As young girls, we all remember playing dress-up. Draping amma’s sarees and trying on sisters’ or cousins’ makeup and bags made us feel pretty and grown-up.
We would plan weeks ahead of any school or college events thinking and rethinking again, what to wear — the shoes, the clothes, and the accessories. Some of us had the misfortune of going horribly wrong ( you don’t want the throwback pictures to ever surface). We wish we had guidance; someone who would say- what to wear; how to apply makeup; the must-haves and the absolute no-nos.
It seems like our wishes didn’t go to waste and voilà, influencers and bloggers were born. Now, they did exist before the dot com bubble but they weren’t as easily accessible. Only the elite could afford them. But the internet made things easier and more accessible now — like almost everything else and with the disruption of social media, influencer industry is one of the fastest-growing, as well as the most coveted industry.
But it is not all cakewalk or picture-perfect as it looks. It’s not all fabulous clothes, gorgeous locations, and flawless makeup. Up until you create your identity, an army of loyal followers, and bring something new to the table, influencers have to struggle to create a niche.
Today, I am going to talk about an influencer, a beautiful inside out lady who found her true calling in the fashion industry — Swagata Dev.
Being a 90’s kid, Swagata saw the evolution of technology — from its existing to its rise to prominence. A happy child, with a particular love for fashion, Swagata’s eyes sparkled at the sight of pretty outfits. But her parents never considered fashion a serious profession. Raised in a small town, Swagata faced the same dilemma which millions of youngsters face — convincing our parents of “not-so- mainstream-new-career option” and ultimately she studied what she was asked to and she struggled miserably at it.
However, one person understood her and her passion and that was Rahul Hazarika; Swagata’s friend, and partner whom she met during her graduation. And just like how Patrizio Bertelli’s advice to Miuccia Prada changed the face of Prada, Rahul’s advice to Swagata -to try fashion blogging changed her life.
A clueless Swagata ventured into the unknown; what she lacked in experience she made up in passion and dedication to learn and, today, Swagata Dev is one of the most promising and well-known influencers who has some major brands in her portfolio or we can say in her designer bags!
We had the privilege to talk to Swagata Dev. Hear her story in her own words
Who is your role model and why?
I would say, my father. I have always seen him work the hardest. Over time, I think that the habit of his has caught up on me. Every time we crack a new deal, I often end up working double the pay, probably subconsciously. My manager thinks it’s a bad idea but I cannot help it.
Describe the current scenario of the fashion blogging industry.
The industry is growing! The influencer industry is technically very new and there are no exact rules or guidelines to go about it — apart from a few techniques. Influencers are globally well recognized now and in India, it has entered the Metropolitan cities. I believe, proper recognition here would take hardly another year or so and then every content creator, even aspiring ones will know exactly how the industry works and will not get exploited by agencies and brands.
Can you explain the difference between blogging & influencer marketing?
Fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, food bloggers, etc. are the ones that write informative articles & blogs about their niche in any website, any app, magazine, or any publication. Their blogs can consist of images related to the content or images taken by them. It can be devoid of pictures too.
However, fashion influencers, travel influencers, lifestyle influencers, etc. are the ones who create interesting picture content/ video content on their niche to post on their page & attract the targeted audience.
You are well known in Guwahati and you have a huge follower base on Instagram, you attend talks, your content is amazing, how do you manage everything?
I just graduated in Management last year and ever since then I’ve been serious about content creation and my website. Me and my partner Debashree Das, also run a small production house for e-commerce shoots for fashion and lifestyle brands. It’s ironic that my academics is no way related to what I do at the moment.
Since my work isn’t a usual 9–5 kind of a thing, it’s difficult sometimes. I might not be working on a Monday but on a Saturday, or say at a family dinner my phone could be ringing constantly for some pending content I had to work on. But I am the boss of my work, if I want, then every day is work, also, I can go MIA any day if I want to, but that would just be my own loss.
I think it’s essential to keep reminding myself that I have to work, keep creating content and be grateful for how much I’ve been able to achieve in the last 2–3 years. If everything goes in this pace, I might be able to do something incredible which would definitely make me proud.
What were the challenges you faced when you started your journey?
I had no guidance. None at all. I just heard the word fashion blogging, rest was all research on the internet. And research on a topic which is altogether a new industry with no written formula wasn’t exactly easy!
I contacted a few influencers from other cities on how to start, but I got no replies. I understand now why they didn’t want to share their knowledge. However, I don’t do that! I try to revert to all who ask me the same question now over my DMs, just to give them a heads up.
Also, funny part being, the first two to three campaigns we got underpaid & fooled by brands & PRs horribly! Obviously, they realized we were new to the arena & didn’t know any better. We set foot at something completely new, made a couple of mistakes, learned from them and now we’re here.
So, Swagata tells us about your typical workday?
Well, my day begins by waking up to any new updates in the industry. Then it’s usually either meetings and shoots or mails and calls all day. Thankfully, I have diverted a couple of emails and calls to my team now, but when it’s regarding the content, I have to step in.
Honestly, I get to create organic and non-sponsored content only on a few not-so-busy days. On those days, either I work on my weekly content for the website or I try to get an IGTV or informative shoot done. The audience likes it way more.
Let’s talk business, what are the brands you have worked with? Is the money good in this domain of work?
We have worked with many brands over the years, from Central to FBB, Samsung to Vivo, MAC to Faceshop etc. It is always fun recognizing a brands aesthetics to needs of the campaign and curating one for them. And yes, the money is good.
What is that one thing you love doing apart from your work?
I love watching good movies. I have subscriptions to almost everything — Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, you name it! I also play the guitar and sing a little on my free days.
How do you feel when people recognize you or say that you have inspired them?
It is okay that some people consider us to be somewhat smaller or local versions of public figures but I have personally never thought of it that way. I feel like, I just do my work and even on social media I try to connect to my audience as friends. The whole word ‘fan’ really feels weird to me. I prefer ‘admirer’ and I really admire them back.
I was startled the first time this one lady came up to me at an event one and a half year ago. It was a weird feeling; I was extremely happy but I also wanted to play it cool and not freak her out. We ended up becoming friends! It took me a few months to process that it’s going to happen more and how to take the compliment. Now, I am pretty good at it.
Blogging counsel: Swagata’s advice for budding influencers
Try and pick a niche, post ‘Interesting’ & ‘Informative’ content regarding it and target a section of the audience. The key is in being Creative and Consistent.
I would also urge them to not to try it full-time in the beginning, at least for about 6 months. if they notice any sort of growth, then they can get into it full time. As great as it may look, it can get difficult putting oneself out on social media at times. Further, the work graphs can go up and down drastically and internet bullying, trolling and shaming can get stressful if one doesn’t know how to handle it.
Also, keep in mind, the only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.
“Be the real you, even if its over social media. Don’t pretend to be like some other successful influencer as your audience will only relate to you, your tastes & your interests, otherwise they can just follow the influencer you’re following.”