Getting To Know You: Abisola Omole of The Apartment
At only 25 years old, Abisola Omole has founded two companies and worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for her. Here she shares more about her love for fashion week, the development of her blog and brand, why she's more of a quality-over-quantity type of gal and what we can expect from her in the future.
Back at the beginnings of my own blogging journey, I watched some of my favourite influencers share pictures on social media, during Fashion Week, hanging out at The Apartment. I didn't fully understand what it was but its exclusivity and mystery made it all the more alluring, and so I strategised a plan to get myself in. Instead of being a straightforward person and emailing the team to ask how I could gain access to this Fashion Week hotspot, I decided to hang around their events and stalk those involved - my theory being that if someone saw my face enough, it would just seem natural for me to come and hang out. Well, as silly and longwinded as that plan was, I eventually got invited and had the chance to meet the wonderful team who run the show and the founder, Abisola Omole. I was struck by how sweet and welcoming she was, but even more so by her age and how someone so young had conceptualised this brilliant brand. As I got to know her over time, I learned more about of her killer work ethic, brazen visions and go-get-it attitude. To say I was impressed is an understatement, and of course I felt compelled to force an interview upon Abi - to learn more about who she is and where she's going.
The Journey into Blogging…
As a child, I was really academic and into subjects like Maths and English. Then at 15 years old, my family moved to Milton Keynes and I felt like I had this unique opportunity to reinvent myself. For some reason, I decided to become really artsy and chose art as one of my A-Levels. I’m not exactly sure why I made that decision as I was always good at art but never fully invested in it. Yet, once I decided to apply myself, I really took to it and it kickstarted a lot of new interests for me. The desire to research into art naturally led me to fashion, and with this new found love I decided to create an art and fashion website. That was when my blog, Abimarvel.com, started back in 2008. Playing around with sites wasn’t new to me. I had always been into computers and had built other sites before for fun, but this blog was something that I had an active interest in. While I was featuring outfits, it wasn’t just your classic Lookbook.nu type blog because I was purposefully mixing in art and fashion commentary as well. I also enjoyed photography and bought my first DSLR camera off eBay, using that to elevate my style and my skills. I was posting online regularly and actively engaging with the blogger community - I took it very seriously!
The Fashion Week Experience…
When I was 16 my parents agreed to let me go to Fashion Week for the first time. My mum’s office was in Holborn at the time and I’d go to work with her, attend Fashion Week in the day and then we’d go home together after. I loved it! I was so excited to be accredited as a member of the press and I wanted to freelance for everyone and anyone, so I emailed loads of companies. I ended up freelancing for MSN and it gained me access to shows; throughout the day I'd write-up articles and edit pictures, in the press lounge, whilst meeting and talking to all kinds of interesting people - I had no shame. I even saw Olivia Palermo and asked to interview her, there and then for MSN. I genuinely brought out my phone and did an impromptu interview. I’m not sure where that confidence came from but at the time I thought I was living the life. So, I begged my parents to keep letting me attend and luckily the September shows are during half term so I’d always get to go to that. Even if I couldn’t go, I’d still be in my Sixth Form lounge, watching the shows online, when I was supposed to be in registration. Being such a priority in my eyes, it was worth getting in trouble for and it led me to want to be part of it even more.
I decided to study PR at University because I was fascinated by the fashion lifestyle. At the same time, I was attending amazing events in London and building relationships with other PRs. I also naturally began incorporating travel and tech into the blog, which widened the brands that I was working with. Then, at my fourth season of Fashion Week, I felt like I wasn’t meeting enough people similar to myself, even though we were all connecting on Twitter. I came up with the idea of having a space for us to hang out. I discussed it with my parents and they were so supportive, even though the idea was still vague. They encouraged me to give it a go, so I used part of my student loan to pay for what we needed and because I had developed so many relationships with brands in the past, they were really open to what I was doing. We got food, clothes, cars and I ended up with a lot of freedom to design the space, invite content creators and just see how it goes. That was the first ever season of the Apartment.
I had initially planned it as a one-off thing but brands were interested in signing up for more seasons and bloggers were asking about what was going to happen next, so I sat down with my parents to look at how it could all work. They were cool with the idea as long as my grades didn’t slip, so we went for it. The second season was definitely harder because I was back at university, juggling studying and working. There was one day where we were having a big dinner with Windows for the Apartment and the same afternoon I had a university presentation to give that would account for half of my grade. It was crazy but it all worked out.
“I was so lucky that people gave me a chance and that lead to us working with some of the most incredible brands in the world over the last six years, contributing to the growth of the general influencer marketing industry.”
Now the Apartment is a creative and digital agency, that works on content creation and digital strategies for brands, as well as influencers. We have our space that occurs twice a year in London, Paris and New York.
