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GB Blog: The Collaborative Speak

Reppin’ Reality

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Reppin’ Reality – Free Stuff for Cute Photos Hard Work

There have been many misleading articles circulating lately that paint a picture of hard working, original designers being willing to throw around their product for free to anyone who can take a photo of their cute kid. Some imply that all you need to do to have a mailbox full of free fashion is pop a couple of pics up on Instagram. For a more realistic perspective, I’d like to offer some insight into my reality of brand repping. Of course pictures and product remain the key elements of a brand rep profile. I wonder though, if everyone realises and appreciates the effort and hard work that goes into these ‘cute snaps’?

Some celebrities and larger influencer's can get away with posting blurry, grainy or otherwise poor quality photos of them standing in their messy kitchen holding a product. However, in the saturated space of kids’ fashion brand reps, nothing less than a perfectly styled, almost professional quality pic will fly.

So, what does it take for an amateur, self taught photographer to get a great pic (worthy of being given free clothes for) of a tiny, unpredictable human that attracts an average of 120 likes and 50 comments on an Instagram account that has over 5K followers? Here’s a peek behind the scenes of @anchali_maddox.

Firstly, the clothes.

I’m not even joking when I say that maintaining the condition of Anchali’s clothes is a major chore for me every week. They are washed separately, dried in the shade on wooden hangers, and carefully ironed. They live on special racks in the study to ensure Husband knows they are most definitely not to be worn to daycare! Anchali doesn’t usually get to wear them other than for photos until we have met our contract requirements with images we need to provide to stores.

As gorgeous as his clothes are, they don’t all magically work well together. There are so many decisions that go into styling an outfit. Firstly, does it look good? And then…

- Does it ‘fit our feed’?

- Are the colours and styles on trend for the season?

- Are they competing brands or complementary brands?

- What are the current requirements in our rep contracts?

- Do I need to style for any upcoming special occasions?

- What background will it be against?

- Have I used these clothes recently?

- Have I maximised accessories without making him look like a mannequin?

- Is the outfit likely to be shared on store or feature pages?

Then of course, the photos.

Our style is outdoor, urban, with soft, natural light. This means that we travel to random and bizarre locations - empty carparks, abandoned industrial areas, and posh neighbourhoods with nice garage doors (yep, we’ve had some awkward moments and plenty of stares). Because I work fulltime in my career job, this really only leaves us weekends between 3-5pm on sunny or slightly overcast days to get a week’s worth of shots taken. Then, of the small amount of ‘good light’ time in any one week, I need to hope that my little diva is in a good mood!

So we will pack up the car with a selection of outfits that I have meticulously styled, an accessory box with shoes, hats, beanies, scarves, bibs & watches and off we go. If I’m lucky, I’ll convince/bribe Hubs or my teen to come along and help with the ‘chasing’.

Our photo shoots consist of me literally running after Anchali while he explores new places. I don’t pose him (I don’t even think I could at this stage). We go ‘free range’! Which is how I end up with so many great shots of his gorgeous expressions while he explores.

Being 18 months old, he’s really found his pace. We play a lot of peek-a-boo with the camera set on multi-shot sport mode as he runs towards me. We get some awesome action pics, but this means a lot more editing (which I have to find time to do after Anchali is in bed and everyone else is fed and watered). At the moment, I have about a 5:1 success rate, meaning for every five shots I take, I’m happy with the quality of only one (I’ve come a long way from 20:1 when I first started). Hopefully in the future that’ll improve as 1) I become a better photographer, and 2) Anchali learns to stand still!

After uploading images, my first editing process is to go through and delete all the rubbish pics so I can see what I have left to work with. From there, I transfer into Dropbox so that I can access them from my phone and do my editing. I use a range of different editing apps depending on the types of pics. Once I have my bank of ‘postable pics’, the real fun begins! Because, what many people don’t understand is: how you post these pics is what matters most.

