Hannah Louise Farrington easily stands out amongst the crowded streets of Peckham. With her flaming red hair, bright pink furry coat, and all black outfit underneath, she’s hard to miss. As I’m pulled into a welcoming hug, I’m immediately charmed by her calm, confident demeanour… We approach Anderson & Co., a quaint coffee shop in Peckham Rye, for a chat.
It is a lovely day, mild and sunny (perfect lighting for some photographs), so we decide to sit outside. Anderson & Co. has a lovely outdoors space, with green plants climbing up the walls surrounding the backyard and small lamps hanging from the ceiling. We sit in a long white table, with a hot chocolate for myself and a latte for Hannah.
I dive in straight away: how did Hannah, born in Manchester and currently living in London, become a fashion blogger? What triggered the pursuit of this unusual occupation? She thinks she’s always been “an internet person”; from the days of MySpace where she had “lots of friends” and on Tumblr, where she had a “bunch of followers”; it seems like the Internet has always been her true calling. But of course, she’s always had an interest in personal style. She states, “I was always concerned with what I wore”. She confirms that she too went through the emo phase; “Even though I was dressed appallingly, I still kind of paid attention to what I was wearing and hopefully started dressing better at some point”. Therefore, it seems like fashion blogging was a natural pathway for Hannah. However, four and a half years ago when she first created her blog, it all started off ‘very DIY’. “The outfit posts were against my bedroom wall with my camera balanced on something at the right height […]. If you’ve gone all the way back on my blog, you’d be able to see that it was…bad!” Many years later her outfit posts have progressed into mini fashion editorials, shot in picturesque locations, very far away from the walls of her university dorm room.
Despite this, a fashion degree was not an option. “I’m not creative enough for a design course…so I kind of wrote off the idea quite early on,” she says. Although fashion styling/image making courses would be more suited to her personal interests, she was actively practicing these skills on her blog; “it’s also, to an extent, what I was doing anyway, just on a more personal level”. But why Law? Like many 18 year olds, Hannah was unsure of what she wanted to do and Law was a perfect combination of her writing skills, A-Level subjects, and academic mindset, but also, as she adds: “I thought, if I did Law, it has a specific career path at the end of it, if I decided that I liked it. And if I didn’t like it, then I’ve got an all-round degree”. However, her degree gave her the time to pursue fashion blogging and before she knew it, she was building a career for herself during her Law degree. “Even though my degree is not necessarily relevant to what I’m doing now, just the experience of having the freedom to [blog]”.
However, as most of us are aware, balancing university life and personal interests and doing well in both is not easy. Naturally, I seek Hannah’s advice and she recalls of her time at university, when she had to juggle blogging, a law degree and having a social life: ”As far as uni went, I just prioritised that when I needed to prioritise it. So around exams there’d be a good couple of weeks when there’d be nothing much or not much on the blog. If I had an essay deadline, [I’d] do the essay. If I didn’t have an essay deadline for two weeks or whatever, I could do the blog.”But how did she get a first degree? “[Well], the whole of first and second year I was on track for getting a 2:1. And then I did particularly well in my 1st semester of 3rd year, so I was like, oh, I can actually get this… And it just so happened that I got a really good grade on my dissertation – a first! I’m generally better when I have time to go away and research things. I kind of learnt the exam technique and how to study better towards the end.”
Now, having put her university days behind her, she is slowly becoming a Londoner – a big decision for anyone. I am curious as to what draws her to the city and how she is getting along with it. As it turns out, moving to London was more of a practical decision: “I’ve lived in Manchester, and it’s a big city. As far as blogging goes, there is stuff that happens there but it’s just not [that big]. It’s kind of sad that it’s so London-centric and you either need to travel here a lot or just live here. [But] if I still lived in Manchester I’d be bored; all my friends are working full-time or studying and I [would] have nothing to do in the daytime, except for the occasional meeting I had up there or if I was coming down to London.” As for London itself, she has good and bad things to say: “It’s much more intense and exhausting living here, but I think its main selling point is that there’s so much more opportunity.” In the end though we agree: “[Speaking] in terms of my career, [I think] you can’t really compare [London] to any other city in the UK. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t living here now, really.”Other than a blogger and a Londoner, Hannah also has a very strong presence in social media. She might not want to branch out to YouTube videos, but you can always count on her Twitter and Instagram for inspiration. I can’t help but wonder how she views social media now that it has become part of her job description – how much pressure is there for the perfect social media image?
As always, her attitude is quite chilled. “I think some people definitely have the impression that I care a lot about it on a personal level, which I don’t really. I care about the numbers from a business perspective [and] I suppose it does feel good, [to be] received well by a lot people. [But] if I wasn’t doing this as a job, I don’t think I’d be particularly bothered.” She does not believe in tricks and shortcuts to Internet-born fame; just like her blog, her social media is personal. And since she has always been an “Internet person,” it all comes quite naturally to her.
It seems though that there are many other ‘naturals’; I point out how popular fashion blogging has become. “I guess it’s oversaturated,” she consents, “but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for any new [bloggers].” The stakes are of course definitely higher now; as she bluntly tells me, “you’ve just gotta be good at it from the start.” And that usually includes a decent quality of images, a clean layout, a legible content, a consistent stream of information that is posted and the necessary Twitter and Instagram feeds to back up your blog. But for Hannah, what makes the difference isn’t technical: “I think making it personal is what’s gonna make [your blog] unique from the start. And if people take to you as a kind of personality, then that’s gonna help with the blog. [I mean,] there might be amazing reviews of London Fashion Week, but no one’s gonna really care, because you can get that anywhere. So don’t try to make [your blog] something else you’ve already seen. Obviously take inspiration [from other bloggers] and be like, that’s working for her, I like the way she takes her photos… I [want to] have that kind of style. But you’ve gotta make it original to an extent, because otherwise people would read the other thing you’re copying off from [instead].”
However, after bloggers and YouTubers earn fame through their online work, they tend to branch out into more tangible endeavours: from cosmetic lines (like Zoella and Tanya Burr) to movies (like Tyler Oakley and Lilly Singh). Is perhaps a Hannah Louise clothing line coming up at some point? Hannah replies in her usual laid-back way: “I wouldn’t rule something out if it was the right thing but, at the moment, I really enjoy being my own boss; it’s just [more] flexible. Some people [might] be like, oh no, I have to have a routine, but I kind of like not having a routine and being able to plan stuff around.”I could see why Hannah prefers being her own boss – she keeps her cool and is easy to talk to. She’s also passionate about what she does and she knows how to do it well. Soon the conversation turns towards future plans. “That’s the burning question! The longevity of this industry! Most fashion bloggers are women in their twenties, that’s why it’s so cool I think- [blogging] is literally just dominated by young women who’ve built themselves a career from nothing essentially! Regardless of background…” she muses, taking the last sips of her latte. “So many people use blogs as an alternative to fashion magazines now – it’s hard to imagine them just not existing… obviously they will involve, [but] I don’t know in which kind of way. I’m just gonna have a go at it while I can!” she laughs.
Time passes more quickly than I realise and our meeting is drawing to a close – she has an evening exhibition to get ready for and I have to jump on a bus back home. Hannah escorts me to the bus stop and gives me another hug as we say goodbye. She puts on her pink fur coat and soon disappears into the Peckham streets, her ginger hair visible in the distance.
Words by Rebecca Cofie and Alice Vily, photography by Rebecca Cofie.
Check out Hannah’s blog at Hannah Louise F.