By Amber Lowther and Lucy Stephens
There’s no doubt that fashion blogging is quickly becoming an alternative career aspect for those who dabble into all things fashion, writing, styling and photography. With many bloggers receiving front-row seats at fashion weeks around the world, designer collaborations are on trend. This can be said for London-based Finnish super-blogger, Sandra Hagelstam of 5 INCH AND UP who has collaborated with River Island to produce an exclusive limited edition footwear collection.
River Island has nearly 300 stores internationally including the UK and Ireland. When River Island’s past collaborations feature up-and-coming designers and music sensation Rihanna, it is more than a compliment for Sandra Hagelstam to be the latest talent to collaborate with such a renowned fashion retailer. However, Sandra isn’t new to design, having studied fashion design alongside marketing at the London College of Fashion. Her capsule collection is very true to her style but aligns with the River Island girl, sexy and glam.
Alongside her blog and this fashion-forward shoe collection for River Island, there is no doubt Sandra is becoming a celebrity in her own right. Making money as a blogger has always been seen as a challenge. However, due to the rise of fashion bloggers and the business deals they are able to achieve, it's definitely getting easier for fans to follow in their favourite bloggers' footsteps.
But where does it all start? For Sandra, having an interest in blogs was the stepping stone to creating 5 INCH AND UP.
"I used to read a lot of blogs. I used to love Fashion Toast, Sea of Shoes and Karla’s Closet. I’ve always been obsessed with heels; I’m always in heels," she says.
"I was looking at my shoe closet one day and I thought, ‘I have all of those ‘it’ shoes that these girls are wearing. I need to give these shoes some attention!’ I just loved the idea of having a visual diary; it was very much what I wanted to do. I’ve never been much of a writer but working with pictures felt very natural to me."
And so, with enough heels for a dedicated 'shoedrobe', and the same shoes as the bloggers she looked up to, 5 INCH AND UP was born.
Sandra's popularity grew due to her unique styling and great taste in shoes, and says she is influenced by a range of mediums.
"I do a lot of browsing online, obviously I’m a big blog reader myself," she says.
"Pinterest is a great platform to be able to pin stuff together and have your own little mood board. But I still read a lot of print magazines and I’m very influenced by street style. It’s all about contrasts and creating an interesting silhouette."
A collaboration such as Sandra's with River Island is a blogger's dream. However, the glamorous facade isn't all it seems. Blogging is an around-the-clock job. Many hours are spent writing, editing and engaging with readers alongside managing relationships with brands and designers. For Sandra, most of her time leading up to the launch has been spent creating a shoe collection and collaboration she is proud of.
"I was given free hands to do anything I wanted which was incredible going into such a new project," she says about the shoe collection.
"I wasn’t sure how we were really going to go forward, so I just started submitting some sketches thinking ‘how much am I allowed to do? How many compromises are we going to have to make?’ and I was pleasantly surprised to find I hardly had to make any compromises. I originally had 12 styles and I was like, “let’s do all of them!” [LAUGHS] and now we have six, but it’s a good narrowed down collection I think."
Sandra prefers to focus on what she's good at and says to aspiring bloggers to find what your edge is and put your time into that. Whether you're good at styling, photography or writing, you are able to create your own blog and see where it takes you. Sandra emphasises on not being shy, feeling confident to contacting brands and ensuring you're visible to them and being focused.
" I’d say find what your edge is then put all of your time into that. Are you good at writing, are you good at styling, maybe photography? Also don’t be shy. My collaboration with River Island started with me going up to a girl and saying, “I want your boots!” so feel free to contact brands and be visible to them. It can start out with something very small and you can end up having a collection, so be focused."
There are six pairs of shoes as part of her collaboration with River Island, including thigh-high boots and pony skin mules, and Sandra's fave - the black 5 Inch and Up Cut Out Court shoes. It seems the sky's the limit for Sandra, and 5 Inch and Up.
Shop the collection here.