DALLAS, United States — It’s been 13 years since blogger Tina Craig launched “Bag Snob,” an outlet for her handbag passion that has made her one of the fashion blogosphere's early superstars. Now, Craig is launching a global talent management agency.
Her partners in the endeavour include fashion publicist Suzanne Droese and Lynsey Eaton, a former attorney and co-founder of Tomboy KC, a fashion and lifestyle website. “I never thought I would launch an agency. But the idea of managing talent made so much sense to me,” says Craig, who initially set out to hire “someone in-house to manage me,” after stepping away from Digital Brand Architects (DBA), a talent agency that represents bloggers.
But Droese and Eaton had bigger ideas. Why not take years of industry experience and use it to nurture more people like her? “Tina was one of the original influencers to be accepted in the fashion industry and be invited to shows,” says Droese. “Lynsey has been involved in the industry as an attorney. And I have a PR firm where I’ve had to work with hiring influencers. We’re all coming with a different perspective.”
Craig believes that Estate Five — the name is inspired by the “Fifth Estate,” a term associated with non-mainstream media outlets — will be a jumping off point for the next generation of online talent. Much of her desire to build a boutique agency is rooted in the frustration that, as a smaller blogger, one can easily be lost in a roster of names represented by a large agency. “When I started out, I had no role model to follow. There was no business plan to look at. Thirteen years ago, I was winging it — and I still am — because I’m constantly thinking: what do I do next?” she says.
The Dallas-based company has already signed up 14 influencers, including Diet Prada, the no-mercy Instagram account known for calling out perceived injustices in the fashion industry. “When we started this agency, we were looking at what kind of voices were out there and who had a unique point of view. Diet Prada was the first account that three of us agreed on,” says Craig, who will be focused on finding talent rather than the day-to-day management of the company.
We’re not out to have a roster of girls, who all look the same and are doing the same thing.
Craig had already been speaking with the operators of the anonymous account through Instagram messaging. “When Suzanne and I were in New York, we met up with them and they’re not what you would think. We enjoyed how intelligent and experienced they were…because of their many years in fashion, working for big houses.” Joining Diet Prada is Ashley Robertson, one of the top producers on RewardStyle, a content monetisation platform; Kathleen Barnes of Carrie Bradshaw Lied; and Matthew Zorpas of The Gentleman Blogger.
For the founders, it was important to be inclusive in an industry that has been frequently accused of failing to feature anything close to body and/or racial diversity. “It’s never been our intention to have what I would call a puppy mill of talent. We’re not out to have a roster of girls, who all look the same and are doing the same thing,” says Droese. “We’re looking for people who have a different point of view.”
Representation by Estate Five is currently by invitation only, as the firm requires a rigorous application and screening process. “One of the particular things we look for is making sure that an influencer’s followers are not purchased,” explains Droese, citing a recent New York Times exposé on celebrities, executives and social media influencers, who purchase fake followers in order to sell their posts.
Moreover, when measuring an influencer’s marketing appeal, engagement trumps follower-count. “You can have a micro-influencer who is so highly engaged with their audience that they have conversions of 3.5 percent, which is very high,” says Eaton. “But we are also looking for people who are a pleasure to work with and will not be divas when they show up on set,” adds Droese.
As for which up-and-coming young influencers (“We say blog years are like dog years. If you look at all the new talent, everyone is 25,” laughs Craig) might fit that bill, the agency is cagey. “We’re not telling you,” says Craig. “Otherwise other agencies are going to get them!”