Blogging Or Blagging?

This is going to be a long one. So grab a cuppa or a (big) glass of wine…

Firstly, I just want to say, this post is purely my thoughts and experiences (a bit of a stream of consciousness…) – I am not speaking for anyone else or any other bloggers, who may (and almost certainly will) have a different take on things. I may have my views on other bloggers and blogs, and how they go about things/present things, but I am not about to share those with you here – that’s their business, and between them and their readers. Plus it’s just not my style – I am not into putting people down (or brands for that matter) – I have always had the same principle for Little Spree, and it’s a pretty simple one – I only ever feature things I like (mostly, love) – I’m not interested in sharing things that I don’t like. I just don’t see the point? I’m not Which? magazine after all. I simply choose not to include them/write about them.

Also, at the end of the day, we all have a choice – we don’t have to read certain blogs/follow people – if it’s not for you, move on – perhaps  you’ve outgrown that particular blog/blogger? Perhaps they’ve moved on, the connection just isn’t there anymore? Perhaps their content is just not relevant to you now – we all change, move on, grow up… Just as Tabitha and Marlow have grown up and changed, so has Little Spree. What started out as a blog purely dedicated to stylish, affordable baby and children’s clothing and accessories, has since evolved into a lifestyle blog/website, incorporating women’s clothing, interiors, books, gifts even menswear… I still love to blog about my favourite cashmere baby bonnets and Liberty print rompers, but I also love to share my latest interiors obsessions, or my favourite kids’ books. I believe they all work really well together, as a bit of a ‘one stop shop’, as I know only too well that time is the one thing all us mamas are short of (which reminds me, I need to go and pick Tabarlow up from after-school club in a minute…).

Anyway, back to the subject in hand. This is really not the sort of thing I usually write about on here, but I felt I wanted to share exactly how I work in terms of sponsored posts, gifts, and a general code of ethics, as I feel that so many of you are naturally curious, and also perhaps a little confused generally with how blogs work, and how bloggers earn a living. There has also been a lot of discussion about it on Instagram, and that is not somewhere where you can really go into enough detail I don’t think. Plus, I generally like to keep things light on Insta. If you have any questions, or feel I haven’t covered everything you’d hoped, feel free to email me, and I would be more than happy to try and answer anything you throw at me.

My background, as many of you know,  is in magazines. First and foremost I am a Fashion Editor (that’s the occupation on my kids’ birth certificates, and that’s how I describe myself when asked). I have always worked in fashion (I studied Fashion Journalism at The London College of Fashion), then my first job was in the Joseph press office when I was just 20. I then went on to work at Marie Claire, Glamour, and Red magazines, and most recently for Stella (The Sunday Telegraph supplement). When you work in the fashion department of a glossy magazine, you are regularly given gorgeous things as presents – anything from a bespoke ‘rabbit’ vibrator (yes really – on my first day at Glamour actually) to a Mulberry handbag (and not just one Mulberry handbag – one a season, (twice a year) if you were a Fashion Editor, which I was. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the whole ‘gifting’ thing, although always lovely (show me someone who doesn’t love a nice freebie, I’ll show you a liar), is not new or a novelty to me. So a gift is not going to influence my blogging or the other way round. They’re lovely, of course, but they shouldn’t control your content (in my opinion). My now famous (infamous??), leopard print bag was a gift (one of my all-time favourites I have to say) from Antik Batik as a thank you after I’d shot it in a story for Glamour. It was never actually put into production, so I have the only one. I still feel lucky every time I use it (and a little guilty when you all want to know where you can buy one…). Sorry, that’s not helping is it?

You also go to regular press events (sometimes over 20 in one day, I kid you not, and trust me, this is not fun) to look at the new collections or launches of various brands/designers (everyone from Chanel to New Look and everyone in between). These generally take place in London at an informal breakfast at a hotel, or equally might take place at Babbington House (now it’s all about Soho Farm House of course) complete with an overnight stay, a complimentary cowshed treatment (or two) of your choice, and a gorgeous goody bag to take home with you. Spoilt? Absolutely. Lucky? Definitely. But I never took it for granted. I always knew and appreciated how lucky I was (and still am). I have always felt incredibly lucky to do a job that I love. I am all too aware that very few people can say the same. I worked really to achieve what I have. When you work in the fashion department of a magazine, particularly as a Fashion Assistant, yes you have a dream job, but you are also on a pretty rubbish salary, so any presents and treats that you did get were lovely added perks of the job in a way (almost like an unofficial part of your salary), but there was always a recognised ettitquette about not being too ‘grabby’ (‘never choose the leather jacket’ is a mantra I always remember from a fabulous lady called Liz Walker, the Executive Fashion Editor at Marie Claire for many years) who unofficially ‘trained us all up’ in the expected behaviour (hand written thank you notes etc. etc.). But let’s not go there.

