A force in the blogosphere since 2008, Rumi Neely, founder of Fashion Toast, is a resident name we can’t get enough of. On top of her blog’s success, the Cali-based style influencer has launched her own clothing line, Are You Am I (if you say it out loud, it spells Rumi–clever, non?). She gives us the scoop on her rise to success.
Why did you start blogging?
I basically started blogging before there was any promise that it would become a valid career. It was difficult to explain to myself, let alone my family and friends, why I wanted to put random pictures online. I was reading a lot of fashion forums and Swedish blogs–I think they were the first ones to really go for it, and I was like, “I could do that!” I feel like I have an angle and things to share, so I just started it one day without even thinking about if people would read it. I didn’t put two seconds of thought into the name. I just wanted it up quickly, so I randomly named it Fashion Toast. I was able to accumulate a great audience and quickly became super connected. The blog grew and grew, and I’ve had so many different types of opportunities that have taken me all over the world. It’s been such a crazy learning experience and it’s so exciting. It’s been a huge opportunity creator for me.
Have you seen an evolution of yourself from when you started to now?
As a person, I’ve experienced a lot and been able to grow so much. Aesthetically, I’ve definitely gone through phases. I was into crazy goth boots for a season. I feel like I’ve always had a minimal, paired-down take on those phases, and that’s the theme that ties everything together. I still have pieces in my closet from 2008, even 2005, and I look at them and think I could totally make them work again or I can use them as reference pieces for my line. I feel like I haven’t changed insanely with my style, but cleaned it up a lot, keeping a beachy, minimal, roll-out-of-bed, didn’t care too much but kinda cared vibe.
Tell us about your clothing like, Are You Am I.
It’s a complete fantasy come true. I’ve always had specific things that I always looked for with clothes. Back in high school, I first discovered thrift stores. I went nuts. I would customize my Levi’s, wear a shoestring as a belt, cut weird shapeless things into dresses. I’ve always had that hunger for customizing things, and obviously the extreme version of customizing something is to be able to design it yourself. It was something that I dreamed of but didn’t think would be possible. It kind of presented itself at the right moment–I felt like it was time to take my blog to the next level and really show people that I have something specific and personal to share. That first core collection that launched in December was hardly any work, besides making it happen, because I knew exactly what the pieces should look like. I was like, ‘Why haven’t I been able to find this in the all the years I’ve been blogging?’ The Slipdress was definitely the first thing that I wanted to create. It’s something that reminds me of my thrift store shopping days, when I would take an oversized silk slip dress, sift through the layers to find which one was silk, and chop it up. I actually used that as a reference when making the one in my collection. It’s still my favorite thing to throw on in the morning. Like if the UPS rings my doorbell in the morning, it’s the first thing I put on.
You’ve lived all over the world, right?
I was born in Southern California, but I don’t remember that part of my life at all. My family moved to Japan, so I grew up there for a few years. I went to an English-speaking school there and had a lot of international friends. My best friends were from India and France. I moved to Hong Kong and then to the Bay Area.
Do you frequently visit Japan now?
I was in Japan a month ago. My mom was a complete freak in her family for coming to America with my dad. Basically, no one in her family has left Japan so it’s kind of a crazy dichotomy. It’s really cool to be able to have a different experience over there and have an extended family that has such a different outlook on everything. I try to visit as often as I can. Usually once a year.
You’re one of the first big-time female bloggers. What do you credit for your success?
I feel like I wasn’t the first! In Scandinavia, it was completely normal at that time to have a blog. Maybe it’s because they have to spend so much time indoors and they need to vent. They were definitely way ahead of their time when it came to sharing personal anything—your life or style. Susie Bubble was definitely doing it longer than I was, and Brian Boy was working on crazy websites before he had his own. I think that people were thirsty for it and you really had to seek it out back then. The MySpace period was kind of the first model that I saw with those kinds of things, like sharing your style.
Do you have a blogging routine?
I wish I had. It’s a little more hectic than it should be. I feel like Instagram is such a huge focus now and making sure to update that on a daily basis has taken precedence, even though the blog is great for different types of content. In terms of routine, whenever I can sit down and focus, I can do a blog post.
What’s your long-term goal?
I just want Are You Am I to be bigger than Fashion Toast ever was. I want to address every category, whether it’s a silk scarf or a triangle bra, and show people my vision in the most perfect way in my mind.
PLUS! Rumi’s Five Tips For Aspiring Bloggers…
1. Have a consistent style that people see as distinct, whether it’s always taking a photo in a format against a specific wall, place, etc.
2. Try to create a signature, be it your jewelry style or the way you take a selfie. Even how you do your nails! Have everything speak for itself. I think that’s a really powerful thing you can do.
3. See what everyone else is doing but also do things that you love. Don’t try to do something off of a template that you see online. There’s so much of that going on and it’s not really adding to the conversation.
4. Be regular with whatever you do. People want to feed on you, so be resourceful and make the most of.
5. Don’t be a crappy person!