Natalie Alysa has always dreamed of having her own business. Now, she’s in the process of making her dreams come true.
In 2013, Natalie moved to Toronto to study business marketing at Ryerson University. During university, she started a fashion blog, Pop of Black. She had no idea that blogging and showcasing her style on Instagram would one day become her job. Here, she tells us about her influencer journey, her ever-changing style, and gives us a sneak peek of her new clothing line, STRGRL.
How did you turn blogging and posting on your social media platforms into a career?
It actually happened pretty organically, I didn’t really see it as something that was going to make me money. I honestly loved posting my outfits on social media because I love fashion and it’s just a fun way for me to express myself. Eventually, a brand actually reached out to me and said they would be interested in working with me and would be paying me to post on my feed. It was an “Aha!” kind of moment and I was like, “Oh okay. People would actually pay me to post.” That’s when I started digging deeper into the industry and I really got obsessed with it. I started learning about how I can turn my social media platforms into a business. So it wasn’t until that first brand reached out to me that I realized I can make this my job.
What does the business side of an influencer entail?
It’s a lot to do with connecting with the brand and seeing how you can create content that’s going to help get the brand’s message out there. So the business side of an influencer is how we can use our platforms to spread a message about a new product or a service for the brand. That’s the essence of the job, the brand will hire you and if they have a new product that’s coming out it’s your job to promote that on your page. They’ll essentially pay you to spread the word to your community.
How do you make your content?
I was actually lucky because my boyfriend was willing to take photos of me. I would drag him out and he would consistently take photos for me. But, I ended up finding an assistant who helped me take photos as well. So I get that question a lot, I find that’s a big hurdle that a lot of people face — being consistent. But I always say there are other bloggers who are willing to help so it’s about getting resourceful with it.
What tips would you give to someone who’s struggling to make content?
I would say reach out through Facebook groups, there’s actually a ton of Facebook groups that are meant for bloggers for certain locations. Everyone’s kind of looking for the same thing and need help with photos so I would definitely reach out there. Message people through Facebook or Instagram, people in your area.
Tell me about Her Sway Co, the workshops you used to teach?
I started really with the goal to help other women learn about this space. When I was learning how to make my blog and my Instagram into a business there really wasn’t anywhere to go to for information. There really is not a lot of real tips that you can find on the internet. I also found that not everyone was open to sharing their tips because it was a new industry and everyone was trying to learn along the way. So that’s whats inspired me to create the platform and to create the workshops so I can share my knowledge so other females can also do the same thing.
When did your love for fashion begin?
That came out way more in university. In high school, people kind of knew me as the person that dressed differently. I volunteered at Toronto Fashion Week while I was in university and I helped get the models dressed backstage. I was trying different ways to get into fashion as much as I could because I was going to school for business. I wasn’t really getting the fashion side there. I had to find other ways outside of school to learn about fashion. I never thought that I would be able to have a job in fashion I thought it was going to be a super difficult job to find until I realized this whole social media world existed.
You have such a laid back and effortless style, how long did it take you to know what your style is?
It actually took me a while. Up until the beginning of this year, I was all over the place, but that’s just part of the journey of finding your unique style. If I look back a couple of years ago I was wearing dresses, all sorts of prints and every photo looked different. That’s how I actually felt at the time I really didn’t know. It wasn’t until this year where I got to a point, where I was trying to feel as comfortable as possible. It wasn’t authentic for me to get super dressed up for these shoots because on the weekends what I’m wearing is more laid back. If I had a choice of what I was wearing it was more of a laid back style so it just kind of clicked. Why am I choosing to wear other outfits just for the photo? I need to just be authentic and wear what I normally would wear on a Sunday or a Thursday afternoon. It wasn’t this year until I figured that out. My style is very laid back, comfortable, and very street style-esque. I’ve built my closet as a reflection of what I generally wear. I really focus on minimalism these days I try not to have too much. I felt like it was the perfect time to create my clothing line because I have the vision of what my personal style is, I wanted to create an extension of that. I think any earlier I wouldn’t have known what to create for the clothing line. It was perfect timing because I finally know what my style is.
