Before the current lockdown came into force, University of Winchester BA (Hons) Fashion Marketing students Rebecca Coleman and Caris Heron sat down with Monica Welburn, creator of The Elgin Avenue blog, to discuss her career journey.
Monica, a multi-hat wearing creator, also co-hosts the podcast Let's Discuss and has navigated many different chapters during her almost decade-long career in digital publishing. In this interview, they chat about her experience of the ever-changing landscape of British fashion, and her take on sustainability.
My name’s Monica, I run a lifestyle blog called The Elgin Avenue. I founded the blog in 2011, so it’s going to be 10 years old in January next year.
Over the years I guess I have grown with the ebbs and flows of the digital publishing industry and so I picked up on various social media platforms in their infancy, including Twitter and Instagram. Facebook was already in existence but [I started] using that for business purposes, and Pinterest.
I was a first-year student when I started my blog, doing a course that I wasn’t really connecting with. I had already worked for two years in the industry and had already been liaising with press officers and journalists. In 2011 it was really the very first wave of bloggers and street style was massive. People like Tommy Ton and Scott Schuman, were around fashion week and everyone was fascinated.
I was introduced to blogs by my flatmate at the time. Then I figured out that you could do that off of your own back, so I decided to start a blog. When I first got going with The Elgin Avenue it was literally just a diary of my everyday life living in London and going to uni. I posted every single day religiously.
For a while it was just a really nice creative outlet and eventually it became more - the industry was growing so fast and some magazines became interested in what bloggers were doing. I won best fashion blogger of the year award through Marie Claire magazine, the blog was just a year old and I think that really helped to propel it forwards. At that point, brands got interested in what I was doing and that’s when I first saw its potential; something that could really become a credible part of my career moving forwards.
I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t started the blog. It was everything, it is still what I do full-time. I started it literally just as a hobby and it was very sort of baby steps. All the way through university, I was interning the whole time and I held multiple part-time jobs. It was really only when I was about to graduate that I was earning a little bit of money from it.
With blogging or the influencer industry, what people don’t talk about very much, is the business side of it. I think if you’re in the influencer business, you’re just like any other small business; you really need to learn the ins and outs of running a good small business. It’s the same formula for many other enterprises: your clients, you need to have a good workflow, you need to understand what your deliverables are, what do you need to produce in order to make the income that you are hoping to achieve, what kind of a team do you need to develop, you need to keep your costs down, and therefore you need to learn multiple skills yourself.
The great thing about it is that you can run it as a really wonderful side project or side hustle to what you’re doing. I know loads of girls and guys that are influencing or blogging on the side of their full-time job. It is a very flexible career, so you can do it in addition to what you’re doing. It can be a really good money earner, just a really nice creative outlet, as well if not anything else.
The podcast, which Ella and I co-host. We’re just gearing up for season nine now, so we’re in production for that and start recording in two weeks. Every season I feel like: "Oh this is going to be the best one." We’re just really lucky that we have some brilliant people coming on to be interviewed.
We wanted it to be a way to open up conversations about subjects that women in their 20s and 30s go through, which are sometimes difficult to talk about. Ella and I talk about these things because we are really great friends anyway, so we just kind of want to demystify some of these things that you go through in that time in your life.
I’m gearing up for my 10-year celebration, next January. Some fun ideas coming up for that, looking forward to it.
I think it’s a lot less critical nowadays, to live in London. Now, working in the way that we do in this digital sphere, people work remotely. I think especially if you’re working in digital publishing, or you are working in the type of field I am - blogging, Instagram or that kind of thing - your location really doesn’t matter that much.
It is helpful to be able to have regular face to face meetings with the brands and clients that you want to work with. But there are ways around it no matter where you live. You can organise to be in London for a few days and do meetings back to back, or just doing loads of stuff completely online. I think it’s becoming more and more possible to work remotely, which is amazing. If you are looking to develop your lifestyle a bit more, you might want to choose somewhere else to live and I think that’s absolutely doable nowadays.
I think Winchester is one of the nicest cities to spend a whole day pottering, which is my favourite thing. From brunch in the morning with friends or your partner, and go have a look around the shops that we have here, lunch, wine in the afternoon - you could easily spend a really nice weekend in Winchester.
I think the independents have a real place in terms of working to the beat of their own drum. There are so many massive online retailers or places that have multiple outlets but I think that independents will always have a place. There is something so special about visiting them individually rather than being able to walk down any other high-street and kind of seeing the same repetition of stores. We are so lucky because we do have an amazing high-street, generally, just in terms of the mix of stores that you have almost in every city, but in a place like Winchester, it is nice to have a mix of those bigger chain stores but also a load of independents.
Ella and I did a sustainability episode on our podcast and I think the kind of focus I went for was ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. So I think just in general, be more mindful of how much you’re purchasing in the first place. Really look at what you own, are you using it? If not can you do something else with it? Could you sell it? Could you donate it? Could you do a clothes swap with friends?
Recycling things, whether that’s donating or even taking the fabric to a fabric donation centre. I have things that I reuse for cleaning rags and that kind of stuff, so I try not to just put things to waste. There are a rare few things at home that I would just ditch into the bin but also I think it’s a really interesting place for the fashion industry to be in right now because it could be argued in so many ways that we don’t even need to produce any more clothing.
The best thing you can do really is vote with your wallet, so try and use your money to invest in brands that are taking a stronger stance in sustainability. I just got this bag from the Hambledon, from this brand called Bellerose and they make these shopping totes, but they are all made from off cuts of the fabric that they use in their factories. Not only is it using the offcuts of fabric for a new product that otherwise they would have probably just thrown away, but it also means that not I have a shopping tote in my bag and I’m not going to use a plastic bag.
Also, make choices from sustainable outlets like charity shops or vintage shops: those are clothes that have already been loved in some capacity and in a way I feel like you are not contributing to the fast fashion cycle if you buy vintage because it needs a home and it’s already existing. This is actually a jumper I bought yesterday from a charity shop and its Ralph Lauren and if it’s already lived a life I’m more than happy to welcome it to my wardrobe too.
This interview was originally due to appear in the Winchester Fashion Week 2020 programme. Unfortunately, this year's event, which is organised and hosted by Winchester BID, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to Monica for allowing us to reproduce this on the University blog.Back to media centre