How One Blogger Built Her Own Creative Outlet And Regained Her Confidence In The Process

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Last week The Style Edit had the absolute pleasure of having Debbie Le aka The Fashionable Pan as a guest host for our very first event. Alongside The Style Edit Contributor, Freddie Perrins, Debbie hosted an evening of fashion inspiration including a fashion show covering the hottest trends of the season – as styled by Debbie Le – and an inspirational Q&A session with Debbie covering her journey from fashion buyer to Instagram influencer (and sensation).

In case you missed out on the event (here’s hoping we see you next time) we sat down with Debbie to discuss her career journey in the fashion industry, her biggest challenges so far and the inside scoop on her latest collaboration that saw her flying to Milan to create some incredible content.

How did you get started in the blogging industry? Why did you start?

I started my Instagram fashion account in March 2017 as a creative outlet to help me get my fashion confidence back. I felt I completely lost my way, my identity when I became a mum. I wore the same thing everyday and was really miserable about the way I looked and dressed, only really making an effort when I went out which was not very often at all. I was depressed and so tired and my last thought was me and what I looked like. So I took the easy route and didn’t really take care of my daily appearance. I may have appeared fine and ok to others but to me, I didn’t like what I saw and how I felt. So I started following fashion accounts and saw that they inspired me daily with their outfits. It gave me a little brainwave and I thought if they can inspire me then surely with my fashion and style background, I can do the same and inspire others. I was always styling my friends and giving them clothes and inspiring my customers. Plus I knew that if I had to take an outfit shot each day it would force me to work my wardrobe and think about what to wear each day. And slowly along with boxing, the confidence came back!

What did the early days of The Fashionable Pan look like and how have they changed now?

I definitely am more confident! I’m certainly more social. I feel like I have my career back and am more happy and excited about fashion again. My content hasn’t changed too much. Just my confidence. I’m still the same Debbie in terms of how I portray my life as a mum and I still love my shopping hauls.

Tell us about your career path pre-blogging.

I worked as a Saturday girl in a clothes shop and worked my way up to the top where I became a Buying Director and Stylist. We were an award winning independent store and had 7 shops in London. During my time here, I studied at LCF in Fashion Management as well as doing an intensive buying course. I was also a Buying consultant for an Airport Business specialising in Travel Retail and started my own Personal Styling business, which I incorporated into the store. I was also a Sales Agent and helped bring over a Spanish Shoe Brand into the UK opening over 30 accounts in 6 months! It was a very busy time and I absolutely loved my job.

Photo Credit: Glenn Norwood

With a professional background in the fashion industry already under your belt, how did your previous roles prepare you for your evolving role as a blogger?

It helped massively as I have experience in the industry and the networking/press shows are very similar with what I did as a job. I guess the press trips I’ve been on are like my buying trips! But obviously I was working and I always had a camera on me as I had to take lots of product shots in my buying meetings! The only difference is back then nothing was documented like it is now! Which is probably a good thing!!!! The whole filming is all new to me though! But I love it! It’s fun!

Do you wish you’d taken the leap into the blogging world sooner?

No. I always believe there’s a time. And now is my time to shine.

How do you set yourself apart from other fashion bloggers out there?

We’re all different and it can seem that we all manage our blogs quite similar but there’s room for everybody and we will all bloom in our own time. For me, I’m myself. I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea and that’s ok. I think my captions are well received! I say it how it is! I’m not a natural writer so I say how I speak. It may be offensive especially my profanities but as a mum to two very young children, it’s hard not to.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

Time! Definitely finding that balance of being a working mum/stay at home mum role. My family dynamics have changed especially with the hubby but he’s been incredibly supportive especially now he sees it as my career.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started?

Again, no. There’s been some challenges and some lovely surprises along the way! I never ever expected any of this to happen when I started.

Photo Credit: Glenn Norwood

Can you tell us about what goes on behind the scenes when creating content? Do you have a particular process or routine, especially when working with brands?

