“I would say I have a very healthy relationship with my phone and social media. I have no issue not uploading or being on the app for a few days or even a week. It’s not real life, and I’m increasingly concerned that I’m going to look back and wish this time again, to be present in the moment, not staring into a screen. So I make it a priority to get off my phone as much as possible,” explains Sara Crampton, the founder of blog Harper and Harley and e-commerce fashion store The Undone...
Given she started blogging in 2008, it’s refreshing to hear that even someone whose career began with social media can have balance. When Crampton first created her blog, she was just 19. Over time, she honed her minimalistic style – she never wears colour, instead favouring beautiful cuts and fabrics – and also inspired others to do the same. Her less is more approach also spurred an idea in her: the launch of her e-commerce fashion business The Undone, “an online destination for the effortless minimalist.”
Jump online and you’ll discover it’s the dream place to shop for busy mothers who need a basic, but refined uniform. And speaking of mothers, Crampton is about to become one herself. She’s pregnant with her first child, a baby boy. Ahead of his arrival, we visited her chic office to find out more about her growing business and family.
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.
And what traits can hold you back?
Not being willing to partake in the everyday tasks won’t get you very far.
A lot of influencers – Garance Dore for example – admit to being shy, despite being in front of the camera. Are you introverted or extroverted?
I’m with Garance on this one, and have learnt to put myself out there over the last decade of being in front of the camera. I’m thankful it has given me this self growth, but it’s also nice to be behind the scenes and It’s important to me to keep my private life out of social media and understand my personal boundaries when it comes to how much I share.
In 2016, you launched The UNDONE, an online shopping destination for the effortless minimalist. Tell us about why The UNDONE is unique in the market – what was your ambition when you launched?
As someone who doesn’t wear bright colours and has found their confidence through a personal style of classics and neutrals, I realised that there were others that also shops this way, yet there was no retailer that exclusively offered it.
Realising this along with having experience and a real passion in e-commerce, I wanted to fill this gap. The UNDONE offers a place to shop that is edited and thoughtful, where each piece is carefully selected and passes the test of being worn for more than just one season.
What have been some challenges of running an e-commerce business?
We buy all our stock, so the biggest challenge is always going to be cashflow. It’s such an investment and you’re constantly trying to keep on top of money coming in versus money going out.
And what has been the most rewarding part?
Seeing customers come back time and time again is a real testament that we’re doing something right. It’s so hard to take the time to sit back and look at your business and see it through someone else’s eyes, but the few times I’ve been able to do this, I’m so proud. I really believe in its concept of buying less and buying well, and know this is only going to become more important to our values.
What role does social media play in your business – how does it impact your business?
With my background being heavily weighted in social media on an influencer perspective, I know how important this channel is to building a community and converting to sales. It’s been a critical component from day one and continues to be a core part of our business. However, with the changing landscape of social media and not being about to guarantee its stability its important to make sure that you have other owned channels covered and working for you.
What are some practical tips around running a business you can share?
Outsource areas where you don’t have the experience but are critical to get right. For example being on top your taxes, employee wages, and setting up your business properly from day one with the right trademarks are all areas that you can’t cut corners on.
What is your life motto and how do you action it in your life?
I have a few depending on the situation that presents itself, but one that helps in a stressed out situation is What can I control? There is absolutely no point worrying about something that is out of your hands, but if you can control something then I try to get on top of it!
What’s something that most people are surprised to learn about you?
I grew up in Brisbane and moved to Sydney when I was 21. I fell in love with both the city and my husband and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
What makes you laugh?
My husband and dogs, I love my boys.
Talk us through your wardrobe – you have access to so many amazing brands. How do you keep your wardrobe edited?
A benefit of being a buyer is that you know what’s coming six months from now. You have six months to think something over and then when it arrives you then know that there are other things coming in 6 months that you also like. Having this constant awareness means that for me I only purchase the items I really love and believe I need.
I’m also increasingly overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ in my home, including my wardrobe, and I don’t enjoy having an overflowing wardrobe. I just want to have a lineup of pieces that make me feel my best, that I can rely on and that mix and match with each other.
How has your style changed/or has it changed since you’ve fallen pregnant?
I’ve worn tighter clothes than I usually wear while pregnant, simply because I’ve found it more flattering to hug the bump than to wear looser options, especially since I like to wear longer lengths. I am however very much looking forward to wearing pants again and having a waist. Definitely took that for granted!
How has your pregnancy been so far – can you share any ups/downs?
I think I have been incredibly fortunate and have had such a smooth run so far, I know it’s not always like this! My little man has been very kind to me, and I’m just hoping he’s going to be just as chill when he’s here with us. Here’s hoping!
Have you always known you’d like to be a mother?
It’s always been something I thought of being and wanting when I got older, but here I am, ‘older’ and it’s all happening. I would say it’s an incredibly surreal experience.
What excites you most about becoming a mother?
I just know I’m going to love him so much. I’m excited to be brought back into the here and now and see the world through the eyes of someone whose never seen it before. Appreciating the little things.
What beauty products are you using?
I use a combination of Estee Lauder, SKII, Dermalogica, Ultra Ceuticals and Drunk Elephant skin care. One thing I am looking forward to post pregnancy is getting back under the light with some Omnilux and adding some more actives to combat my pigmentation.
What about cravings – have you had any?
I actually haven’t had any cravings, the opposite really, where I’m completely indecisive about what I want to eat, which is kind of annoying.