Since the term weblog was coined two decades back, blogging has become more than a hobby—today it’s an actual career choice. Blogs abound—beamed out from around the world—on everything from gardening to garden gnomes to food to foosball to fashion. Like every major American city, Baltimore’s home to gobs of such sites, but we’re starting to define ourselves as a sophisticated source for specialized fashion blogs.
We sat down with the local writers behind a sampling of four such exemplary blogs: Strangers with Style, the creatively cool brainchild of Olivia Obineme, who also directs CreativeMornings Baltimore speaker series; 30th and Weldon, which tracks three fun millennials—Danielle George, Julie Laufer and Shae-li Liang—learning how to “adult”; Legally Charming Style, detailing the adventures of cost-conscious/wardrobe-obsessed law student Carisa Hatfield; and Comme Coco, which follows the (fabulous) everyday life of Jennifer Jean-Pierre, a fashion-savvy woman of color.
Olivia Obineme, 26
Strangers with Style, re-launched in 2014
Some keywords: Creativity, Q&A, connection.
What is your background? I’ve always loved journalism or writing in general. When I was younger, my dream job was to be in broadcast TV. I freelanced and interned in college for a number of news agencies like Patch. I did everything from taking pictures for their directory to videography and photojournalism for them. I worked for WBAL. I was always thinking about how I could continue utilizing these skills.
Where did the idea for Strangers With Style come from? It actually started in college. I took this class where we had to create a website and update it regularly. I started going around all over and taking photos of people and interviewing them about what they were wearing—I realized I was capturing people’s style. I know it sounds corny, but I was going around asking strangers about their style. And I would never ask them their name. So there you go: Strangers With Style!
What do you get from blogging? I love being able to help people. Like my photographer—his name is getting out there through this. When I do a feature on someone, like Deana Haggag—who has become like family to me—her story and what she does [directing the Contemporary] is getting out there. That’s what this is all about.
What has Strangers with Style become? There’s this unique challenge of trying to find out where you belong in the online world. Strangers with Style started as a blog, but it’s become so much more. I like to consider it a graduated form of a blog, more of a media platform. It has become a business, and it’s getting to the point where it’s being seen by more people. Six or seven people are involved now. It’s a beautiful mess of things [but] my audience understands.
Julie Laufer, 24, Danielle George, 26, and Shae-li Liang, 25
30th and Weldon, established in 2015
Some keywords: Books, recipes, identity.
Tell me, what has it been like blogging as a trio? [In unison:] Fun!
JL: We’ve learned a lot. We’re learning with every week. The nice part is that there are three of us. We’re able to be consistent and share the workload. We can cover a diverse range of topics.
Who does what?
JL: We have each done a bit of everything.
DG: I write all of the book posts.
JL: I don’t think either of us [to SL] have done a book one yet.
DG: I guess I’m the only nerd here.
SL: I feel like I’m all over the place. I’ve done a lot of DIYs and a lot of fashion.
JL: I’ve done a lot of the music, food and drink posts. And a lot of the think pieces.
Why is it called 30th and Weldon?
JL: It’s a little intersection we’ve created. Shae and Danielle lived on 30th, and I lived on Weldon when we first started.
Why do you blog?
DG: To build this community around a website. Sounds crazy but it’s working.
JL: I wanted to do something that I could put myself into a little more. I wanted something that was bigger than myself.
SL: It’s such a creative outlet for us.
How has 30th and Weldon grown?
DG: We started hosting events. Through them, we’ve met all these great local businesses, bloggers and artists and influencers.
SL: We went into this wanting to be a brand, not just a blog. It’s nice to see it form into something more structured as we grow and expand.
What is the master plan?
JL: I definitely want events to be a permanent part of us. We’ve thrown the idea of having an e-letter or a print edition around.
SL: Sometimes I feel like we’re almost morphing into this public relations thing where you come to us and we’ll help you promote your business and your brand.
