NEW YORK, United States – Of all the bloggers who have risen to fashion’s A-list over the past few years, 37-year-old Garance Doré, is perhaps the most versatile. Her editorial offering is a coherent and seamless blend of beautiful illustrations, honest and authentic writing, striking photography and most recently, short narrative videos, which give her audience a view into her daily life.
Born to an Algerian mother and a father of Italian descent, in Corsica, far from the heart of the French fashion industry, Doré — who now lives in New York and last year won the CFDA’s Eugenia Sheppard Media Award, alongside her boyfriend, the renown street style blogger Scott Schuman of “The Sartorialist” — never dreamt of working in fashion.
“There is not a lot of fashion, it’s a very rural society,” Doré says of the rustic island where she grew up. “It took me a while to figure out where I wanted to go. I had all these dreams, but I had no idea that they were possible.”
At first, Doré says she did the responsible thing and found a job. “When I was about 25, I was working in the cinema as an assistant programmer, which was really cool [because] I was choosing the movies and going to Cannes,” she says. “That was my first job, after all these years of not knowing where I was going. I realised I can have a job, I can do it, but I really [wanted] to be an artist.”
So, Doré quit her job and took a creative and entrepreneurial leap.
“I decided to give myself a year and try to be an illustrator. It was my dream job,” she remembers. “At the time, my illustrations were in art publications, but it was totally different. The drawing would take me a week to do, and the problem is when you’re paid to do an illustration for a magazine, it’s $200 per page,” recalls Doré. “I was like ‘[this is] just not going to work!’ So, I told myself I have to be able to work faster. I’m going to do a blog because I need to push myself. I promised myself ‘I’m going to draw one illustration every morning and publish it on my blog.’ That’s how it started.”
But illustrations were only the first step in developing Doré’s blogging skillset. She taught herself HTML and experimented with other forms of content. “The problem is [that] an illustration doesn’t draw you in. It’s beautiful. People want to put them on their walls, but it doesn’t make them comment,” says Doré. “As soon as I started writing, [I received] all this response. It’s such a good way to bond with people to talk about fashion, how you dress, what you do.”
Within a few weeks, French newspaper “L’Express called me and they did a little thing about me in the magazine,” recalls Doré, who, in 2007, moved to Paris to seize the early opportunities her blog was generating.
Doré pondered the idea of taking photographs as well, inspired by Schuman, who she first met in 2008. “I was such a fan of Scott, it was crazy,” says Doré, giggling as she recalls the first-time she met her blogging hero. “I never want to meet the people I admire most because I can’t deal with losing my dream about someone. It was the same with Scott…but he was actually more funny [in person] and we became friends.”
It was Schuman who encouraged Doré to dream bigger for her blog. “I was still very French. I didn’t even acknowledge that I wanted to do something with my blog. Scott would tell me your blog is getting so many comments,” she says. “He was like, ‘What do you imagine for it?’”
“At the time, I had my small camera and I was like I’ll [take] some pictures, so I showed them to Scott,” she says. “Scott told me ‘Your pictures are great, one day you’re going to be a pro, you have it!’ He told me to buy a new camera, so I could go to the next level.”
With each new addition to her blogging repertoire, Doré relied on feedback from her audience to help hone her craft. “What I love is [that when you] put your stuff online, you can see how people react,” she says. “When I taught myself illustration, I suffered a lot because I couldn’t show it to anyone. I’m a writer for Vogue Paris and I love to do it, but apart from a few tweets from people saying they love the column, it’s not the same. I don’t get all that feedback.”
Indeed, perhaps the most important factor in explaining Doré’s success has been the optimism and honesty of a voice that elicits passionate engagement and feedback from readers. “When I [started] my blog I wanted to talk about the stuff that you don’t hear in magazines. I love the idea of having a club. Not something closed. I think a lot of times I surprise people with my frankness and that’s also how I [connect] with people very easily. For me, I think there is nothing you can’t talk about; the moments of shame, hurt. I think this for me is about growing.”
As her skill set and reportoire have grown, so has her international reach. Doré, who has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, declined to reveal traffic figures, though her Alexa ranking suggests a monthly readership numbering in the hundreds of thousands. While her blog was already very popular in France, Doré says her international traffic first took a leap when she started publishing photos, which transcend language barriers, and then again when she began to have her writing translated from French into English, while still retaining her quintessentially French point of view.
To continue on this trajectory, Doré has her sights set on video. Doré has already been experimenting with short videos, often documenting her experiences during fashion week, or interviewing designers like Stella McCartney and Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Kenzo.
“Video is the future of the Internet,” asserts Doré, whose YouTube videos get about 10,000 views each. “Some people say in a few years 90 percent of content will be video, so, it is really something that is worth exploring. My goal is to understand how to make the best possible video. I’ve watched TV all my life, [but] the people who are watching the most videos on the internet are 13-year-olds who are going to be 20 in a few years. [Video is] going to come to its maturity, and they have [totally different] habits. They spend hours looking for things on the Internet to share.”
Last week, Doré debuted a new video series called Trending where she directly addresses the camera for the first time. “When I started my language was still very, very ‘sit down’, like TV. With Trending, I want to break that. I don’t know if it’s good. It’s the first time where I really do it as a blog, talking to the camera, talking about what I saw at fashion week. This is something for me that’s more modern.”
But how does Garance Doré make money?
Though she shares ad-sales resources with Scott Schuman, and has received sponsorship from Net-a-Porter for her video series like Pardon My French, Doré is thinking beyond basic banner ads and sponsorship. “Advertising is changing. It’s really becoming about native content and shooting. We’ve done a lot of collaborations.”
Indeed, Doré’s main source of income comes from “collaborations,” a catch-all phrase for illustration commissions, photo shoots, brand endorsements and everything in between. “A collaboration is anything that I would do with a client,” she explains. “One of the most successful projects I’ve done was the Dior video, where they said ‘do your thing.’ They’d seen Pardon My French and they just wanted me to talk about the Lady Dior. They had an exhibition in Japan and I went to Japan. I decided to use the bag as my travel diary, so I had everybody leave a little note on the bag and we made that whole thing where I met a calligraphist, a manga artist — each time the bag starts white and at the end it’s beautifully decorated.”
So how was Doré compensated? “We charged them a fixed fee, through my agent,” she says.
To manage the increasing flow of collaborations, Ms. Doré is currently building a small team to help her with various elements of the business. She can been seen moving around fashion week with a growing retinue.
One member of the team is focused solely on the business side of things, while the others focus mainly on creative elements. “[One] takes care of the ads, develops ideas with me, sitting down and making creative ideas, works with me on Pardon My French — and I’m growing her expertise,” says Doré. “Another takes care of the fashion side, so shoots for the blogs, spotting new stuff — and writing too. And now I have another person to help [with the] shop,” a small e-commerce boutique selling her prints and illustrations.
As she looks into the future, Doré is philosophical: “I think that we’re just at the beginning of the big shift; it’s very early and, yes, people are still thinking when is it going to end?” she says. “But it’s never going to end, it keeps growing and evolving, and I think that print magazines are going to have a totally different mission in a few years,” she says.
“We’re living in a revolution, we’re lucky, and that doesn’t happen a lot.”
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