Nicole Warne is among Australia’s most successful personal style bloggers with her popular fashion and lifestyle blog Gary Pepper Girl. Since launching it in 2009, Warne has worked with brands from high fashion to high street, including Dolce & Gabbana, Lancome, Louis Vuitton, Mango and Westfield. She has a social media audience of more than 2 million, spread across her social media channels and the blog. Warne is also Lavazza’s style consultant for 2014 and the ”official insider” for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia (MBFWA), which kicks off today. Kate Waterhouse caught up with the style icon to chat about the week ahead and life as a blogger.
What does life as a blogger entail?
I think it’s very hard to define bloggers in general because there are different levels of quality. I think the biggest misconception is everyone pigeonholes you to all be the same. People assume that it’s easy, so they assume that you’re just a girl with a camera but I think there’s a very small percentage [of bloggers] in the world that do it full-time and that they treat it like a professional business…. you’re the curator, there’s so much art direction involved. But in saying that there’s different kinds of blogs… it’s hard to just put them all together because it’s like asking someone to define their personality.
How did you first get into blogging?
I launched Gary Pepper as an e-commerce site just through eBay, a really small store that was selling vintage [clothing]. And then I had a fashion blog on the site, and the store evolved from an eBay store into its own self-hosted site. That was my full time job for two years and I had full time staff and I was in a really good position. The blogging phenomenon was just starting in Australia and because I had already been online for two years I had built my social media – including Twitter and Facebook – up since day one. So the blog started out-shadowing the online store and I got to the point where I had to choose.
When did you decide to make it a full time career?
About two years ago I was offered management, which was really great because a lot of bloggers get to the point where you do need help. Then I started doing it full time and I closed the e-commerce site down. Since I’ve had a 100 per cent focus on it, my full-time business now is my blog. And people don’t really understand how it can be a business but it can.
When people ask you how you make a blog profitable, what do you tell them?
It’s hard. I don’t think a lot of girls make enough money to save because of this lifestyle, you invest it straight back into your business like any other small business. Unfortunately our lifestyle involves you having to move around, always be in locations to create this content, and half the time it is self-funded. But in saying that it’s like any other business, I look at it as an investment. But it is hard; a lot of bloggers survive through affiliate links, advertising placement, and product placement. I don’t do that but at the end of the day everyone has to pay their bills. For me I really focus on creative collaborations, and long term [ambassador] partnerships. I find for me it’s more effective, my readers respond really well to it when an alignment that is really genuine and on-brand.
You have been an ambassador for huge international companies did you ever think blogging would open doors to so many other opportunities?
No not in the sense that I would be the face of a campaign. I hid behind my company for so long. But in saying that, I don’t think anyone really expected it to explode the way that it really did. It’s really exciting that brands actually trust your brand enough to collaborate on the level that they do. It’s really inspirational to see normal girls build up something like a blog or social media and then all of a sudden they get to work with luxury brands. It’s sending a message to the next generation that you can do it as well; it just comes down to hard work and knowing exactly what you want to do.
What is your long-term goal?
I really want to build Gary Pepper into an empire so the aesthetic is so strong that if you come to a Gary Pepper café or if you stay in Gary Pepper Hotel you know what it’s going to look like, you know what the atmosphere is going to be like. I’m really focused on dedicating my whole life to building this so when I’m not a personal style blogger and I can’t be in front of the camera then I’ve got a brand that’s got worth within itself that can carry on and hopefully extend into my children. I always think really long term so that’s my plan.
What does MBFWA entail for you?
My role at fashion week is different this year because it’s the second year that I’m the [MBFWA] “official insider”. It’s a very busy schedule so I’m conducting a lot of interviews for the live stream, everyone from editors, celebrities, designers, makeup artists, hair artists, photographers, just creating that behind-the-scenes access to fashion week which is what everyone wants to see. I’ll also be working with Lavazza where I’ll be interviewing the best Aussie designers about their latest collections.
Have you seen a shift in bloggers taking prominence at fashion week?
I have. To be honest, I do think the [bloggers] that have those front-row seats, they have really earned them. You’re there [in the front row] because you’re providing exposure for the designers and you’re there to support them. That’s why everyone’s there: to support Australian fashion and the designers. So I do hate that there’s always a spotlight on bloggers versus the other people in the front row.
What shows are you most looking forward to seeing this week?
Dion Lee, Toni Maticevski and Michael Lo Sordo.
WE WENT TO Reuben Hills, Surry Hills
WE ATE a selection of sweets.
WE DRANK herbal tea.
NICOLE WORE Roland Mouret top, CH Carolina Herrera, Nicholas Kirkwood boots.
I WORE A Willow dress.