There are endless assumptions about the fashion influencer with the perfectly curated Instagram. Sure, many of them hold true: They do, in fact, snap photos of everything, from quirky outfit details to artfully arranged egg dishes; yes, they clock in more hours a week playing dress-up than you did in the entirety of your tween years; and, believe it, they're literally always on — whether they're at home, out to dinner, or on vacation. But there's a whole lot more to the women behind your favorite social feeds than meets the eye.
Today's sartorial stars, just like the blogger generation before them, are turning their Insta accounts into legit businesses — the kind that are all about the brand. They are choosy about what they say yes to — considering, above all else, what will resonate with and inspire their followers — and make a conscious effort to never bite off more than they can chew (knowing that when you overcommit yourself, your productivity and authenticity can take a hit). The truth is, in such a saturated space, style isn't enough to set you apart. You have to be driven, innately creative, and smart about how you use every minute of every day, too.
To celebrate this new wave of women successfully blending fashion and business, we tapped a trio on the rise across various time zones — Londoner Monica Ainley, a journalist and creative consultant; Reese Blutstein, the Atlanta-based 21-year-old behind Double3xposure; and Jiawa Liu, a lawyer turned content creator living in Sydney — to share a glimpse into the inner workings of their everyday lives. Donning Gucci's latest array of watches (which are polished, practical, and yet every bit as whimsical as you'd expect from the label), they reveal how they juggle the demands of their 24-hour, seven-days-a-week jobs and make it look truly effortless, plus the secrets to their impeccable personal styles, just below.
When Monica Ainley isn't writing for established publications or consulting for brands, she's hard at work on her podcast, Fashion: No Filter — an accessible and unique BTS look at the industry and how it operates — with her good friend and business partner, Camille Charrière. Featuring guests such as Leandra Medine and Susan Sarandon, topics run the gamut from analytical breakdowns on how people actually make money on Instagram to what men really think about fashion.
So take us back in time. What is your first memory of fashion?
"My grandmother worked in fashion for a very long time. She was a model; very smart, sophisticated, and well-read; an incredibly stylish woman. She never pushed fashion on me but certainly influenced my appreciation of it. She would wear an old men's shirt tucked into her slacks and just look so elegant."
You're originally from Toronto but have lived in London for a number of years. In what ways has the city shaped your style?
"Whereas other cities have a perfect uniform, and there isn’t a lot of colour, Londoners are so much more brave to try things out and mix high and low. It’s all about self-expression here, and because of that, I am much more inclined to incorporate off-kilter elements into my outfits."
How would you describe your signature look?
"There are a lot of nods to menswear — a borrowed-from-the-boys kind of thing — in what I wear. I’ve been quite influenced by the French way of dressing and the irreverence of London. Growing up in the '90s has played a role, too."
What are you typically thinking when you get dressed in the morning?
"I’m thinking about my day, what the vibe is like where I'm going, and how I want to feel. What I wear depends on my mood, almost entirely. I also think about practicality. If I’m going to be running around London all day, being comfortable is key."
On that note, tell us about a typical day in London.
"On an average day in London, I meet up with my partner in business (and crime), Camille, at Electric House, one of our makeshift offices, where we sort out our day and our agenda. We talk about people we’d like to interview for our podcast and plan out next steps. Other days, I shut myself in my apartment and write, or I'll spend the day taking meetings and talking to brands about projects. In the evening, I’ll spend time with friends, maybe at the pub — nothing too fancy. A great night consists of good conversation, a nice glass of wine, and chats with fun, interesting people."
You've got a jam-packed schedule. What’s your secret to balancing it all?
"I make sure I don’t bite off more than I can chew — make promises I can’t keep. That’s really important to me. I’ve learned to really manage the expectations of whomever it is I’m working with. I’ve learned to respect time and be realistic about how many hours there actually are in a day. As simple as that sounds, it’s not actually that easy, but ultimately I feel that it leads to more success because you can focus on one project at a time."
If you had time-travel abilities, where would you go?
"I think the 1920s were a pretty good time. I would have loved to be in Paris with Ernest Hemingway and his crowd."
In just two years, Atlanta-based Reese Blutstein has become one of the most talked about style bloggers in the game. Hell bent on staying true to herself, the 21-year-old's understated (yet still interesting) outfits are ridiculously refreshing — as her more than 150K Instagram followers can attest. With a penchant for mixing designer items with lesser-known brands and secondhand finds, she's carved out a new, very fresh space for herself in the fashion arena.
Is there someone or something that sparked your interest for fashion?
"My nana. She has always been really into fashion. As a little kid, I would spend hours dressing up in her clothes and doing runway shows. I still drool over her old designer pieces, which are in perfect condition. I feel like that's such a good reminder: that in a world of constant consumerism, investing in timeless pieces you love is worth it. They're not only so much better for the environment, but they truly last for generations."
Does living in Atlanta influence your style POV in any way?
