Who runs the fashion world? Influencers, that’s who! So The Daily is launching a new series of in-depth interviews with some of the world’s most influential women and men to find out more about what they do, why they do it, and how to work with them. First up, Jessica Wang.
Based in New York City, Wang began her influencer career in June of 2014. She runs a popular fashion blog called Not Jess Fashion and has over 713,000 followers on Instagram. She travels all over the world creating stunning content and works with everyone from Tom Ford and Michael Kors to Nike and Olay.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born in China, but went to Bentley College in Boston and then moved to NYC when I was recruited by Morgan Stanley.
How did you become an influencer?
I started my blog after working in investment banking for a few years. I quickly realized that corporate was not my calling, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do. I had always been interested in fashion and since blogging was becoming a thing at the time, I decided to try my hand at it, thinking that I’d someday own an online boutique. Once my blog started to take off, I switched gears and turned it into an escape from the bustling city life of NYC. It eventually grew to become a community where we share all things fashion, beauty, travel, and more!
You’re an influencer, but who influences you?
The Olsen twins. I’ve always admired their pared-back, layered (yet chic) aesthetic. They can literally pull off anything, which really encouraged me to strive to do the same.
Who takes all the photos of you on your feed?
My husband Dan takes most of my photos, but he recently broke his hip and I started working with different photographers. It was a really difficult time, but the injury made our marriage stronger since we used to bicker a lot! He’s finally back on his feet and has helped me so much this NYFW — my busiest season yet!
What was your first major brand partnership? Why it was so significant?
It’d definitely be the Make Up For Ever ad campaign. It was so surreal seeing my face on the subway and in Sephora stores. Once that happened, I realized that no dream is ever too big and that the hard work I put into my passion had started to pay off.
Do you think influencers get respect?
Outside the fashion industry, having a career as an “influencer” is still a confusing concept to most people. I’m often asked if that means I’m a model or designer, and the answer is obviously neither. In that sense, I’m not sure that there’s enough awareness for influencers to be respected. Inside the fashion industry, the feelings are probably mixed. There are some who are highly respected and others who aren’t — it’s tricky to say for sure. However, for the most part, people tend to think our job is easy and that all we do is snap a few photos. In reality though, influencers are some of the most hardworking people I know — we never get a day off and wear so many titles.
What’s your strategy for increasing engagement?
My strategy is to not focus on it. I find that when you get too caught up in the numbers, it’s easy to lose creative control. I place more emphasis on creating great content, developing new concepts, and fostering relationships with brands, my peers, and my followers.
What makes a brand a good partner?
A good brand partner to me is someone that respects what I do and gives me creative freedom on a partnership. I also appreciate brands who respond and provide feedback in a timely manner. It’s super frustrating when a brand or PR manager disappears in the middle of a campaign (yes, this has happened!).
What’s the craziest thing a brand/partner has ever asked you to do?
Reshoot a campaign several times. There are brands that don’t share their vision from the start and then they end up changing directions, which causes us to have to reshoot the same campaign repeatedly. I’ve been dealing with this more lately, and it’s become incredibly frustrating and time-consuming. I love being able to build strong working relationships and I’m usually more than happy to work with a brand on their vision. However, this is something that I will be considering in the future when it comes to drawing the line.
What mistakes do you see other people/brands making on Instagram?
A common mistake is others trying to replicate or copy a successful brand or influencer. It’s a very saturated space so it becomes very obvious when content starts to look the same. Originality and having a voice is also super important – that gets easily diluted when someone becomes too influenced by others.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for the gram?
I’ve had scary experiences on trips for sure. I once got swarmed by a whole hive of bees while trying to get a shot in the lavender fields of Provence. Another time, I went on a trip with a brand to a super remote place, which was not on the agenda. It took place in the middle of the night and I had no cell service, wifi, or phone at the lodge. I was on my own, the room had no windows, and it was full of bugs. I totally freaked out, especially because my husband wasn’t on the trip. I took a long break from traveling after that, lol.
Has there ever been a time when you’ve thought seriously about walking away from this business?
I have never considered that – I absolutely love what I do. There are times when I get stressed out and overwhelmed but I also love every second of it.
What’s something you know now that you wish you had known when you started?
Networking is key. If you keep an open mind, you can learn from every person you meet in life and you also never know what today’s relationships can bring months down the road.
Tell us about a time you messed up (professionally) and what you did to correct/move past it.