DG: We also really hope to gain a broad audience that we can show off Baltimore to. There’s so much good here that isn’t easily found. We’d love to show this broad audience why we live in Baltimore and why we love it.
Carisa Hatfield, 29
Legally Charming Style, established in 2015
Some keywords: Bargain-chic, body confidence, beauty.
What got you started? Instagram, believe it or not. I was still trying to figure it out and flipping through other people’s accounts when I found all of these bloggers. I thought it would be nice to see someone who blogged about how to dress for less and who maybe wasn’t thin. So I figured, why not me?
What’s your process like? My process is all over the place because of my schedule. I don’t even have Wifi in my apartment because I can’t afford it. So I blog when and where I can. I do a lot of blogging and photo editing at school. I take my photos for the most part by myself with my camera, tripod and a remote. I also do a lot of photo editing on my phone. Another blogger, Color Me Courtney, says, “I’m a 9-to-5 professional and a 5-to-9 blogger.” I have totally adopted that.
How has your blog evolved? I do more personal posts now. I identify as bisexual, which you don’t see a lot in [fashion] blogging—these posts that deal with sexuality and what it means to people. Blogging can be so unrealistic. You see these perfect people with their perfect makeup and their perfect outfits. That’s not me. I’m like, let’s talk about sexuality, let’s talk about depression, let’s talk about our bodies. These are things people struggle with, whether they’re fashionable or not.
What’s the funniest encounter blogging has led to? I remember this one day I had on a great outfit and I had just gotten a coffee. I thought this would make a perfect Instagram post. So I’m standing on the street corner trying all these weird angles, and finally when I think I have it, I look over and there’s this guy who’s been busking … he just looks at me and says, “What? Are you going to put that shit on Instagram?” Such a Baltimore moment … perfect.
Can you define Baltimore’s style? There’s a huge variety in Baltimore. A lot of boho, a lot of hipster. Which is interesting for me, because I come from Texas. There, the style is by and large the same. It’s very preppy. You wear your cowboy boots and your pearls. Up here, it’s totally different. There’s not a lot of pressure to dress a certain way.
What’s next for you? I’ve been to law school for three years, so, no, I’m not going to give that up, not so soon anyway. I think, short-term speaking, I’ll let blogging continue to be this side business that helps me embrace my creative side. But you never know.
À LA MODE
Jennifer Jean-Pierre, 33
Comme Coco, established in 2011
Some keywords: Personal style, black female, curves.
Why do you blog? I was looking for a way to express myself and I had met [living in D.C. at the time] so many fashion bloggers. I’ve always liked blogs and I wanted to see girls that looked like me, black and curvy. Now that I’ve been doing it for a while, my readership keeps me growing. Whether it’s someone telling me they appreciate my perspective or a fan telling me they wrote a school paper on me.
What influences you? Coco Chanel! Other bloggers—a lot of my friends are bloggers. When I bought my DSLR, I started taking photos for other bloggers and helping with their creative direction. I also have a drive to communicate. My background is in public relations.
Walk me through your process. It starts with my notebook. I keep this notebook filled with outfit ideas. I’m really big on themes. One day, I’ll want to do something based around a color, and the next, a season. But there’s no method to the madness. I blog about whatever I feel at the time. And I do it all myself.
What has it been like blogging in Baltimore? In D.C., fashion has really blown up—honestly, because of bloggers. Here in Baltimore, fashion is in its infancy, so there’s a lot of potential. Food is so big here; it’s not very big in D.C. I’d love to do more with food reviews.
Has blogging changed the course of your life? It’s forced me to dress better. I can’t go out looking crazy—you never know who you’ll run into. This one time I was in a CVS—I think I was sick or something because I was in, like, sweatpants and my hair was a mess—buying tampons when I see this girl taking a picture of me. Finally, she asks, “Are you Comme Coco?” In my head I’m like: “Oh, God.”
What’s next? My dream is to work for a magazine, doing anything.
Published in the April 2016 issue of STYLE.