Sometimes, the path to becoming a successful blogger, with thousands of readers and Instagram followers, starts out as a lonely one. Case in point? Mel Hwang, an It Girl who became a model at age 14 after being scouted in her native Toronto. Though the experience allowed her a sneak peek behind the industry scenes and solidified her love of fashion (she spent hours studying poses and poring over magazines), it also made navigating the social hierarchy of high school pretty tricky. When close friends proved hard to come by, Hwang turned to the internet — launching her first blog, World of Four, as a way to connect with kindred spirits all over the world.
Fast-forward to today: The now 25-year-old behind Mel Inspired is blogging full-time after finishing a political-science degree at York University and working in digital advertising. As a proud Canadian, she’s all about bringing a unique style to the streets of her country (no matter how icy and cold they get!) including super-chic designer clothing and accessories, which can be found in no short supply at the Queen and Yonge Saks Fifth Avenue flagship. “Toronto is home base, and I can’t imagine ever leaving the city,” she says. “I love that we have very strong cultural pockets, but we’re not exclusive.” Here, she lets us in on her favorite sartorial tips, personal style evolution, and how Canadian women are pushing the fashion conversation forward, thanks to the newest collection from Saks.
You’re a seasoned blogger with a serious following. Tell us, how did you get started?
"I launched my first blog when I was 15. It was called World of Four and showcased all of the things that I loved about fashion. I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, my social life was all over the place, and I was getting bullied like many teenagers do. Going online and making friends all over the world through the blog was great. During university, I had to focus on my studies, so it was on and off. Close to four years ago, I decided to relaunch as Mel Inspired — a more personal brand where I could share my stories. I think of my audience as my friends."
Why did you decide to revisit blogging?
"I had been working in the digital advertising space since finishing school; I only left about two months ago to do the blog full-time. I figured, life is too short. My boyfriend was my single biggest supporter. He does all of the production, as well as shooting my photos and videos. We met because we were both promoters for the same nightclub. We’ve been together for the past six years."
How would you define your style philosophy?
"What inspires me on any given day is how I dress. I like to find little symbols behind what I wear. I like a neutral palette and what I’d call a trendy-sophisticated look. I believe in investment pieces. There’s an art behind fashion whether it’s fast fashion or the new designer bag I’m picking up. Essentially, you’re wearing art on your body. Any piece I buy has to mean something. It has to trigger some kind of inspiration."
Speaking of inspiration, which blogs and Instagram feeds do you like to follow?
"90% of what I love to do on Instagram and the internet is find new people to discover. That being said, some of my biggest inspirations are actually friends and people I know personally: Victoria Hui, Jodi Blk, Lauren McPhillips, Ania Boniecka, and Jill Lansky. They all happen to be Canadians, too. I also love travel content; a Canadian couple who is absolutely killing it and constantly inspiring me is Sam Kolder and Arianna Hicks."
Your closet must be a fun place to get lost...
"I find it very difficult to purge. I have a story behind every piece that I buy, so I don’t want to throw away that story, even if it’s a fast-fashion piece. As a result, I have an entire bedroom in my new house that’s a dedicated custom closet. Recently, I’ve been willing to take more risks with my looks. Blogging has really inspired me to show the world that it’s okay to be different."
Are there any trends you’re especially loving right now?
"I like structural pieces and really clean lines. Well-tailored shoulders that give a boxy look are great. A strong feminine look is very close to my heart. Also, I’m a huge vintage lover. I just got back from Tokyo and their vintage shopping is just crazy. I love pieces that have a history."
Do you have favorite hacks when you’re in a hurry to get dressed?
"The first thing I do is pull a well-fitted base piece. My biggest trick to making an outfit look chic is draping a favorite blazer over my shoulders like a cape. You can be wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt, but if you throw on a well-fitted black blazer and sneakers, you’ll always look like you’re going to fashion week."
Given the cold weather, Canadians have to be especially skilled at layering. How do you think that informs the way women in Toronto dress?
"We’re forced to be experts. It’s easy for Canadians to feel like six months out of the year we can’t be fashionable because we’re in parkas. And there’s some level of truth to that, but there’s also definitely an opportunity to drape and layer and have fun with coats, chunky knits, and big fluffy scarves."