I noticed some accessories you wear often are sunglasses, a purse, or either Doc Martens or sneakers, why are those your go accessories?
I think it’s just the comfort piece. I genuinely only wear Doc Martens or sneakers even with something dressy. It just makes an outfit look more effortless and comfortable. These days there’s such a blurred line of what you have to wear to go out to dinner. People are making sweatsuits and sneakers fashion these days. A lot of high-end brands are focusing on sneakers and tracksuits which is really cool. I feel like a lot more people want to be comfortable these days. So for me, those are kind of the essential pieces for me, Doc Martens, sneakers, and sunglasses. Everyone asks me about the sunglasses because I wear it in every photo. For me, it’s an effortless item to put on if you don’t want to do your makeup that day. You just want to put your hair up, put sunglasses on and call it a day, anyone can relate to that.
What inspired you to start designing your own clothing line?
That was always the end goal even when I first started posting on my blog. I always had this end goal in mind that I wanted to start my own clothing line. It felt like it was the right time. I finally found out what my unique style is. I felt like it was the right time to share it in my own way with my own streetwear line. It was always the end goal I also feel like I relied too much on Instagram and social media as my only job. So for me, I just wanted to create something that was completely mine something that could grow with me. It’s definitely something I want to be my full career when I look back on this in 10 years.
I’m sure your background helped, what have been some of your struggles when developing a business?
The piece that people don’t talk about much is the financial aspect of it. I’m self-funding everything so that’s definitely been a struggle. You can kind of estimate how much it’s going to cost but when it comes down to it there are lots of things you don’t think of along the way. It’s been a struggle to learn about how the production process works from start to finish. You can’t estimate how long things are going to take the first time. So I’m feeling so much better now because I’ll have a leg up for my second collection. I’m going to know how everything will go in terms of the timeline and how production works. I feel like the first launch is a struggle because you’ve never done it before.
How has the design process been for STRGRL?
I think it’s a misconception that to start your own clothing line you need fashion design experience, that’s not necessarily the case. I’ve been so immersed in clothes the past couple of years I’ve learned so much about fabric and fit because I’m working with so many fashion brands on a monthly basis. They’re sending me clothes to post on my Instagram so along the way I’ve learned so much about what I like and don’t like. That’s kind of been my way of learning on how to design just because I’ve been around so many clothes that I love. So for me pairing my artistic background and knowledge of clothing I’ve been able to design everything. But a tip for anyone who wants to start their own clothing line is that you don’t necessarily need a design background to start.
What have you learned in terms of building your brand?
I definitely have learned the importance of a mood board. Start at the basic level of a mood board and see kind of how overall you want your brand and visuals to look like. The theme or the emotion you want your brand to convey. So the first thing I made before starting the design process is a mood board and attached tons of images from artwork to fashion that inspired me. And that has helped me create the brand identity of STRGRL.
What’s going to be different about the streetwear pieces you’re going to be offering at your shop?
The streetwear space is pretty male-dominated there are lots of male streetwear designers, but not a lot of females that are owning the space — that’s kind of how I started designing the collection. What you’ll see with the first initial pieces is that everything is oversized and does look like more of a male’s fit. I was finding that I was always going to the men’s section to find hoodies and track pants that I liked the fit of. I also found that a lot of my followers felt the same way. I’m always stealing a hoodie from a boyfriend’s closet to see what I actually like the fit of. So that’s what’s going to be different about my streetwear line, is that it’s coming from the intention of a woman but the fits are supposed to be oversized. It’s more of a men’s fit but for women.
What advice would you give someone who’s hesitant to pursue their dreams/goals?
I would say honestly to just start your never going to be 100% ready. One of my favourite quotes is, “Start before your ready.” Even with this clothing line on paper, you could say I wasn’t 100% ready, but you kind of just dive in and learn along the way. Really be patient with yourself, consistency is everything. Even if you’re working on your dreams and passions a little bit day by day for a year you’re going to put yourself ahead so far.
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