Chiara Marandellas, the force behind the fashion and lifestyle blog, Culture with Coco, took some time out this week to talk with me about life as a fashionista and influencer. She sets an example for extremely successful, ambitious, carefree, fashionable, multicultural and international women everywhere. A woman of mixed backgrounds, she has many perspectives to share and the ability to connect with a much larger segment of society than most. She has a fabulous outlook on life and the business – here’s what she has to say about it all:
ZJ: You have an exceptionally unique look, Chiara. Where does your style savvy come from, and where do you get your inspiration?
CM: Thank you for the compliment! Most people don’t believe me when I say this, but I get a lot of style ideas and inspirations through my fellow influencers. I follow a lot of „Fashion Blogs“ and „Instagram Feed“ that I get inspired to try out new fashion styles, make-up, shoes & jewelry. Other great platforms to get inspired by are sites like Lookbook.nu or The Amaze App for which I am an ambassador. The great thing about the digital age is that now we can all shop our favourite looks in seconds which is just amazing.
ZJ: When did you start blogging/ social media, and what was your motivation for getting started?
CM: I got into the world of blogging and vlogging through my personal internet business selling clip in hair extensions. I used my youtube channel to expose my products, and we got people to visit the blog by linking it to the videos to drive traffic to the website. It started out as a business idea which turned into a fun hobby, and now I do it full-time. I noticed people were asking me for a lot of Make-Up, Hair & Fashion looks, so I figured I would focus more on my personal style. I must say I have always been intrigued with the fashion business since the tender age of 12. My dream job was to become a fashion designer and conquer the runway shows. I took a lot of courses to learn how to sew and design but later in my teenage years, I discovered my passion for writing as well. That is why my sister and I decided to merge these two together and create our little fashion blog. Inspired by series like „The City“, we were surprised at how closed off the fashion industry is and how hard it is to get a foot in. Fashion blogs have opened the door for so many new opportunities, modeling, brand campaigns, brand ambassadors, all that would have never come to me the way it did in these last couple of years.
ZJ: What have been your keys to success?
CM: My key to success was persistence. I have put so much work into this blog that I am thankful for sticking to it, even back in the day when I didn’t earn a penny from it. It’s really hard in the beginning since there are so many other blogs which may look more professional than yours, so it can get you to think you’re not good enough, but that is just not true. Stick with who you are and stay your original true self. I have seen many people try to mould themselves into what they thought people wanted to see and in that way they became less authentic and less desirable to their original readership who were there from the very beginning. To be successful at blogging is to know your worth. Do not accept every deal even if it may seem lucrative in the beginning. Brands know how valuable the reach of an influencer is, and you shouldn’t be settling for less than what you deserve (unless it is for charity of course). Some may now ask how they can calculate how much they are worth generally but that’s impossible. Once you do this long enough, you will see a general range, and you can orient yourself on that. You should always stand behind every brand you work with since you are representing them. Never collaborate with a brand you don’t believe in just for money. You could lose loyal fans through this.
ZJ: Who is your primary audience, and what do you think keeps them coming back to your blog?
CM: My primary audience has grown with me during the last couple of years. They are girls and women mainly in an age range from 18-34 from all around the world. They come back for new fashion looks which I post 3-4 times a week. I also travel a lot, so I do have an extra Travel Page showing where I have been and where I plan to go. I think people authentically like my posts because I am not the perfect fashion blogger. I am different and don’t look like a hybrid copy of what a Fashion Blogger should look like if that makes sense. I’m more real, raw and maybe a breath of fresh air. Other than that, you would have to ask my readers.
ZJ: Do you still work with your sister? That must have been so much fun! If not, what made you go off on your own?
CM: I had so many beautiful moments on Fashionpaparazzis.com blogging with my older sister Carissa over three years. We had so many „WOW“ moments working with so many great teams and brands. A highlight was always Fashion Week nationally and internationally which was such an honor to attend. We got retweeted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Stella McCartney, which was amazing news to us. We noticed how much people genuinely enjoyed our blog. Unfortunately, my sister had to move countries to continue her studies, and I noticed how hard it was to coordinate, especially since we both had parallel studies going on. That is when I decided I had more free time to pursue my blogging career and Culture With Coco was born. My sister has supported me along this whole journey, and she still looks over technicalities like SEO since she studied marketing, but she’s happily working in Luxemburg City. She has begun work on a Travel Blog Vivasouth.com which is coming soon, and I am excited to support her with this project.
CM: It’s funny since I started my blog internationally and primarily in English living in Germany. Growing up in Zimbabwe for the first 12 years of my life, English was my mother tongue, and I learnt to speak better German in my teenage years through the move back to Germany in 2002. I never truly pursued writing in German until the past year since I was never confident enough to write in German, to be honest. Now having my boyfriend correct grammatical spellings, I have decided that bilingual is the way for me. I like being a representative for the European Market since a lot of my reach outside of the US is England, France, Scandinavia & Germany.
