This year, Fashionista turned 10, and we celebrated by looking back at how we started. Now, we're chatting with the people in the industry who were right alongside us forging the path for fashion on the internet in our series, "A Decade in Digital." Today, Garance Doré tells us how she went from aspiring fashion illustrator to becoming the founder of a media property of her own.
It's funny to think of it now, but when Garance Doré first started her blog 11 years ago, there were very few outlets through which an aspiring illustrator could share their work other than waiting for a magazine to give them a lucky break.
"Isn't it crazy?" she says. "I wanted to start blogging because I needed an outlet to share my illustrations. I was kind of frustrated; I thought there must be a better way to progress as an artist and to show my work than just waiting for my illustrations to appear in magazines."
At the time, blogs were still mostly personal diaries. Doré started by sharing her illustrations and occasionally adding in a written element with her take on a trend or a story about an outfit. People quickly connected with her warm, friendly and honest voice — and brands and magazines caught on as well. Soon, Doré was collaborating with fashion lines, sitting front row at fashion shows and selling products from T-shirts to greeting cards emblazoned with her illustrations.
These days, Doré's blog has evolved into Atelier Doré, a website where other women can share their own voices on fashion and lifestyle issues. But always at its core is Doré's warmth and desire to forge a space on the internet where women can connect.
"That's really the goal, is to create a real community," she says. "It's very international, and that's something I never forget; I have so many readers in Japan and in Australia and in Brazil. It's about how to make these people interact together and feel accepted."
Doré hopped on the phone with us all the way from her new home in Los Angeles to tell us what that community means to her and how she plans on evolving that space in the future.
What first interested you about fashion?
My first interest in fashion was really personal; I never thought that any possibility of me ever working in fashion was imaginable. I started my blog as a way to share my story, and of course fashion was part of it. I never thought, "Oh, I'm going to work in fashion." Fashion kind of caught up with me. I created my own job through the blog.
I had no strategy, because it was right at the beginning, and you would never think anything would happen except probably personal satisfaction, so that's the only thing that I was looking for. People seemed to respond well [to my writing] and it encouraged me, and the same with my illustrations.
I do think at the time that something was missing that I couldn't find in magazines; that very personal tone of voice, of sharing things from real life, of sharing a love for fashion that was real. I was about talking about how much I love luxury, but I couldn't afford it. Those kind of things were interesting, and I think were right at that time.
When did you feel like the blog was taking off?
Very, very soon. Three weeks after I opened the blog, a magazine was calling me, and they wanted to write something about me. Very soon people really flocked, and I could see it every day more and more. I didn't even know what I was doing, I didn't even use analytics, I just was counting comments. I was like, "What's happening?" My posts seemed to be touching people really fast and really deep, and I was getting passionate emails and all that. So I felt it right away, and that kept coming, because the more I was getting more passionate about it, the more I was doing, and I felt that interest getting bigger and bigger and bigger, and it didn't stop for years.
Did you ever regret putting yourself out there in such a personal way?
I never did! I always feel like this is who I am. I was talking about it with my sister this morning; I was like, "Wow, when you think about how models were 10 years ago or 15 years ago, it was very private, but even they now have the same way of talking." Now everybody's cultivating their own personal brand, and they're all talking about very private things in public. I've always been like that, and I think that's why I was ahead of the curve. That's something that I had discovered early on in my life, because I grew up very shy. I met my best friend, who was a great, great friend, and I saw that she was very open about things. She would be open about her failures or her flaws or anything she was not comfortable about, and people would open up.
That's something that I started learning when was about 20 and that's something that I put in my blog very naturally, talking about my doubt, talking about not feeling perfect, all these kind of things. So I never, ever felt bad about it. I actually felt really good about it, and I want to keep doing that. And the thing is, I think I've also been pretty good at keeping the right balance and keeping some boundaries. That's what the internet is great at allowing us to do — we make our own rules.
What did it mean to win the CFDA Media Award?
It's huge, because it was still a moment where the fashion industry was still very shy about what we were doing and who we were. Even today, there are still questions — "Should we go online?" or things like that. It started, maybe two years ago, they were like, "Well, there's no choice, there is no going back." But people are still surprised today that print magazines are not doing well and all that, and it has been happening for so long.
