Bloggers have gained huge attention in the fashion world – with a few now wielding more influence than glossy magazine editors and even luxury brands. Liberty London Girl, AKA Sasha Wilkins, is one of these. She tells Coutts Woman how she made it big and why she’s still here.
People often think they know Sasha Wilkins better than they do. She’s a style journalist, editor and broadcaster, a public speaker, trends consultant and model – but she’s best known for being Liberty London Girl, the lifestyle blogger who writes about life, love, fashion and food.
Over 8,000 people tune into what she’s thinking, doing or planning every day – that’s upwards of 250,000 people a month just on her blog. Add to that her 42,000 followers on Twitter, a huge Facebook fan base, and then her YouTube channel, Flicker and Tumblr accounts.
The result? At any given moment, you can find out where Sasha Wilkins is in the world and what she’s up to. So it’s little wonder her followers feel they know her well. Yet Wilkins insists there’s more to her than the online eye. “Some people think I sit around in my knickers typing all day!” she laughs, before conceding, “I do write about everything I’m thinking at any given moment but I also choose what I put out there.
“I write a lot about my sister’s Multiple Sclerosis because a blog is a great way to campaign for better rights, and I have written about my parents’ divorce and how it affected me and my family. But I don’t go into massive detail about those things. And I don’t write about dating because no one would ever go on a date with me again! So, possibly, people think they know a lot more about me than they actually do.”
For the majority of people, however, her balance of fashion insight, food recipes, hotel reviews and holiday snaps strike just the right note. They thrive on the variety she offers, the not-quite-knowing what will come next – yet they’re equally certain of one thing - that she’s always 100 per cent honest on every topic.
Wilkins is resolutely upfront in her blog about everything she likes and dislikes, and what will and won’t write about. It’s why she’s not in the pocket of any PR or multi-media conglomerate, which, in this changing world of social media, is a very reassuring thing right now.
“Some people think I sit around in my knickers typing all day! I do write about everything I’m thinking but I also choose what I put out there”
It was the flexibility and autonomy of online writing that initially appealed to Wilkins about the medium. Having started her professional career at CondeNast Traveller, she became one of the first reporters on early online fashion website FashionWireDaily.com in 2001. The digital world also appealed to her personally, however. “I have dyspraxia, so I’ve always looked for ways to organise my life better, and taken advantage of any technological developments.”
Her Liberty London Girl blog started that way. Having moved to the US in 2006 to work as a freelance journalist and stylist, she began writing it anonymously for friends and family to keep up with her Manhattan life. But its readership grew far beyond that from the start. Blogging daily from March 2007, thousands were soon logging on to find out what Liberty London Girl did next.
In 2008, she took a step back from the digital world to launch the Wall Street Journal magazine, but she was back in 2009, and featured in the Sunday Times 100 Best Blogs list within weeks. Yet, even in that short time out, a dramatic change had occurred.
The blogosphere had suddenly gained huge readership figures, and was taken seriously by everyone from newspapers and magazines to media groups and corporate companies. And Liberty London Girl was at the forefront. “People who had read me back in 2007 hadn’t forgotten me, and so all my readers came flooding back in 2009. This gave me a much bigger spring board than many other blogs starting that year.”
To turn her blogging into a full-time career though, she faced a dilemma – revealing her identity. “There was nothing I wanted less and I was very nervous about it. But the blogs that are generally most successful are those that have a personality and a point of view, and which remain personal, because that’s what people want.”
In 2010, Sasha Wilkins came out to the world via a Grazia magazine scoop. What followed has been a ‘rollercoaster’ ride of hard work and realisation of her dreams. Initially giving up her apartment and staying on friends’ couches to save money, she launched LLG Media in late 2010, her umbrella company which is now a fully-functioning commercial business. This includes her blog (which covers its costs only), LLG Consults, which is her digital strategy consultancy, and her profile work managed by Curtis Brown.
The latter has proved particularly lucrative. Wilkins now speaks at a range of top trend and digital conferences worldwide, collaborates with high profile companies on a regular basis, and has even fronted advertising campaigns for designer brands like Hunter boots in AW11 and Diesel in SS12.
In fact, while other blogs have waned in recent years, her profile continues to skyrocket. Part of this is that she’s established. While blogs today must have a niche such as ‘fashion’ or ‘food’ to gain a cult following, Wilkins’ predated that so the same rules don’t apply.
Her success is also down to her integrity. An intelligent, educated journalist in her 30s with a clear point of view, hers is one of very few blogs targeted at similar readers, that is neither money nor motherhood-focused. Instead, it’s full of words, wisdom, humour and well-researched analysis, not ‘27 different pictures of me wearing the contents of my wardrobe’. Which is one reason she was named Red magazine’s Best Blogger of the Year at the 2011 Red Hot Women Awards.
“The blogs that are generally most successful are those that have a personality and a point of view. That’s what people want”
And then there’s the fact that she maintains the whole platform herself. Unlike the vast majority of social media sites today that are funded or run by companies, or blogs dominated by advertising, Wilkins is vigilant about keeping her blog her own. Bar an assistant who helps with admin one day a week, it’s her writing every single post and tweet, and replying to the 2,500 emails from readers each week.
It’s the most intensive part of the job but she also the most rewarding. She loves that readers take the time to engage with her, and she promises the same in return. On her first holiday for years this Christmas, most people would have kicked back and closed down their computer for a few days. Wilkins went into overdrive blogging about where she found brilliant shops in Marrakesh to which bad restaurants people should steer clear from. “I love what I do, so I don’t feel a massive need to take a break from it,” she shrugs.
Gaining this kind of success as a blogger is clearly relentless and exhausting work. It’s also very much dependent on a person’s obsession with the online medium and having a true zest for life. Sasha Wilkins has all this in spades – which is why her readers keep logging on.
Read Liberty London Girl’s latest blog.
By Barbara Walshe