ZJ: In what way does being a multicultural and international fashionista and blogger help you connect with your fans?
CM: The International welcomed me with open hands when I started my journey. I had a lot of hair tutorials and looks so a lot of women who wear hair extensions and lace wigs would watch my videos and comment on the blog. The American market was interested in my content, but when I started focussing on more topics like fashion, that’s when I started getting more reader- and viewership from Europe and Asia.Being multicultural has given me a platform also to connect with other multicultural girls and women who can identify with me since they have been through the same trials and tribulations regarding race and self-identity.
ZJ: Do you see yourself as a marketer?
CM: I believe everyone is a marketer in today’s world because everyone should be marketing something, at least him-/herself especially with a social channel. I started out having absolutely no plan of marketing to becoming very knowledgeable in this field.
ZJ: Do you see yourself as an “influencer”, and if so, what does that mean to you?
CM: A social influencer has become the new medium of the digital age. An influencer to me is somebody who can take their platform and inspire a whole new generation. People like me have managed to create a voice more valuable than any commercial. Some might think this is a negative thing, but I believe we have created a more trustworthy base which used by the right people, can be treasured for advertisers. For example, I would never buy an item without reading or watching several reviews on it. This was never an option back in the day without the internet. I believe we are an accessible medium with a positive and time efficient cause.
ZJ: Do you market on behalf of brands? Can you share any brands or campaigns you have worked on that you are particularly fond of?
CM: I have worked successfully with so many brands, and this has helped me get new readers and try out some awesome products. My last campaign was with the hair company ghd. They brought out a new collection of hair straighteners, inspired by the tropical Portuguese islands of Azores. The hair straighteners were showcased in the most beautiful Biotope in Potsdam, Germany. I got to meet 15 lovely girls who are active on different social media channels, and we got our hair done while sipping on a cocktail and taking pictures. I have also gotten to work with big brands like Esprit, Zalando, Topshop, Bullboxer, Foodora, NA-KD and so on.
ZJ: Who do you most admire in the world?
CM: I admire my family and of course my boyfriend-turned-photographer. He is responsible for taking great pictures wherever we are. Without him, I couldn’t create these beautiful shots and of course I admire all bloggers out there doing the same thing I am doing. We don’t give enough credit where credit is due. Most of us work so hard and become executive producers, stylists, photo editors, video cutters, marketers, photographers and editors all rolled into one person. That is why I applaud them all.
ZJ: If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about getting into social media and the world of influencing, what would it be? How about fashion blogging?
CM: My advice would always be to do it for the right reasons. I have heard of people getting into this industry because they want free products and fame. It isn’t about having all the followers in the world or getting products sent to you. Sure it is a perk, but you have to be able to create authentic content that will keep people engaged to your blog which is pretty hard. You have to dedicate a lot of time into building a website, getting the know-how on editing photos and of course have a little spare money to pay ongoing fees for hosting and registering the domain. That certainly is the less glamorous side of this business. I always pride myself on creating frequent content. You might get your first readers and be excited, but they want a follow-up, whether it’s a fashion, food or mommy blog. Find a topic you are excited in and don’t be discouraged because of the mass number of bloggers out there. If you stay original and create good posts, who says you can’t be successful? It’s never too late to start.
ZJ: General words of wisdom you live by?
CM: When life gives you every reason to be negative, think of all the reasons to be positive. There’s always someone who has it worse.
ZJ: Favorite quote?
CM: Always dress like you’re going to see your worst enemy.
ZJ: Tell me about a time when you really impacted someone’s life with your social media content. What was the result?
CM: I have inspired people through personal topics like weight loss which was near and dear to my heart. I feel like this topic bonds so many people together, and it is an ongoing battle that we can motivate each other to be the best versions of ourselves.
ZJ: What is your biggest dream in life?
CM: My biggest dream in life is, besides personal health, to live a life without worries and have an apartment by the beach so I can leave my cold big city life to reside there in the winter. Wouldn’t that be just peaceful and lovely?
ZJ: Do you have any upcoming events or announcements you wish to share?
CM: I was a correspondent for the Cannes Film Festival, so I am excited to see my feature soon my blog and youtube. Also coming up soon is Fashion Week, which I am looking forward to attending and showcasing some cool looks. Another fun project I applied for in the opportunity to walk my first “Blogger Runway Show” this Summer. I have applied, and hopefully, if everything works out then, you can check that out in Jul. Also, feel free always to stop by for new outfit looks and tutorials and follow me on my Instagram, Snapchat, and Bloglovin’. I truly am everywhere. Thanks for reading!