They dine with renowned fashion designers, receive freebies like jewelry and beauty products, attend fashion shows in Miami and New York, and are becoming some of Miami’s notable socialites.
The recipients of this celebrity hospitality are South Florida’s own fashion bloggers, an ever-growing population of writers, photographers and fashionistas who chronicle local and personal trends.
Here is a glimpse of a few of South Florida’s prominent fashion bloggers.
“Blah Blah Blonde”
As a little girl, Erika Thomas dreamed of writing about fashion and having the opportunity to attend the annual Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
This past February, that dream came true.
The American Chemistry Council covered Thomas’ expenses in New York City, including travel and lodging, so that she could attend a styling event that incorporated clothing made from recycled plastics.
Thomas, a 26-year-old fashion blogger from Fort Lauderdale, has documented her outings and ensembles for two years online at “Blah Blah Blonde,” including those at this year’s Fashion Week.
“This was the moment I had dreamed of when I was younger, and it just happened on its own,” she said.
Thomas first started blogging anonymously in 2010, compiling an online scrapbook of editorial photo shoots and Tumblr images she liked. At first, she refrained from publicizing that she owned a blog due to fear of embarrassment.
“You put so much of yourself out there and you’re open to criticism,” she said. “But now I’m more comfortable putting myself out there, in fashion choices I make and in sharing things I like.”
A copy writer at a marketing agency by day, Thomas still has time to post photos of her and her outfits several times a week.
She described her style as “classic,” while sometimes incorporating fashion trends. Currently, her favorite pieces are a pair of baggy orange palazzo pants and summery one-piece rompers.
At a styling event Tuesday night hosted by herself and fellow blogger Kristin Clark, she laughed about how many pieces in her wardrobe are from Old Navy, the nearest store to her Fort Lauderdale home.
“People ask me, ‘Really? You find something cute at Old Navy?’” she said. “I think you can find items that help you express who you are for a $1 or $300. It’s just about following your personal style and having the confidence to wear what you love so that it doesn’t wear you.”
South Florida fashion bloggers like Thomas cover a variety of events and topics typically in Miami, from fashion shows to product reviews to boutique openings.
“I feel like it’s the best way to show 100 percent of who you are,” Thomas said. “There’s no rules, there’s no editor above you.”
Thomas said one of the best parts of blogging is being able to connect with others. When she first moved to South Florida two years ago from Pensacola, she didn’t know anyone in the area. Through blogging, however, she has made friends with her same interests.
The reach of her blog has even surpassed the local fashion community, a feat Thomas can’t explain. She said that “Blah Blah Blonde” has regular visitors from 140 countries around the world.
Visit Erika Thomas’ blog at erikathomas.com.
“Living in Color Print”
This ability to showcase personal style while reaching out to others is what attracted newcomer Kristin Clark to the fashion blog scene four months ago. For her, blogging is a way of connecting with other aspiring fashionistas.
“I wanted to share my experiences and my love for fashion with others and have the opportunity to inspire people along the way,” said Clark, a 23-year-old marketing director from Hollywood. “There’s so many people in the world who love fashion and can experiment a little more.”
Clark said she experiments with fashion “all day, every day,” whether it is through adding a menswear-inspired piece to her typically girly attire or trying out a new color palette.
Clark thinks that a fashion blogger’s role is to inspire readers’ daily dressing routines.
“I think that bloggers help bridge the gap between the designer and the everyday girl,” she said. “It’s a great way for girls who don’t know how to put something together from a mannequin or a store, but they see one of their favorite bloggers put these pieces together in a way they’ve never seen before.”
Ultimately, her favorite experience as a fashion blogger has been collaborating with South Florida-based brands and boutiques.
On Tuesday night, Thomas and Clark hosted a “Sip and Style Soiree” at the Fort Lauderdale clothing store Etiquette Boutique. Amid glasses of prosecco and sugary cake pops, the bloggers styled shoppers and offered free make-up applications. Clark also has worked with local jewelry brands.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for them and for me,” Clark said. “I get to learn and experience a new designer or brand, and they get the exposure.”
Visit Kristin Clark’s blog at livingincolorprint.com.
For some bloggers, showcasing personal style and interacting within the fashion world is just a hobby. For Ria Michelle, it’s a full-time job.
