Lunch with Nadia Fairfax, (left) Sara Donaldson and Zanita Whittington at Woollahra’s Hotel Centennial, Photo: Mimi Liu
Bloggers Zanita Whittington, Sara Donaldson and Nadia Fairfax are carving out a career in blogging and rank among the most influential online voices in Australian fashion, with a combined reach of over a million followers across their social-media platforms. They are also my co-stars in the coming season of reality TV show Fashion Bloggers, which goes behind the scenes of their lives. I caught up with the girls to chat about the life as a super blogger, the hurdles they have faced in the industry and starring in their own reality show.
Tell me a day in the life of you?
Zanita: I usually struggle to get out of bed – but always set my alarm around 6.30am. I spend about an hour on social media and emails in the morning and then I’ll probably dress up in my gym gear and mean to do some exercise but really just try to touch my toes for two minutes and get some coffee. From there I’ll start working on posts and major correspondence. If I’m not working from home I’ll be out shooting on working on projects and If I’m not doing that, I’m likely on a plane.
Sara: It usually starts with answering emails and posting the first social media post of the day. Every day is different but mostly it’s spent in front of the computer, otherwise it’s on the phone with my managers, attending meeting with PR’s and brands and coordinating my content.
How did you get into a blogging?
Sara: I started Harper and Harley over six years ago while I was completing my marketing degree up in Brisbane where I grew up. I knew I wanted to work in fashion but had no idea how to go about it, so the blog was a pure hobby and blogging wasn’t what it is now.
When did you realise you could make blogging a career?
Sara: I had a few years behind me when the industry changed and blogging in itself had developed into its own industry and brands were looking to work with bloggers to tap into their audience. Because I was once of the few fashion bloggers that had been around for some time I had gained the followers that these brands wanted to speak to.
Nadia: Before I even started my blog! I was lucky enough to have a growing social media following before Fairfax Journal began.I was being approached to work with brands on a regular basis. It was a very organic process. Having a blog was the only next step.
What is the best part about what you do?
Zanita: The best part about what I do is really just being the master of my own destiny. My blogging career has been a slow burn, building up from a hobby and I never became fully aware of how great it is to have you’re own business until more recently. You get to reap the whole rewards of your own hard work.
Sara: The best part is that I’m able to run my own business and have the freedom that comes with that. It really is quite remarkable that this industry has evolved and young women have the ability to be their own bosses.
What is the worst?
Zanita: Personally the absolute worst thing is when you hear about the distain that’s held for fashion bloggers within the industry, particular when it’s like ‘X’ brand or magazine won’t work with bloggers. We all got into this business because of how much we love fashion and this industry, it’s a bit of a stab to get that kind of feedback.
Sara: The worst part is that you can never switch off. There is always something to upload or post. Say goodbye to weekends, evenings and no holiday goes by without posting.
Nadia: Our world is filled with social media platforms so there will always be some negativity and a couple of trolls. I unfortunately get a little criticism about my size, I am very petite (and proud!) so is my mother and my mothers mother. It’s unfortunate that there is a stigma that comes with working in the fashion industry – that all l girls are starving themselves to look a certain way. There are also a lot of girls / women who are just genetically thin who are made to feel like they need curves like Kim Kardashion to feel attractive. Body shaming works both ways, people need to be aware that it is extremely rude to write “Eat a steak” on ones social media platforms, especially when it was what I ate for lunch today – With a side of fries!
So many people are bloggers today, what do you think is the secret to your success?
Zanita: It’s tough for me to share the method to my success because it was really just about feeling it out. You need to be both genuine and original.
Sara: Being consistent is key. Not just with the quantity of posts but the quality as well. you need both, not one or the other.
Nadia: Not being afraid. I am not adhering to any pre-conceptions about blogging, or following the “norm” in our industry. I make my own rules! I feel a lot of aspiring bloggers are mimicking some of the big names. Find your own aesthetic, there is a giant gap in the market for emerging bloggers, someone step up to the plate please!
Being such a successful blogger, what is the most exciting opportunity it has opened up for you?
Zanita: Two things, being part of Fashion Bloggers and being on the cover of Conde Nast’s Lucky Magazine alongside Nicole Warne and Chiara Ferragni.
Sara: Being on a reality TV show that is viewed in over 100 countries around the world is hard to beat to be quite honest. However, being about to design my own range of shoes with Tony Bianco last year was quite amazing.
Nadia: Why thank you Kate, Most certainly being invited to join the Fashion Bloggers team, being able to share our story with people all over the world is wild! The show is aired in over 100 countries now! I am also the Australian Fashion Ambassador for Samsung, I am very fortunate to work with one of the worlds largest and best technology brands, what we do is highly focused around technology and its very special to “be in bed” with the best. I have creative input on the projects we work on together and the content we create, It’s quite surreal.
What is the biggest misconception about what you do?
Zanita: That we’re in it for free stuff!
Sara: I think the media and peers in general find fashion bloggers an easy target because we’re mostly young women, and the notion of being sent product and flown around the world and be paid for it is actually quite hard to digest, even I think it’s incredible. What they don’t see though is the work that goes into creating a brand that is able to generate the following to be considered influential. At the end of the day bloggers have something brands want, and thats why they work with them.
