a back seat. “We are moving in a time when people want news yesterday. Fashionistas want to be the first to have ‘that’ item and so designers and retailers are too embracing the online world, especially in the states”. Kim is a great example of a South African fashion blogger who is always moving in this direction, along with various other SA retailers. Her favourite element about these street-culture fashion blogs, is that there is no Big Brother dictating the fashions – it’s all about individual style. It’s about fellow fashionistas patting each other on the back and saying, “Hey, I think you have style”. To back up her suggestion that fashion and online are a great fit, she also mentioned the case of “The Digital Clutch” – where fashion designer, Vivienne Tam, collaborated with HP to create a clothing-inspired HP notebook which has been termed as a fashion accessory.
As with most online fashion brands, Kim caters to a very niche audience. She describes them as fellows who “have a love for beautiful things”. Her blog allows them to keep in the know without having to sift through too much reading. “I think there are a lot of dreamers out there who use it as an escape on a coffee break as it’s quite light hearted. I’m not a fashion diva and although I love material things, it’s not about the biggest labels, most controversial topics or most expensive items. It’s an appreciation for beauty.”
Although she does inspire her own online audience, Kim also draws inspiration from the likes of the various blogs she follows – we chatted about what it is about their approach that makes them stand out. “In terms of South African blogs, I think Mr Price's blog is great in terms of using a blog to make it work for them. It doesn’t try to push the product on you, but it rather portrays a lifestyle. It’s very fashion forward and it’s evident in their merchandising. The two support each other and that’s why I feel this particular site works so well.”
We asked Kim what advice she would give to those who are just starting out in the fashion industry and who wanted to earn a reputation in this space. She shared a few tips with regards to marketing themselves and their personal brand. “Passion, passion, passion. You have treat your blog like a child and constantly feed and love it for it to grow, especially if you want your readers coming back. There are so many blogs out there now, if your blog goes quiet, your readers will move elsewhere. Then, keep it unique! The best advice I got when starting out in the fashion world was from Jackie Burger, editor of Elle Magazine, ‘No matter what you do, make sure you put your mark on it and have your unique style running through it’.”
To find out more about Kim, you can take a browse through the About Me section on her blog.
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