Managing the Profile

To be successful, and to get the good roles I spend a lot of time purposefully growing our profile. I was so naïve at the start and had no clue about this aspect of brand repping. I was of the belief that if I post great pics, my following will grow at a good rate. Wrong. Growth requires interacting with others on Insta, targeting our ideal follower base, and doing it a lot. I somewhat agree that the amount of followers doesn’t ultimately determine the success of your profile, but it definitely is part of the picture. It takes time, persistence, consistency, time, research, more time and even money to build a solid rep profile. I’ve paid for research resources, consultations and workshops with Insta experts like Social Stylings to gather the knowledge I’ve needed to get our profile to where it is today. 

In addition to growing follower numbers, the ones we have need to be highly engaged with our content and interacting with our posts. Essentially, stores want to know that their product is being seen by as many potential customers as possible. With continual algorithm changes, there is even more effort needed to get our posts seen and loved. Researching and analysing trending hashtags is super important, and time consuming. As is participating in interaction groups - important, but super time consuming. Many stores require us, as part of our contract, to repost their sale and promotional posts on our page, and some set up interaction DMs for their rep teams and require/suggest that we like and comment on the pics of other reps in their designs. This all adds up to a lot of time on my phone, much of it while multitasking with MumLife. And this is the reality of what stores (rightfully so) expect in return for ‘giving away’ their hard work. Knowing how much time, love and money goes into each and every original design, I think it’s fair and reasonable for stores to have high expectations for the promotion they will receive from their reps.

While there are many ways to secure rep roles and collaborations, all of them take time and preparation. Brand rep searches are complex beasts which many people have varying opinions about. I still enter them sometimes when I see a store that I really like, or a new store I’m interested in supporting. Then there’s the fear-of-rejection-invoking option of directly approaching a store to see whether they’d like to collaborate with you. I’ve had some great success with this and have established some long term partnerships, in particular the lovely Pop Noggins . On the flip side of that, is being approached directly by stores which is super exciting, but sometimes hard when you have to say no (I really don’t like any form of rejection!). All of these interactions and research to make good decisions are managed by me, in my ‘spare’ time.

So I hope by now I’ve completely debunked the myth that brand repping is an easy way of getting free stuff for cute pics. It is actually a lot of hard work with high expectations which I take seriously, because it is people’s businesses we are responsible for. If I really crunched the numbers, I believe I’d find that repping actually costs me money, and I can’t imagine how much time.

So why on Earth would anyone want to get involved in this?

For me, it’s the people. Honestly, and genuinely. I have met some amazingly inspiring people who have taught and motivated me to do more with my life. I experience a true sense of pride and accomplishment when I know that all of the work behind our profile has helped original designers to grow their businesses or increase the reach of their products. I’m connected to store owners who have experienced bullying by disgruntled customers and have been able to provide them some perspective and encouragement to keep on going. I love when new stores ask for our thoughts on their new season designs before they release them. One of my absolute highlights was being invited to the Global BambinoLV Kid and Catch a Falling Star photo shoot when Anchali was only just walking. Sure, we left with some lovely new clothes and professional pics, but more importantly to me, I left with some new friendships that I still have today. We loved going to all the markets to pop in and say hi to the store owners we work with. Actually, meeting the lovely Sandra from Gertrude and the King at a market where I bought Anchali his first pair of handmade shoes, had a big part in our early repping journey. I’ve been able to offer information and advice to new stores just starting to give them that little boost to kick start their social media profile. I’ve happily given other rep mums advice on a whole range of tricky issues that sit underneath what we do, and have appreciated receiving the same support from them.

It is also something special that Anchali and I share together. I love that we work as a team on something so challenging, worthwhile and fun. I’m looking forward to him being able to understand why I get him all dressed up to run around carparks, and to know how we are contributing to a beautiful community. We are creating some wonderful memories and documenting our journey. One day he will be able to look back over his profile and say, “Wow, I had a lot of fun. And damn I looked good doing it!”

This article is not intended to be self-gratuitous, or to complain about repping in any way. Out of respect to all of the hard working designers, bloggers and reps out there, I hope that this insight encourages others to acknowledge and appreciate that there’s a whole lot more than an exchange of some free clothes for cute pics that sits behind those Instagram posts you see. 

Have an opinion? Want to share your thoughts with us?? Make sure you leave a comment below and start the conversation!


Shal - Anchali's Mumma

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