I have to tell you about my recent collab with M&S – I was given this fab opportunity with them to create content on their “must haves” range and they had a deadline. I wasn’t able to shoot outside due to child care/safety issues so I had to use my brick wall feature in my kitchen as my backdrop. My mother who is a stroke patient who can’t walk very far and gets tired very easily took my pictures whilst my mother-in-law had to hold an umbrella over the Velux windows to hide the sun spots. There was clothes everywhere, the kids were running around causing havoc, there was me shouting at my mum because she kept chopping my head off and my mother-in-law laughing. It was a scene! But I got it done and one of the pictures got the most likes on my feed!

Let’s talk about your most recent trip – Pan in Milan. Can you tell us about how that partnership came about?

This is what is amazing about Instagram – the connections! The Wallis girls found me through a connection they already had and invited me to an amazing meal with them. We had such a laugh and the girls were so so lovely. I was then collaborating with them and one day out of the blue I got the email inviting me to come to Milan Lake Como on a press trip. When I saw this email, I literally started shaking and rang the hubby telling him to take time off work so I could go on this trip. I also burst into tears as this opportunity was unreal. I mean, seriously. They chose me out of the hundreds of bloggers that they could have chosen. It felt like a massive part of me that left had started to finally come back. I used to work in Milan a couple of times a year so it felt nostalgic.

Photo Credit: @thefashionablepan

Do you have any advice for bloggers who would like to get more involved in brand partnerships and collaborations?

Again, work hard, be savvy and use the platform as a means to connect with the brands you wish to work with. Brands are becoming a lot more savvy and are more aware of micro bloggers and look at good content and not just numbers. If they feel you are right for them, they will contact you. And they like to use different bloggers. Go to the press events and network. You never know who you will meet. But always be yourself and remain integral to your page. It’s important to stay authentic.

How has the pressure of social media and putting yourself out there impacted your life?

My relationships have changed. My social media life has kinda taken over and now that my friends know what I’m up to and what I’ve been doing, are less inclined to contact me and connect because they already know what I’ve been up to. It’s like they’ve caught up. I’m the same too though. Life just takes over sometimes. I need to work on that. Again, it’s finding that balance, which I’m finding hard! The hubby is always nagging at me about it…

Where do you think the future of the influencer space is heading?

I think there’s still so much space and potential for lots more influencers to come on board. It’s exciting but again, concentrate on what you’re doing and let them do their thing.

What’s something you wish more people knew about you?

That I’m also human and have feelings and I can be easily hurt. I know I am incredibly blessed with the abundance in my life but I’ve worked hard and with my attitude feel I deserve my riches but there’s always some people that want to p*ss on your bonfire.

What motivates you?

My children. I want to set a great example and pave the way for them to be whoever they want to be with good work ethics and being gracious and happy with it.

What’s one piece of advice you would pass on to those hoping to break into the fashion industry?

Really and truly, please just be yourself. Don’t try and be somebody else. Be the better example of you and work hard and believe. But above all be happy.

Photo Credit: Glenn Norwood

How did you get to work with The Style Edit UK?

TSE founder/EIC, Jenny & I met through Instagram and over the course of a year of back and forth messaging, phone calls and laughs, we became great friends. Although The Style Edit predominantly focuses on luxury to high end fashion, Jenny loved my high street finds and was always incredibly supportive of my page. She really wanted us to work together but we agreed that it had to be the right project! And that’s how the fashion inspiration event came about. We wanted to create high end looks with high street brands! Our first collaboration was a huge success and through all the stress and pressure leading up to our event, we remained professional, worked really well as a team and had each other’s backs through everything! We’re like souls sisters! I thank Jenny for giving me the amazing opportunity to host my first live fashion event!

What’s next for you?

Be a successful blogger and maybe work in TV. Who knows what will happen to The Pan!

To keep up to date with Debbie’s latest style finds, collaborations and blog posts check out her Instagram @thefashionablepan.

Niamh Crawford-Walker

Niamh is a full time fashion and features writer at The Style Edit. Her work has previously appeared in IMAGE magazine, and Emirates Woman.

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