You launched your blog Harper and Harley back in 2008 – what was blogging like back then and how in your opinion, has the market changed? Was an e-commerce platform always part of the plan?
Blogging in 2008 was very much a new developing industry. It hadn’t yet reached the mainstream and you would only come across them if you were particularly interested in fashion. I was 19, and had that real drive and obsession with fashion. I found a few blogs that I loved, but they were all from the US or Europe, and no one was really blogging here in Australia. Over one summer, with lots of spare time on my hands, I started H&H as a way for me to be part of the industry I loved.
E-commerce wasn’t in my sight at that time, it came a year or so later when I moved from Brisbane to Sydney in 2010 and started working in E-comm that I completely fell in love with it. Shopping online was still kind of new and exciting, and working behind the scenes with developers who were building customer journeys really fascinated me.
If you could go back to when you first started blogging, what advice would you give yourself?
I withheld from putting myself forward and taking photos of myself for the first couple of years. If I had done this earlier I’m sure I would have had a faster growth period, but at the same time, I have an appreciation for doing things in your own time and when you’re ready, and I definitely wasn’t ready to put myself out there when I was that young. I was still learning about myself and who I was. There was also a lot of comparisons and competition, not so dissimilar to how some find IG now, and I’m glad I gave myself a little more time to develop a bit of back bone and self identity before going down that route.
How has your brand evolved since 2008 – did you have a strategy in place?
In the first couple of years there was no real strategy as it was a hobby rather than a business and I was just happy to be doing something I loved in between study, internships and my weekend retail work. Then a couple of years later when I moved to Sydney, blogging was becoming something you could actually earn a living off, the pace changed and you had to become strategic about your brand.
I started earning commission off affiliate links and then ended up on a blogging network that would negotiate collaborations and advertising on my behalf. At this point I was able to step away from my full-time work and focus purely on my blog, which I did from 2014.
It was about this time that I needed to work out what set my blog apart if I was going to have any cut through. Landing on a minimalist style was equally a personal choice as it was a strategic one, as no one was doing it at the time and I was able to offer a fresh perspective in the otherwise more is more space.
I took part in a Fashion Bloggers reality show that aired all over the world, and elevated my blog even further, something that was completely out of my comfort zone, but am very thankful for.
And then after all that I came to the conclusion that I needed a long term plan where I didn’t have to rely on using my face or body to earn an income, so looked at my skillset, passion and experience and landed on a future in E-commerce.
What do you think the future of digital influencers is?
It’s getting a little hard to tell what’s going to happen to the future of digital influencers, especially those that are doing it as a full time career, and how we fit in amongst the media spend of brands.
I don’t know if it will continue to grow as much as we’ve seen it do so in the past. Like any brand, creating trust is really important, and unfortunately not all digital influencers have prioritised this. If you don’t have trust you don’t have conversion, and without conversion and ROI you don’t get the repeat clients.
I’m also looking at it a little differently as I’m no longer in my 20’s, and instead entering a new phase of my life. But the beauty of this business is that your followers are growing with you and they’re also becoming mothers, business owners, home owners or in general just getting older where what’s important to them has also shifted. So it’s important I stay true to what I find inspiring and sharing that through my social space.
Sara wears Albus Lumen dress.
Your style has been described as “elevated minimalism” – have you always dressed this way. How would you describe your approach to fashion?
In my early twenties I definitely didn’t live up to this style mantra, I was still figuring out my personal style and what made me feel my best. When it all fell into place it was such a relief, I was finally able to not overthink what I was wearing each day, and knew that if I stuck to my no colour rule everything would be ok. Some people may think the way I approach fashion isn’t fun or exciting, but I now really appreciate design, fabrications and the detailing of a garment, something that isn’t always taken in when wearing lots of bright colours.
Many women strive to create a capsule wardrobe, but can’t seem to get it right. Where do we go wrong – how can we simplify our wardrobe?
I think putting the pressure on yourself to create a capsule wardrobe of X items that you can wear Y ways and nothing else is almost impossible. Instead look at your wardrobe in two sections, the first, your essentials, and you can literally tick these off a list, and I recommend definitely working on this as you’ll find it easier when you do have certain pieces on hand.
The second section are the fun, elevated pieces, that you might add each season to give freshness to your essentials. When you do have the essentials down pat you’re less likely to buy unnecessary extras, as you’ll find you don’t need anything else day to day, but rather understand it’s a ‘want’ you’re craving.
Getting into the right headspace by knowing your style, what silhouettes and shapes makes you feel your best are key to creating the perfect capsule wardrobe for your individual needs.
What are some of your favourite brands?
I love Australian designers. Christopher Esber, Albus Lumen and Matteau and some of the labels I get really excited to see each season, as I know I’ll fall in love with what they’ve designed. They also really get the Australian woman and the lifestyle we lead.
What traits do you think you need to possess to succeed in fashion?
You need to really love it and financial success can’t be your goal posts. You need to understand the connection between style and self confidence, be willing to learn, adapt and get your hands dirty. Fashion is an all hands in kind of industry, not matter your job title.
Being kind will also take you places. It’s an incredibly small industry and everyone talks, so make sure your reputation is reflecting your values.