Michelle has been blogging since she was 13, during the heyday of early blogging sites like LiveJournal and DiaryLand.
Today, the 25-year-old fashion blogger is making a living by collaborating with brands, hosting events, having companies sponsor her posts, selling advertising space on her website, and working as a freelance stylist. Michelle also owns an online boutique, filthymagic.com.
“I am Internet junkie and I wanted to create a page that was me,” Michelle said. “My blog is unique because it’s still very personal.”
Michelle said she has received positive feedback from visitors and fans, some who have told her she is inspiring and motivating.
“I get a lot of emails asking about how other people can do what I do, how to go to events and also questions about hair and make-up,” Michelle said. “People want to do what I do.”
Fashion is a creative outlet for Michelle. She can’t label herself with a personal style because, she said, it changes with her mood.
“Sometimes I’m edgy, sometimes I’m boho,” she said. “Through fashion, you can create your own persona.”
Visit Ria Michelle’s blog at riamichelle.com.
Karla Garcia sees fashion through a different lens.
Garcia, a 26-year-old full-time wedding and lifestyle photographer, first opened a blog in 2008 when she became interested in photography. The blog was a place to “dump all my images on there to have an outlet.”
Seeking more consistent content, Garcia re-launched her blog last year with fashion as a focus. Rather than posting photos of her own outfits, she wanted to show her readers what she liked through her photography of others’ style.
Garcia started by interviewing and photographing girls on the streets of Miami who she deemed stylish. Sometimes, though, Garcia gets strange looks or rejections.
“I want to be able to go in the street, give them my card and have people want to be featured on my site and feel comfortable with the fact that we’re growing as a fashion community,” Garcia said. “And it’s not people that only wear brand names; it’s just people who have personal style.”
Garcia said that South Florida fashion bloggers are “self-made taste-makers” who are trying to show the world “what we’re into and that our city is growing.”
“It’s nice to know we have a growing culture here considering that most people build their art or fashion line and go off to pursue the big-time,” Garcia said. “I just think, ‘Why can’t we be the big time?’ That makes me so sad.”
Visit Karla Garcia’s blog at kargarohhsnap.com.
“The Fashion Poet”
Garcia often photographs one Miami fashion blogger who first made a name for herself outside the blogosphere and through her freelance articles on NBC, Ocean Drive magazine and The Miami Herald, among others.
Annie Vazquez is a 35-year-old stylist, journalist and blogger who said she started blogging last year out of frustration.
“No one is really focusing on fashion here,” Vazquez said. “No one is really making noise.”
Similar to Garcia and other bloggers, Vazquez’s blog “The Fashion Poet” focuses on the fashion and talent Miami offers.
“A lot of people think about Miami being a party city and a beach place, but they really don’t associate us with fashion. We have our own style,” Vazquez said. “The blog is a doorway into helping make this city what it should be and show that it is a fashionable place.”
Vazquez and Garcia have embarked on a photography project, titled “Miami: Through the Lens of Street Fashion,” that features editorial photo shoots of Vazquez set in less-exposed areas of South Florida, like parks in Miami Lakes or the sidewalks of Coral Gables.
Vazquez said that by showcasing Miami and its fashion movement, bloggers can motivate more local designers to stay local and grow in Miami, rather than in New York City or Los Angeles.
And it all starts with bloggers becoming more cohesive, she said.
“I feel like if we’re going to be successful, we have to be friendly and get together,” Vazquez said.
That is the reason why Vazquez and another blogger duo organized one of the first ever South Florida fashion blogger events, after being inspired by an Independent Fashion Bloggers conference Vazquez attended in New York City during this year’s Fashion Week.
The event, “Miami Bloggers Do It Better,” attracted more than 300 attendees. More recently, Vazquez and other South Florida fashion bloggers collaborated with Neiman Marcus to host a “Fashion Bloggers Night Out,” complete with a panel of bloggers and fashion show. During the networking event, a group of local designers and brands set up pop-up shops and sold their merchandise.
Vazquez’s next project is a fashion festival, combining music and fashion similar to California’s Coachella that features music and art.
“This is all exciting,” Vazquez said. “You feel like you’re your own brand and businesswoman, and it’s empowering to do that.”
Visit Annie Vazquez’s blog at thefashionpoet.com.