LOTS OF GREEN LETTUCE: Bloggers are a dime a dozen. Then there’s The Blonde Salad’s Chiara Ferragni — whose stack of dimes is huge. Forget the bloggers who made headlines for reportedly raking in $1 million annually: Ferragni is on track to generate revenues of 6 million euros, or almost $8 million.
It isn’t her blog that will do it, though. Only about 30 percent of her revenues will come from her blog, corresponding advertising or brand collaborations. Unbeknownst to most, the majority — or 70 percent — of Ferragni’s revenues this year will come from her footwear, Chiara Ferragni Collection, created in partnership with Lorenzo Barindelli and Paolo Barletta. She is perhaps the first blogger who has managed to parlay a personal style blog into a fully realized brand and global business. And once other bloggers see her sales, no doubt other they will flock to the strategy as fast as they do to junkets.
The Blonde Salad has been successful since its launch nearly half a decade ago, Ferragni told WWD while in town for New York Fashion Week and a fete celebrating the blog’s five-year anniversary tonight at The Standard’s Le Bain.
With a strong creative and business team supporting Ferragni, the 14-person The Blonde Salad Crew (or TBS Crew) — including Riccardo Pozzoli, cofounder and general manager; Alessio Sanzogni, communication and editorial manager, and Ferragni herself — decided to switch gears a year ago. They changed the editorial mission of the Web site by creating more independent content and decided to aggressively pursue the retail business.
Ferragni, who primarily splits her time between Milan and Los Angeles, had been designing footwear in a small way for years, but the team went full speed ahead with building out the Chiara Ferragni Collection three seasons ago, raising 1 million euros in funding from a private Italian investor in the process. The big rollout began with her fall 2013 collection, and the line of $220 to $500 shoes is now carried in almost 200 stores in 25 countries worldwide. The brand will launch in the U.S. with the spring 2015 season.
Ferragni also did a high-profile collaboration with Steve Madden that hit the market in February. A 10-style capsule collection sold 16,000 pairs in just the first two weeks.
“We didn’t have our shoes in the U.S. yet. It was great to market myself as creative director for shoes,” Ferragni said of the exposure she gained in the U.S. as a result of working with Madden. She also worked with Superga on two sneaker collections for summer and fall 2013, which sold out in a matter of weeks.
Pozzoli interjected to clarify that Chiara Ferragni Collection is totally separate from The Blonde Salad collaborations.
“It’s 100 percent made by our team. We are managing these projects in a different way from the capsule collections,” Pozzoli said.
He added: “For the first five years, we tried to keep the brand The Blonde Salad and Chiara as strict as possible and close to the core mission. Now we want to try to make it really a disruptive business, driven by commerce.”
Pozzoli compared the TBS Crew’s approach to that of Asos — except it’s the reverse. The e-tailer started with commerce and branched into content, but Pozzoli wants to do it the opposite way — on a more premium level.
The two stress the importance of the team, who in addition to producing the blog, managing, marketing and doing p.r. for Ferragni and Chiara Ferragni Collection also help manage her social media channels — which is no small task. Ferragni reached 2 million Instagram followers in February, and during New York Fashion Week, she is approaching 2.8 million. She gets 4,000 to 5,000 new followers a day — and, at that rate, should hit 3 million by the time Paris Fashion Week winds down in October.
Ferragni and business partner Pozzoli (who also happens to be her ex-boyfriend) remember the moment she reached 1 million followers on Instagram last June. It was in the midst of the couple’s breakup, where Ferragni posted an image with a caption letting her followers know the two had amicably decided to part ways. There’s nothing like a romance — or the end of one — to spur traffic.
“One of the craziest reactions [to date] was the breakup post,” Ferragni told WWD, seated at the lobby of The Standard hotel before jetting off to the Diane von Furstenberg show. “When I introduced my new boyfriend [on Instagram], everyone was like ‘What! Whoa!’ ” Andrew Arthur, an L.A.-based photographer, is Ferragni’s new beau.
Pozzoli agreed. When Ferragni posts about her personal life, engagement climbs, whether it’s photos with her mother or sisters or close-ups of her makeup. A selfie she posted in February during Milan Fashion Week in a Roberto Cavalli dress garnered 105,000 likes, and a portrait Pozzoli shot of her several years ago wearing natural makeup received more than 100,000 likes. A series of Mother’s Day images Ferragni shot with her mother in partnership with Louis Vuitton in May were also popular.
Her “The Blonde Salad by Chiara Ferragni” Facebook page has more than 835,000 fans, but it’s nowhere near as popular a social channel for her as Instagram. What is posted to Facebook more closely mirrors the content on Theblondesalad.com, with a few images of Ferragni’s everyday life posted throughout.
“If you really want to follow me and know what I’m doing, it’s Instagram. You know which city I’m in and what I’m doing. It’s almost in real time,” Ferragni said.
Advertising has never been the main driver of revenue for The Blonde Salad, Pozzoli said. The remaining 30 percent of revenues come from advertising and brand partnerships (20 percent) and collaborations (10 percent).
Views on The Blonde Salad digital flagship are not growing as fast as Instagram, status quo in the blogosphere today. The site does see a stable flow of traffic — whereas Instagram increases followers by the thousands daily — which has led the TBS Crew to rethink how they approach the blog.
“Since we have seen this phenomenon — Chiara’s daily life [on Instagram] and the Web site — we don’t even call it [a] blog anymore. It’s more about stories and inspiration,” Sanzogni said. The site, formerly a more real-time destination (similar to what Instagram has become), is now a place for posting higher-quality content that is more produced.
“If I want to shoot my daily look I just put it on Instagram — not on the Web site. [That’s] more for stories,” Ferragni said.
Even the approach Ferragni takes with content creation on her site has changed. She no longer does promoted editorial posts. The lines between editorial and paid content were getting too blurry and the team made a decision to keep Ferragni’s independence. Pozzoli said they stopped selling editorial content last year.
Ferragni will not post content in exchange for money, but she will partner with a brand in a more ambassadorlike capacity. This means she might host an event on behalf of a brand and publish a certain amount of Instagram posts that have been agreed upon — but this is separate from the editorial content produced for Theblondesalad.com.
“We showcase whatever Chiara feels like [wearing] through collaborations with brands,” Sanzogni explained, noting that Ferragni has strong relationships with fashion houses like Chanel and Louis Vuitton. “We select what content we want to work on or if she is wearing it. It’s her choice to wear something or [participate] if she likes the project.”
For example, Ferragni was paid on behalf of Montblanc to host an event and post a certain number of Instagram posts. But the series of photos Louis Vuitton shot of Ferragni and her mother for Mother’s Day was unpaid. The latter was more about creating a story in a “beautiful way,” Ferragni said. Sorry, Mom.