If you hadn’t gone into a career in fashion, what would you be doing?
Zanita: Probably a personal trainer or nutritionist, its a pretty common segue for former models.
Sara: My family owns and runs a kitchenware wholesaling business, so there is a high chance I would be selling spatulas and apple peelers if I wasn’t as determined to be in fashion.
Nadia: This one is easy! I’d be an Olympic gymnast or a Sports Journalist. I was an elite athlete at the Australian institute of sport for many years and my father was a wallaby. Although sport isn’t present on my blog, it is still such a big part of my life. GO the TAHS!
What has been your biggest pinch-me moment?
Zanita: Being flown to Paris to be part of the Lucky Magazine cover shoot… I may have ugly cried with excitement and happiness. It was beyond surreal.
Sara: Every time someone comes up to me and says they follow my blog I honestly am blown away. It’s a very strange situation to have online relationships with hundreds of thousands of people but see them as a number. It’s when they break that down and I can put a face to them that it all becomes real.
Nadia: When my wonderful parents realised that blogging was an actual career![laughs]. I think they thought I had just been taking selfies in bed for the last year! I love that the generation above us have started to use Instagram and follow blogs etc, it’s fantastic! I think it is always a “pinch yourself” moment when you have been found credible by those ahead of you.
You have readers all around the world, where is the strangers place you have been recognised?
Zanita: It’s always bizarre being recognised in another city outside of Australia… strangely enough it happens for me alot more in New York than it does in Sydney! Maybe its because Americans are more forward about approaching you.
Sara: I was crossing the street in London and had some girls come say hi. That was really nice. But also when I’m in my neighbourhood doing my normal non Harper and Harley stuff like picking up some fish and chips for dinner and get recognised I get taken aback. I’ve learnt that you should always make an effort… just in case!
Did you ever think when you first started your blog, you would be starring in a TV show?
Zanita: When I was seven years old, I decide my three options for career were model, actress or singer. I feel like I ended up in some kind of middle ground. Can’t say I would have predicted this when I started my blog!
Sara: If I could tell my 19 year old self that this was going to happen I’m not sure I would have gone ahead with it!
Nadia: Never in a million years, but in saying that I never been one to shy away the lens of a camera. It’s no surprise to me that I have moved in this direction. I am thoroughly enjoying the process of making the show and feel strongly about the messages we are conveying to the world. GIRL POWER!
Have you enjoyed being on the show?
Zanita: Enormously – I had no idea what being part of it was going to be like but between the other girls in the cast and the production team, we are like a little family.
What is it like to watch yourself on TV?
Zanita: Half the time it’s really fun and half the time I hate it with a passion. With my blog and even my youtube channel, I can filter anything about myself that makes me uncomfortable, but with the show I have no control over that. Even some of my mannerisms make me cringe.
Sara: Watching yourself on TV is the worst part, you pick apart everything you’re doing from the way your face moves, what your hair looks like to the sound of your voice. I just love watching all the other girls. In particular I can’t wait to see Nadia on the show, she is hilarious in person so I hope that she’s really welcomed and loved by the viewers.
Nadia: I only made a few cameo appearances last season and I was left wanting more. I can only imagine I won’t mind it! Gosh, How vain do I sound? It is mostly because we have a very talented production team working behind the scenes and as a cast we are very natural. There is not much to be afraid of.
What should viewers expect to see you do on Fashion Bloggers this season?
Zanita: I can’t even remember. I’ve had the biggest whirlwind few months – all I can say is it’s just pure craziness.
What is the secret to a good Instagram shot?
Zanita: Good editing! It needs to be bright and punchy. You only have a second to make an impression on Instagram so your pictures need to be really striking. No pictures of friends out partying! Those pics never get the likes.
Do you have any tips or tricks for taking a great selfie?
Zanita: Stand in the window, looking into the light. Works everytime.
Sara: It’s all about finding good light, it’s make or break. Face a window is your best bet!
Nadia: Just keep snapping…. The more you take the higher the chance is you’ve captured a great one, and of course, just like your teacher told you about handwriting – Practice makes perfect!
Who is your favourite person to follow on Instagram and why?
Zanita: @snoopybabe – it’s my favourite inst-cat. Instagram is amazing for people with pet envy.
Nadia: Lena Perminova, she is a Russian socialite / model / Mother / theralantropist etc, She has divine style and she is surrounded by many interesting people.
What do you do for fun in your spare time?
Zanita: Spare time? What is this concept?
Nadia: I “Date with Kate” – in real life! I am a very social being, I love to lunch. Sydney is sprawling with incredible eateries and I try my best dine at them all.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Zanita: My dream is to have my own photo studio, so hopefully I’ll have that.
Sara: The great thing about blogging is that your blog and readers grow with you, so If I was still contributing content to Harper and Harley in 10 years time and still enjoying it then I would be quite happy with that.
Nadia: Married with children! Of course continuing working on my site and all things fashion, but creating a family is certainly number one for me.