It was interesting at that time when Diane Von Furstenberg called me and [told me] we were nominated. I think I didn't realize that it was such an important moment for fashion to be like, "Okay, the change has come. We're embracing it. We're celebrating these people who are shaping our industry; whether we like it or not, it's happening." That's something that I really love and am very proud of, because beginnings will never happen again like that. That's really cool to have been celebrated at that moment.
How has social media changed your job?
It changed about everything, I think. First, interestingly, I think it gave everybody the power to channel and show their image. Honestly, I stopped doing street style at the fashion shows pretty early on because I lost my interest pretty soon, but also at the same time there was a shift that made editors start showing photos of themselves. They didn't need to go through the street style photographers to make their brand or look at themselves.
For me, it changed a lot of things, because I was never one to show myself on my blog in terms of image. I was always about talking about other people. I had text or very intimate writing about myself, but in terms of my image, that's really something that I had to start learning to live with. It was funny, because yesterday I was being photographed for a magazine and I was like, "Wow, I've come such a long way," because I know my best profile, I know I looked good in the photo. Obviously, the press that I've got in the last 10 years really has helped me learn, but also social media. That's something that really changed the game for me.
How did you decide to start adding new voices to the website?
It was obvious to me that if you want to keep going, you have to change. I love change, I love evolving. I'm not too scared of risk. That was very natural to me, because I couldn't keep the pace at which I was going.
How do you choose who writes for the site?
I think what's more important to me than it being my personal voice is that it is a type of vision about life, fashion and style, and I find people that represent that. I've never felt like it should be just me. I feel like it's a place that's open to my friends and women that I admire. I think the question was more: how to introduce that in a smart way, in a way that wouldn't be too distracting for my audience, so that's what we've been doing for a few years.
Do you miss writing or illustrating as often as you used to?
Oh yeah, that's been a big question in the few past years. I think finding balance is something that you have to always put back on the table, because what you want to do changes all the time, and if you want to keep some creative space in your life you have to manage that.
I just moved to LA, and it's a great place to have space and creativity. It's all about setting up my business so I can do both. For a while, it was so much traveling, so much doing business that I couldn't do as much writing, but it's also because I'm inspired by different things. Again, for me, having a good business is a business that can go through changes, and it's open to evolving.
How have you seen the landscape of digital change since you started the blog 11 years ago?
I think it has been a complete revolution, and I feel very lucky that in my lifetime I have seen what it was before; I'm part of the last generation, probably, with millennials, that have seen what life was before internet. I think it's still going, by the way — I think we're not done with all the changes.
How has the site changed your life?
To me, it all comes down to connection; it has changed my life in a way where it has taught me connection with myself and with other people. It has changed my life in a way that I could not ever imagine. One of the most magical things for me was to see how, by doing things that are different and by following through with your ideas, doors just opened. It was not easy in the beginning, because some doors just didn't want to open or it was complicated or because the fashion industry didn't know what to do with our new way of talking about it — how are we going to make money, where could we put advertising, all those questions that brands were asking themselves for years before embracing social media and the web.
It was not easy in the beginning, but I think it taught me so much about being true to yourself. At some point, the magazines started to come see me and were like, "We want you to work with us." For me, it was all about staying true to myself and always remembering that at heart, I'm an artist. It's not so much about turning everything into a business, but it's building a thriving company where I'm happy to live and to work in. That's how it my changed my life: Teaching me to keep steady on my track and not freak out every time something new happens. We can manage it, we can grow with it and we can be a voice that means something to people.
What is your ultimate goal for the site?
What we have built today is amazing, because it brings that sense of connection, that sense of acceptance, that sense of beauty. I think it's something that you can't find anywhere else, and that's why we've kept it that way very consciously — the size of it, the number of posts we post a day — and what we're working towards now is to deepen that connection. We're developing creative retreats, so that the connection with the people that follow us, and the new people that come to follow us every day gets deeper and more inclusive. People often come to me because I inspire them to find their way, so that's something that I really want to be able to help with and for people to connect with.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.