I once missed the Burberry show in London because of unexpected traffic. I regret it to this day, but it was a lesson to be learned… I have always been one to show up on time, but now, I’m always extra early, because I’d much rather wait for other people than have them wait on me. It’s probably super uncool, but I couldn’t care less because being late gives me anxiety.
Who are you obsessed with on Instagram?
Eva Chen because she not only has great style but is a total mom boss. She also has a great sense of humor and seems really down to earth.
What is the longest you’ve ever spent on a single post?
I’ve hosted a few parties at home specifically for content with Stella Artois and those usually take days to prepare and set up, and a whole day to shoot.
Anytime I post a video on Instagram, it’s also pretty time-consuming since I strive to get a better and curated production.
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#AvedaPartner. Fresh out of the shower with @Aveda #SapMoss Shampoo & Conditioner and feeling like a million bucks. Thanks to @aveda for bringing back this iconic line! Infused with a blend of coconut oil, Icelandic moss, and larch tree sap, my hair feels so weightless, smooth and manageable after. Hair flips for days.
What was the last good book you read?
I’m always juggling multiple things at once. I usually listen to podcasts while I’m responding to emails. I’ll flip through news on the Flipboard app. I’m always trying to learn new things and skills, and will typically turn to Google or Youtube for it. It’s probably been years since I read through a book. The Tipping Point is still one of my favorites, though.
What is something people tend to get wrong about you or your job as an influencer?
People always call me the real life Crazy Rich Asians, lol. Yes, there are a lot of perks being an influencer, but it’s also important to remember that I started with basically nothing. From not having a single connection in the industry or knowing any brands, nothing was ever handed to me. Also, I look super serious in my photos because I don’t look good smiling, but I laugh and joke a lot in person and I’m super fun! [Editors note: Jessica is, indeed, super fun and laughs a lot. However, she is wrong about her smiling face because it is luminous.]
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting to meet so many wonderful and talented people and having followers come up to me and say hi and tell me how much I have inspired them. Being able to work from home and take my kids on trips with me. Making my parents proud. The list goes on.
What is the most time-consuming aspect of your job?
I’m finally at the point now where I can say every single person on my team is amazing and excels at their role. We do so much on a daily basis, and I give input on every decision we make. I spend a large amount of time on my phone trying to oversee the entire process and then the rest of my day either producing content, meeting with brands, or attending events if I’m not traveling.
What is the best swag you’ve ever received?
I don’t mean to make you jealous, but Bottega Veneta just gifted me this gorgeous bracelet and it’s super dope! It’s not always about the gift itself, either… I love when brands include my kids — that just makes it mean so much more to me!
Where do you draw the line between professional and private in your work?
I draw the line when my family gets too involved in a project. I have been offered many reality shows where a production team would follow my family and me around. I have always turned those down.
What was the last luxury item you paid full retail for?
A Bottega Veneta bag. The brand just got a new creative director and the new bag lineup was made for the modern woman. I love everything about it. But to be honest, I pay full retail price for a lot of things – I have a shoe addiction and I’m pretty unapologetic about it, haha!
If you could change anything about your industry, what would it be?
I wish people were more kind and genuine. You don’t have to step on others to get to the top. People will forget what you said or what you did, but they will never forget how you make them feel.
If you could collaborate with anyone on any project, what would it be?
I would love to create a shoe line with a couple girlfriends. Statement shoes to jazz up any outfit!
What is your beauty routine?
My routine starts with a simple cleanse, followed by toner, moisturizer, and SPF. I’ll then apply foundation or tinted moisturizer depending on where I’m headed. Concealer is super important for me, especially to hide redness and dark undereye circles. I also always define my brows and then finish off with some powder, blush, bronzer, and a matte lip color. My must-have products are La Prairie Sunscreen SPF 50 daily, Tom Ford Lumiere Lip Balm, Make Up For Ever HD Concealer, MAC’s Retro Matte Liquid Lip Color, and Hourglass Veil Setting Powder.
What is the weirdest thing in your bag right now?
I recently discovered Wallet Ninja on Amazon. It puts 18 handy, everyday tools into the size of a credit card. Some of my favorite features are the bottle opener, box opener, phone stand, eyeglasses, and flat head screwdriver! Craziest part is that it actually works.
What is your favorite form of exercise?
Chewing, haha! In all seriousness, I don’t really exercise besides all the walking required around the city.
What do you like to do to unwind?
Nothing beats family time.
If Instagram disappeared tomorrow, what would you do?
Sell my shoes. Kidding! I would most likely branch off into creating my own clothing or accessories line.