Susie Bubble is an internet superstar. Her blog Style Bubble was launched in 2006 and has gone from strength to stratospheric strength. In one interview she recounted how a reader even asked her to sign her back. That’s fame.
We caught up with Bubble and her unmistakably London twang at breakfast last week in Ireland’s foremost designer outlet, Kildare Village, where she was on a flying visit as part of their Chic Goes Wild! campaign.
Born Susie Lau in 1983, she grew up the daughter of a proprietor of a Chinese takeaway in suburban London. Fashion became an early refuge. She attended an academic girls school where “the environment wasn’t fashionable at all so I rebelled against that and used fashion as my way of expressing my ideas and my identity.” Fashion saved her self-esteem. “When I was a teenager I wasn’t clever enough, I wasn’t sporty. I just wasn’t good enough for my environment. Fashion was a way for me to escape and do something that I felt I could be good at. It gave me this opportunity to shine when I thought I couldn’t actually do anything else.”
She started blogging while working at a digital agency. In the beginning her blogging was purely personal, documenting her outfits and writing for herself. “I really just wanted to express myself in fashion but not treat it like a career. I was in this nine to five job and I wanted this hobby. So the blog became my solace really.” She says the beginning of Style Bubble was more innocent – she wasn’t gunning for a certain audience. “I did that on the side and somehow that pulleyed into a career in fashion.” Susie was approached by leading indie magazine Dazed and Confused and became commissioning editor at Dazed Digital, their online wing. This experience at the forefront of digital publishing proved invaluable when she decided to pursue blogging fulltime, even though Susie initially found this decision to go solo tough. “I never thought I could be a freelance person. Freelance was a really scary word for me and I was a nine to five kinda girl. It seemed that with all the changes going on in the fashion blogging world and seeing all these opportunities being presented to me and I had to turn them down because I had a job. So I took the plunge and said let’s give it a go and if it doesn’t work out I’d go back to work in an agency again. I went into it with a pragmatic vision.”
Kitted out in orange Reebok runners – an Irish term that initially confounded her on arrival – a top from JW Anderson and a tangerine coat from the queen of tailoring Louise Kennedy, she knows how to pluck at our patriotic heartstrings. “No Simone today but I do l love her,” she apologises with a smile. Susie has nothing but effusive praise for Ireland’s most stylish daughter, Simone Rocha. “There is something very innately Irish about her. Her work is very connected to surroundings, where she grew up. It’s something very personal and being personal in your work is so important because it connects you with what they’re doing even more. She makes absolutely beautiful clothes, beautifully crafted, careful considerations of fabrics. There is something very emotive in her work. And JW Anderson is obviously someone who is very, very clever at spotting things ahead of the curve. He really strives to be that very conceptual trendsetter, so the things that he does might seem odd at the time when you’re seeing them but then a few seasons down the line you’ll see like everyone doing that. He’s someone who’s a real forward thinker.” So much so he was snapped up by LVMH earlier this year and is now creative director at Loewe.
A fulltime blogger isn’t a surprising concept to anyone working in media or familiar with the business of fashion and its now inextricable relationship with the internet, but Susie’s journey is a noteworthy one regardless. Her prominence and success may confound fashion outsiders but her DIY ascendance inspires every young woman who has taken a fashion selfie. Susie was one of the first bloggers to be taken seriously by the industry, nabbing both an invite to Gucci in 2009 and headlines. Chanel and Lanvin soon followed suit. While fashion blogging today is an industry, when Susie started out it wasn’t a different beast entirely, a scene that was simmering to those in the know. “There were so few of us in the beginning and we were all very different as well.” Photographer Tommy Ton, blogger Bryanboy and Scott Schuman of The Sartorialist were all part of this nascent set. “We were part of the same community but we all served very different purposes. If you fast-forward to now that’s multiplied by thousand, even a million fold. You’ve really seen distinct genres emerge within blogging and that has become a blueprint for people to follow.” She notes the personal style genre in which she was an early pioneer has exploded dramatically. “That’s probably become the most predominant genre of fashion blogging,” she muses. “Then obviously street style has become a whole industry with its own thing.”
For some Fashion Week is now about what goes on outside the shows. Hundreds of street style photographers commissioned by magazines and websites swarm outside the venues trying to capture the online stars, like Susie Bubble, in between collections. The ‘ordinary celebrity’ has thrust fashion into twenty-four hour news cycle, with Fashion Month dominating social media. Instagram becomes a blurry deluge and Twitter flooded with designated hashtags. Last year Oscar de la Renta described it all as a “circus” and this year journalist Mark C. Flaherty described the incessant social media output from established fashion magazines during the flurry of collections as “several thousand Tweets too far”.
When we spoke to Susie she was fresh from a marathon stint at the four fashion weeks – New York, London, Milan and Paris. The one show that captured her imagination entirely? “I think this season it had to be Louis Vuitton in Paris. Nicolas Ghesquiere had just started there. It was an incredible show. The sun was flooding in, the music, it was really emotional and he had left out this typed note saying this was a new day. I’m a huge fan of his work and I’m glad he’s found a new outlet and can express himself at Vuitton. It was a beautiful show.” Paris was her favourite fashion week. “In Paris everything is just bigger, amplified, more atmospheric and everything. It’s the place where you actually cry at shows. That’s how emotional it gets. And obviously for personal reasons London is amazing for clothes.”
Since going freelance with Style Bubble she’s supported her lifestyle with online advertising and partnerships with Google, Gap and Dr. Martens amounting among some. “Its been an interesting journey finding out how fashion blogging fits in within the media landscape and how it’s been integrated within the fashion industry. It’s been this two way dialogue. The industry are feeling bloggers out. ‘What’s your deal? What are you bringing to the industry?’ And vice versa. It’s been a really enlightening process.”
Describing the professionalisation of blogging as “a good thing”, she does allow that the co-opting of blogging by the global industry can perhaps be to “the detriment of more individual voices emerging and in the last two years there haven’t been, for me, as many new voices coming forward. I find myself moving away from fashion blogs and going towards art and design.” The reason Susie has lasted as one of the leading organic voices in a crowded playing field is the same reason she initially succeeded – her voice. However, if she was starting again she thinks she’d do things differently. “I’ve gone about it a really odd way.” She admits. “I don’t specifically have a niche. I cover many things on my blog. It’s a very sort of scattergun approach. If I was starting out today I think you do need to be much more specific and corner your niche in a much more direct way to gain traction – and if that’s your aim. I think it’s cool to just blog without the aim of getting loads and loads of readers or monetizing. The internet is really great for niches. That’s why you stumble on weird blogs, like tumblrs of pictures of pugs, or pictures of pugs with Michael Fassbender. The internet is made for weird niches.”
In a recent interview with the Guardian she described herself as an interloper. “I think what I mean is that I don’t ever feel fully comfortable in the in the industry. I mean there are so many things about the industry that I think are a little bit ridiculous. I’m never fully at ease at shows. If I could see clothes in a box just going past me that would be really good. But because I have to go see the collections at shows it brings out very strange feelings in me. I do feel like I’m not an insider, I’m more someone who’s just passing by, haphazardly.”
This girl makes it look easy.
Jeanne Sutton @jeannedesutun