Wanna be on top? You might want to take notes from OG style blogger Aimee Song aka Song of Style, who has a killer fashion sense and is THE girl boss when it comes to the business of selling your personal brand.
If we told you 10 years ago that one day, posting photos of what you’re wearing on a day-to-day basis on the Internet is a legit career, you would have scoffed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. But yet here we are, with big name brands willing to drop four to five-figure sums for a sponsored Instagram post from top tier influencers who are, irrefutably, celebrities in their own right.
Case in point: Aimee Song – also known to her followers as Song of Style – who recently inked a deal with cosmetics brand Laura Mercier, making her the first-ever influencer to be named a brand ambassador for the company. Although the figures were never revealed, it’s widely-rumoured to be one of the biggest deals ever done between a brand and a blogger (we hear it amounts to more than $500,000).
What’s even more surprising, is it seems like Aimee herself can’t believe her own success, either.
“Yesterday, I was on the panel of the Galboss Symposium with these two other really inspiring women. When I was listening to them talk, I found myself thinking, ‘Wow these women are so amazing’ and I can’t believe I’m doing this conference with them as a peer,” she confesses to CLEO over the phone, the morning after the conclusion of the Galboss Asia 2016 Symposium at Grand Hyatt Singapore.
But the figures don’t lie. With 3.7 million Instagram followers (and counting), five-figure views on each of her YouTube videos, and four million page views each month on SongofStyle.com, it’s little wonder that brands are clamouring to work with the 29-year-old. At this point, she’s proven that she’s so much more than just a pretty face – she’s a social media force to be reckoned with, as evident from the hordes of girls who worship her style and try their best to emulate her looks. Besides, you’d be a fool to underestimate a woman who can build an empire out of her OOTDs alone.
“It’s not about the money. I don’t need to do this work, I’m happy and content with where I’m at. I’ll say no to a lot of opportunities – even if the money sounds really good – if it doesn’t feel genuine or organic.”
Doing it with style
For the uninitiated, Aimee started blogging back in 2008, when she was a college freshman pursuing her degree in interior design and architecture in San Francisco. After an outfit – a patterned top from Forever 21 worn as a belted dress with Steve Madden ankle boots – she wore to an interview at a design firm landed her the job, she blogged about it on her website and gained a steady following from the fashion community. When Instagram became the app du jour for millennials, Aimee Song gained more recognition among the mainstream audience and parlayed it into a full-fledged business. Think brand collaborations, a jewellery line, a line of tees and sweatshirts with her younger sister Dani, and a permanent seat in the front row of Fashion Week shows.
So if there’s one piece of advice that 2016-Aimee would give to 2008-Aimee, what would it be?
“Learn how to do everything yourself,” she says after some thought. “When I first started blogging, I was in a relationship and I relied heavily on my then-boyfriend to help me with things like coding and designing the website. When we broke up, I felt lost because I didn’t know what to do.”
Looking back at her eight- year career, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to label Aimee a trailblazer – after all, blogging is a relatively new industry and she’s one of the first few who rose to prominence. But you won’t find any shrewd media planning a la Kim Kardashian here. Instead, the Forbes 30 under 30 alum relies on the mantra of doing whatever makes her happy.
“It’s trial and error, it’s not like there’s a textbook on this,” Aimee admits, agreeing that there isn’t really a precedence for her to follow. “When I talk to [my mentor] Diane von Furstenberg, she always says to be the woman you want to be. And I know what kind of woman I want to be, so I just follow those instincts.”
And what is that, exactly? “More than anything, I want to be happy and proud of who I am. So every move I make, I try to reflect that. ‘Am I proud of working with this brand?’ ‘Am I proud of doing this?’ So 10, 20 years from now, when I look back, I don’t want to feel embarrassed because I’ve made regretful choices.”
“I realise that successful people help each other out because you can’t make it on your own. You need a good support system, and you need to empower each other by lending a hand,”
One thing that Aimee constantly points out throughout the interview, is that having an authentic voice is the most important thing when it comes to building a personal brand. And she should know.
“It’s not about the money,” Aimee says in response to a question about her Laura Mercier deal. “I don’t need to do this work, I’m happy and content with where I’m at. I’ll say no to a lot of opportunities – even if the money sounds really good – if it doesn’t feel genuine or organic.” She further adds that this partnership with Laura Mercier happened because she’s been a long-time fan of its products.
“And that’s why I still do my interior design business; because I really love designing and being creative with spaces,” says the Los Angeles native, who in addition to being an influencer, also holds down a day job running her own firm, Song of Style Design.
“For both blogging and interior design, I only take on clients and job opportunities that excite me. I want to wake up happy to go to work every morning, I don’t want to feel dreadful.”
At this point, we’re just going to jump the queue here and say someone should hook Aimee up with a dried mango endorsement deal asap. Noting her love for dried mangoes, our fashion stylist/writer Cheryl Chan made sure to have a few packets of them lying around during our cover shoot. The little gift was met with squeals of excitement from Aimee, who immediately proclaimed that dried mangoes are the best and promptly tore into one. We made her take the remaining packs back to her hotel room.
“My boyfriend hid them! I’m like a pet, he gives me only one pack a day.” Well, it’s probably for the best, seeing that she once went through seven packs of dried mango within a day.
“I don’t know why I love them so much… it’s so chewy and delicious, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I don’t drink, smoke, do drugs or anything bad,” Aimee muses.
You would think that for someone who makes a living off uploading aesthetically- pleasing photos onto Instagram, Aimee would guard her social media strategies as fiercely as Mr Krabs guards his Krabby Patty recipe. But just a few weeks ago, she launched her first book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Titled Capture Your Style, the book lays down the things Aimee does to maintain her Instagram feed, even detailing the apps, filters, and styling tricks she employs to turn her social media account into a business of its own.
‘Isn’t it your trade secret? Aren’t you afraid it’ll be detrimental to your career if everybody can do what you can?’ we asked incredulously.
“I don’t feel threatened,” she explains. “I don’t think anybody can do what I do because we’re all different. You can give 50 kids the exact same pencil and paper but they will all come up with different drawings.”
“The question I get asked the most is: ‘Do you feel threatened?’ or ‘Do you feel competitive because the market is so saturated?’ No, absolutely not, because we’re all different. If I were trying to be somebody else, if I were trying to copy other bloggers and be the next so-and-so, then maybe. That’s why creating your own unique voice and personal brand is so important.”
And really, all Aimee wants to do is help. She jokes that she might not like sharing her food, but when it comes down to the technical know-how and the nitty-gritty of this new media space, she’s all about contributing to that knowledge base and uplifting others in the process.
“I feel like I actually have the authority to write about it because I know the subject really well. With my knowledge, I think it’s important to teach somebody and help them up their game. Anybody can benefit from it, whether you’re a small business owner, a big brand, or a photographer trying to do business,” she explains.
“I realise that successful people help each other out because you can’t make it on your own,” Aimee adds, effectively dispelling misconceptions about the cattiness of the influencer circle. “You need a good support system, and you need to empower each other by lending a hand... even if you’re in the exact same industry, doing the exact same thing.” What wise words to live by.
Work it like Aimee
Because how could we talk to the OOTD queen and not steal some tips from her, right?
1. The background matters.
“I try to find a good background, or at the very least, a simple one.”
2. Light is your best friend.
“I love good lighting, especially natural light.”
3. Shoot from below.
“It’s so that I look tall and lean, haha!”