It’s something that we’re still trying to figure out. We get a lot of emails from individuals asking us to represent them but because we have a small team that works so closely with our influencers, it would be difficult for us to try and manage all that we do for more than a few people at once. My priority is always quality and the idea of taking on a mass of influencers without having a fully informed team is careless. So we have to say no a lot but I’m in the process of training people to understand how Influencer Marketing and Digital focused projects work so that we can start representing more creative influencers. We also get individuals asking to come to the Fashion Week Apartment but I’m quite particular about who we have attending. There are too many influencers in the industry for the wrong reasons and we need to maintain a certain level of quality control and professionalism. I want our space to represent what is great, exciting and promising in our industry.
“It’s not about numbers, it’s about individuals who are really taking care with what they are creating, who strive to tell a story and who see the big and exciting picture of where this industry could go.”
This all being said, I really don’t want people to feel like I'm unapproachable. We are somewhat exclusive but I want us to feel accessible too, as a huge focus for me is the next generation of content creators. So we’re always excited to sit down with anyone who may want advice or who we can share any helpful insights we may have, whenever we can. Our team is small and we don’t know everyone, but we’re beyond open to receiving emails from creators and being introduced to new faces that we might not have come across yet. In fact, it’s one of the ways our community has grown, as well as through word of mouth, meeting +1s at our events and being introduced to influencers linked to brands.
I think it’s that cohesion of building something from scratch and seeing it flourish into something incredible. While I can acknowledge that we’re doing well and have become semi-notable in the industry, I can’t say that we’re necessarily successful. I have so many interests, ideas and plans that sometimes I’m not sure if I will ever reach self-actualisation. Though it’s a personal struggle, it probably has a big part to play in what motivates me to do more.
It’s very hard to find team members who share the same vision that you do. We’ve had some great people work with us in the past, but that doesn’t mean they get it or will be as invested as you are. I’m never looking for someone who just wants a job, I’m looking for someone who wants to be a part of this lifestyle. I appreciate it can also be difficult for potential candidates as the lifestyle and industry are constantly evolving, so someone who showed potential a year ago might not be suitable today. I’m looking for individuals who can keep up and exceed the speed at which things move at and that’s hard to find.
The New Gig: Arva...
As the Apartment was growing, I had less and less time to dedicate to my blog. So, I had to figure out a new plan. As mentioned, my interests are quite varied beyond just fashion. Another huge passion of mine is travel, specifically hotels. I’ve always had this notion of opening up my own hotel, restaurant or cafe. It’s a really exciting thought. So it made sense to launch a site solely dedicated to lifestyle and the consumer, away from the Apartment. Arva isn’t a magazine or a blog - it’s a mini lifestyle directory, focusing on everything from the coolest apps, to what’s going on in town, to wider travel. It’s for predominantly young females with a curated taste, those who want to find active ways to live the best life! The site is what we’re working on now, then we’ll launch a range of partnerships and in a year or so, we’d like to have our own 24-hour cafe/restaurant as well as store, and that’s just the beginning.
I have met so many one dimensional people who are only into fashion and that’s it. The idea of being so closed off is bad - actually, it’s a little scary. I love meeting people who are open-minded and well-rounded, both traits that dictate the kind of projects you do and the level of creativity you have.
“As a blogger, don’t get stuck shooting in front of nice houses in Notting Hill. Think about how you can be influenced by everything from film noir to art history. That way, you might create something that will further the industry.”
Also don’t get complacent. Just because you’re doing well doesn’t mean you need to stay stuck doing the same type of thing. That’s really not wise and people will pass you very quickly. I’ve seen that happen to really great bloggers who are now semi-irrelevant. Finally, be nice to people. The sheer amount of collaborations we’ve had based on positive relationships formed years ago; I can’t even express how that’s changed my life.
One of the ongoing projects I’ve always wanted to create is a permanent space where influencers, content creators and the online community could work. I want to build somewhere where we can have access to all the facilities we need in order to create the best content, whilst growing who we are professionally and economically. There are so many things we don’t know because a lot of us are accidental entrepreneurs, so I want the community to have all they need to make their businesses legitimate, profitable and exciting. From that, we can put together a lifestyle creative/digitally focused council - (think BFC but specific to content creators and the digital world) - where we talk about regulation, quality and growth. There isn’t any transparency in the industry and I want to have a hand in changing that.
Bloggers… Gal meets Glam, Karen O (Youtube) and Park & Cube - the quality, professionalism and creativity these individuals possess is not only incredible - it’s exciting. What they are producing is changing everything and I can’t wait to see what’s next for all of them.
Brands… AERIN, Emilia Wickstead, AMAN Hotels, Fujifilm, Marks & Spencer and Saucony.
Travel Spots… LA: I never thought I'd feel so emotional about a place; outside of its many great hotels, restaurants and all-round cool places, I find LA to be so inspiring from a content and photographic point of view. I also love the south of France (specifically Cap Ferrat) - it’s super accessible, is filled with this quiet sophistication that makes me feel all girly and I start romanticizing EVERYTHING. Lastly, Geneva - the city has such varied and incredible architecture, the most amazing strawberries and transport is free! Oh and their parks are [insert heart emoji]!