"It's fascinating to be part of an industry that literally changes every second": Five minutes with Monica Welburn of The Elgin Avenue
To mark the start of Winchester Fashion Week 2019 - sponsored by the University of Winchester - Hampshire-based fashion and lifestyle influencer Monica Welburn, creator of The Elgin Avenue blog, speaks to Winchester BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing students Rebecca and Veronika about her journey into blogging and offers an insight into working in the industry.
Hi Monica, thank you so much for coming to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am the founder of The Elgin Avenue blog and co-host of the podcast 'Let's Discuss'. I live in a small town in Hampshire called Alresford, just outside of Winchester. It's a beautiful little town which I've lived in for around five and a half years since I moved out of London. I absolutely adore it.
We love your blog, The Elgin Avenue: how did that start?
The Elgin Avenue is named after the road I lived off of when I was living in London. I was living there whilst studying at university, and I really wanted to do something creative outside of my academic work.
Blogging was very much in its infancy at the time. My flatmate introduced me to it. I was so impressed with the new blogging environment, it was like online magic. I absolutely loved street style that was huge during my time at university. I thought: well, I wear clothes and I have outfits and I could just start photographing these. So it just really started off as a diary of my daily looks and a little bit about what I was up to, and that is how it all began. Fast forward eight years and I have grown it as a business. The Elgin Avenue is now my full-time job: it is fascinating to be a part of an industry that literally changes by the second.
Since starting your blog, you have gone on to launch your own podcast, along with a number of other successful partnerships. How do you feel your brand has evolved over this period of time?
As I have progressed through my life, my interests have diversified, and the blog content has followed that. Living a positive, well and healthy lifestyle is a massive part of me. I share a lot about that on the blog. The blog is now very much a lifestyle website, and I talk about all sorts of things. I cover fashion features a lot less now, but I think that this is also echoed in a lot of brands which are not just one thing, they have the ability to share a lifestyle as much as anything else.
The podcast: gosh, that has been such a wild ride. Ella, who is also a blogger and my co-host, was a friend of mine for many years on the business side of things. We had worked together on a few projects for our blogs. We thought there would be opportunities for us to cross over and we believed that in some instances we were stronger together. We were finding that a lot of brands were interested in working with us as a two and we were both podcast listeners and consumers ourselves. We were just obsessed. We always had our earphones in. We would be putting the world to rights many times a week, just chatting and talking about stuff we were going through as 20-something women. We just thought we could open up these conversations we were having as women in our 20s, often times about things that were a little tricky or the sort of things we were perhaps struggling with and share it with a bigger audience.
This year you are partnering with Winchester Fashion Week: what are you looking forward to?
Having grown up in the area, it is so exciting to see that there is going to be such a great roster of events and a big celebration coming up. I can't wait to see all of the amazing businesses in Winchester being championed for the great work that they do.
The theme of Winchester Fashion Week this year is ' A Celebration of Style'. What does 'style' mean to you?
Style to me is a really unique thing. The great thing about style is that it means something different to everyone. I think that style is very much a blend of whatever interests and excites you and also what makes you feel great. I think wellness is also very stylish in the industry right now. From a very basic point of view, I personally feel people look the most attractive and most stylish when they are well.
As a local influencer, what makes Winchester unique as a fashion destination?
Winchester is completely unique and beautiful. It has such a rich history, in terms of its place in history. It has an amazing high street. You will not get bored of places to go eat and have a coffee. I think because it is close to London, it still has that ripple effect of a cosmopolitan and boutique feel.
Where are your favourite places to shop in Winchester and the surrounding area?
I think when people think of independents in Winchester, they instantly think of The Hambledon. I love the Hambledon, I could just go and spend hours there and potter around. I love the charity shops in Winchester as well. My boyfriend and I moved into our new flat around a year ago now, and we are constantly on the lookout for trinkets. I often find that you can find the best ones in charity shops. I always have an eye out for that type of thing.
In terms of high street brands, Winchester has a fantastic Jigsaw and a great Space NK, where I tend to buy all of my skincare and beauty pieces. There are definitely more places than you think. I love Catkin and Pussywillow for flowers and they also have an incredible array of cards and stationery. Going slightly outside of Winchester, one of my great friends Laura owns a beautiful independent boutique called Hero in Stockbridge. That's a destination in itself.
There is a lot of discussion about sustainability and fashion at the moment. What advice would you give to those of us who are seeking to become more sustainable in our fashion shopping habits?
I think it is amazing and I just love that this is a conversation that is happening. There are very simple changes people can make to their everyday lives; whether that's carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup and focusing on style as opposed to a fast-fashion model when thinking about shopping for yourself. I think voting with your purse is something which really resonates with me. Doing your research on the brands that you're buying into, pausing to think about your purchases and being a little bit more sensitive to the background behind the brands that you're buying into are all important. Ultimately consumers have such a huge impact on the success of a brand, especially if you opt to support brands who have a stance on sustainability. Nowadays, it's almost unfashionable not to have an eco-conscious ethos within your brand.
Do you have any advice for emerging fashion students who want to break into the industry?
Absolutely. I would say that if you want to get into the fashion industry - or any industry or just to get a foothold on your career as a whole - you should start to try things. As a student, you have so much freedom and even if you're not studying, just try try-try-try. There are so many different roles within the fashion industry. So I would start experimenting, and you will quickly learn what type of job role you enjoy and what type of tasks you really don't enjoy.
And the other side is when you are studying with other people who are interested in the same thing as you, it's very likely they'll become your part of your future network. I now have email exchanges from people who were on my course at uni, and we are now working on projects together.
What do you think Winchester has to offer a fashion student as opposed to in a bigger city?
The lifestyle you get as a student studying in Winchester will be so vastly different than studying in London. In Winchester, you still have access to the bigger companies in London and a brilliant train link into to London. You'd maybe have a better balance which is important for your wellbeing. Being able to access smaller businesses means many different paths are open to you. You could gain an internship which would give you a broad understanding of the inner working of businesses, compared to if you worked in a larger organisation.
Monica, it's been great to host you here at the University of Winchester, thank you. Enjoy Winchester Fashion Week!
This interview appears in the Winchester Fashion Week 2019 programme, available online here.
Monica is pictured above centre with BA Fashion Marketing students Veronika (left) and Rebecca (right).Back to media centre