"It’s actually inspired me to be different. I guess you could say that I do the opposite of what everyone else here does. In high school, I started to notice everyone was dressed the same, which is why I started thrifting. I wanted to have pieces that other people didn’t have."
Do you have one piece of clothing that you always gravitate towards?
"I always go for pants over everything else. I like to wear dresses and skirts sometimes, but if I’m going somewhere and want to feel my most comfortable, I wear pants. They really make me feel myself."
What convinced you to start blogging?
"I was going to do an Instagram with my twin sister, but she decided to move away to school. When she left, I started to take photos in my mirror. People started to follow me and wanted details about my outfits and to see more shots, so I figured I'd start a blog. It’s been a great tool for connecting with people, and it feels so much more personal than Instagram. On a blog, you can share real stories."
Both your style and content are entirely original. How do you stay true to yourself while trying to grow your brand?
"I don't take on any project or create any content unless it feels 100% genuine — something that I know my followers are going to like and benefit from hearing about."
Take us through a typical day in your life.
"Atlanta doesn't have a huge fashion scene, so if I'm working on a big fashion project, I'm usually traveling. If I'm home, I'll spend my morning answering a lot of emails and walking my dog. In the afternoon, I'll usually work on the blog and take photos of that day's look. I plan my outfits right before I go shoot, which I've always done. A lot of bloggers plan their looks in advance, but the day-of feels more genuine. My boyfriend usually takes my photo — he likes to do it (or at least he pretends he does). At night, I usually hang out with friends and then catch up on more work."
What's the most challenging part of the job?
"It's not a job you can just turn off once you get home at the end of the day. I'm really never not working — I'm always plugged in to some degree, on Instagram, on email, editing and sending photos, doing interviews. Also I'm thinking of content and figuring out outfits that I know will help inspire people. It's a really fun job, and it's a good 'challenge' to have, but sometimes it can be very draining — I'm definitely not complaining though, because I love my life exactly the way it is."
When you're incredibly busy, what's your trick for not getting too overwhelmed?
"I’ve found it best for me to focus on just one thing at a time. I make lists and check things off in order of priority. It really has made time management so much easier."
On the topic of time — fashionably early or fashionably late?
"Oh, always early. I'm an anxious person, so if I know I have to do something or have a work commitment, I make sure I've planned out my day perfectly so that I leave enough time to get ready and get there, with time to spare. I absolutely hate being in a rush."
Earlier this year, photographer and digital influencer Jiawa Liu took a leap of faith and traded in her gig as a government lawyer to focus on her brand (she blogs under the moniker Beige Renegade) full-time. Endlessly jet-setting between editorial shoots, fashion weeks, and other sorts of work-related engagements around the world, while simultaneously creating and publishing content for her own platforms, the self-proclaimed tomboy is one of the most in-demand style sensations in Australia — if not the busiest.
What’s your first fashion memory?
"It was when I was about 7 years old, living in China. I was obsessed with princesses in Japanese anime, so I had this little frilly dress with a puffy skirt that I got to wear on Sundays. The best thing, ever. Of course, growing out of it was devastating."
Tell us about your relationship with Sydney. How does the city influence your aesthetic?
"Sydney gives me a laid-back style identity that I bring with me everywhere I travel. It’s easy and unfussy, thrown together with a pair of sneakers — the kind of look I would wear if I was meeting friends at a café in Bondi or browsing for vintage books in Newtown."
How would you describe your go-to look?
"I am always excited by juxtapositions, so my signature look is comprised of different extremes. Feminine and masculine, sexy and unsexy. It’s a big unflattering sweater with a dainty pair of kitten heels or a feminine dress layered over grungy jeans."
What types of silhouettes do you gravitate towards?
"I’m a tomboy at heart, and I’m always reaching straight for menswear-inspired pieces, like boxy blazers and slouchy pants, or straight menswear, which is often even more cool."
Do you have certain pieces of clothing that can transform your mood?
"I think all clothing transforms your mood on some level. Gucci pieces, for example, are next-level mood boosters. Whether it’s the brand's embellished It bag or a decadently detailed timepiece, somehow just putting it on can give you this energy."
What is a typical day in your life? Talk us through it.
"I’m traveling almost every month, and what I do can be so diverse, so no one day is the same. Take the days leading up to this shoot, for example. I was in Paris to finish off some work after fashion week. On the Sunday morning, my assistant came in to close off last-minute admin. In the afternoon, we shot an editorial for a major magazine, which I edited in the evening. Then Monday morning, I hopped on a plane back to Sydney, and here we are."
How do you find the time to balance everything you have going on, especially when you're always on the go?
"We can choose to think of time as either an enemy or a friend. I am of the latter school of thought. I feel the best strategy is to be realistic about how much time you really have and how long things really take to do. Therefore, I always start my day with a solid planning session. And when there's just too much to do, it's not time that we need to find but efficiencies and resources. So when I look at my watch, it's to understand time better, not to lament the lack of it."
Do you ever wish you could travel back in time?
"I really don't. I think I’m too in love with the present."