Which brings me nicely onto to the subject of bloggers and that new verb ‘gifting’ (I actually hate this particular term, as far as I am concerned it is a noun and should remain as such). Yes, I am regularly (not to be confused with often) given lovely things by equally lovely PRs (many of whom I have know for years and years, way before I started Little Spree), sometimes for me, but mostly for the kids. I am usually asked to choose something, and depending on my relationship with said PR, I will establish whether the gift is just a gift (as we used to get at magazines – no strings), or whether it comes with an expectation of some sort. People, particularly people who have started little, independent children’s brands often get in touch with me to see if I can offer support in exchange for products for Tabitha or Marlow. Sometimes I say yes, mostly I say no thank you. I only ever accept things that I truly love (and think you will too) and would buy for the kids (or myself myself) anyway, if I had unlimited funds (I don’t). I now also make it very clear that I can not guarantee expsosure, or a specific time frame of any exposure. If that doesn’t work for the brand, then that’s fine, no harm done. For me, any exposure has to be genuine, and organic. I do not (and cannot, and more to the point, would not) force my kids to wear something they don’t like, and be photographed wearing it (when they don’t want to) for Instagram. And why should they? They’re almost eight now. They know their own minds. Equally, if we/they love something, you might see them wearing it all Summer long (their Olivier Baby & Kids sun hats immediately spring to mind). So whatever you see, it’s 100% genuinely in the wardrobes or drawers and being worn. Yes I’ve sometimes had slightly embarrassing situations where I’ve accepted something that I love, that I think they will love too, only to have a situation where they (mostly Marlow) refuse point-blank to wear it. But you know what, shit happens. Nobody died. It’s ok.

I particularly love to support new baby and kids brands, as it can be so hard to get noticed when you don’t have big budgets for pr and campaigns, and I know that an endorsement from Little Spree can really boost sales, which is brilliant. So if I can help someone out (only a brand or brands I truly believe in) in a way that is relevant to the style and voice of my blog, why woundn’t I? It’s a ‘win win’. But I will also promote brands who haven’t given me something or paid me anything. If I want to write about them or feature them, I will. And you know what, I don’t feel the need to always share this with you because frankly, I don’t feel it’s relevant. If I only feature things I love (whether I’ve bought them or been given them) why does it even matter? The point is, I have chosen to share them for the right reasons, and I would never, ever share something I didn’t love. As much as anything, I wouldn’t want to insult you. I think (if you’re a regular reader anyway) you know my taste pretty well by now, and I’m pretty sure you would smell a rat immediately!! And don’t assume if it’s from a well established brand, that it’s been given to me either. I buy a lot of things from places like Gap, Mango, Topshop, Boden etc. etc. (both for me and the kids), and share them or tag them on Instagram, as I think you will probably love them too. Am I ever given things from them for free? Yes, sometimes (although Mango never, but I do buy a lot!!), but more often than not I have clicked and bought them online, just like you. I recently did a post on Gap, and many people assumed it was paid for (funnily enough, including my good friend, who is head of PR and Marketing at Gap, who happened to be on maternity at the time!!) because it was an exclusive post about Gap. But this was not the case – I just happened to have been on the Gap website, and found some really fab things (and I really hadn’t bought anything from there in quite some time, so was pleasantly surprised) that I felt were worthy of their own post. And I was right, as I know many of you bought the things I featured (I even bumped into one of you with your gap shopping bag!). This is how it should be – a natural fit with your ‘brand’ and their theirs. With posts, I will always say at the end if it’s been paid for (usually ‘this post was created in collaboration with …’. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. But I have to say, the fact that you can’t tell, to me, is a great thing. Surely if you can’t tell, but simply like the post, then that’s all that matters?

I actually think I’m a pretty rubbish blogger in lots of ways. For example, I will buy something, then perhaps get some pics of me wearing it, weeks later, when I get around to it, instead of being more strategic and organised and getting the photos taken, then posting about it. But I’m fine  with my slightly ad-hoc, sometimes topsy-turvy methods. If nothing else it’s real, and works for me and my rather hectic lifestyle (sometimes I’m away on shoots for up to two weeks at a time, and often shoot over weekends). I like to go with the flow, and often change my mind about what I want to post on any given day, if I’ve just seen something that I love and can’t wait to share. Spontaneous! That’s my approach, and it works for me (most of the time). I should also remind you all that Little Spree isn’t my sole source of income, so this almost certainly influences the way I approach my blog and blogging. Although I am developing it as a business (and it is already a business with a registered company name right from the get-go), I am not completely reliant on it to pay the bills, as many bloggers are. I know I said I was only going to talk about me, but feel the need to defend the blogging community as a whole in so much as, for most bloggers, it is their full-time job, and subsequently does need to pay the bills.

Because I am still a Fashion Editor and stylist, I still do a lot of styling for various clients and brands. So there are definitely some cross-overs with that part of my career and Little Spree, which has always worked well for me. They are mutually beneficial. It means I get to see the new collections way before they hit the stores, which then in turn, means I can share things with you ahead of time, and give you little previews (like the Boden  velvet Mary Janes that I posted on Instagram months ago). I get invited to various events (most of which I don’t go to as I’m either shooting, or too busy working on Little Spree), breakfasts, dinners as Sarah Clark, Freelance Stylist as well as Sarah Clark from Little Spree. And that’s fine by me, as both roles compliment each other.

So back to the question in the title of this post – bloggers or blaggers? I think that’s really for you to decide.

Sarah xx

ps: I have never been paid for an Istagram post. But this is not to say I never would. And if I did, I would always let you know.

pps: I have the leopard print dress that Kate Moss is wearing in the pic above. It’s ancient DKNY. I saw this pic in American Vogue, and was immediately obsessed with having it! I ran straight over the road (the Glamour offices were just across the street on Old Bond Street at the time) to the DKNY store to buy it. Still love it.