Finnish-born Sandra Haglestam, the creative behind 5 inches and up, has been in the fashion industry since graduating from London College of Fashion, having moved to London 9 years ago. The Content Creator and Actress recently participated in the GFW18 Talent of Tomorrow Campaign, styling the wares of Teresa Lee from Manchester School of Art.
We sat down with Sandra on set to hear why she's no longer worried about limiting herself to one label, how she turned her shoe addiction into a successful online career and the subtle difference between inspiration and copying.
What made you want to being involved with Graduate Fashion Week?
I have actually worked around Graduate Fashion Week on and on and off basis for a longer time. I’ve been to the shows a few times, I’ve done some sponsored activity , shot backstage so I’ve where I’ve had the chance, I've been involved. I just think that as an influencer I have that responsibility to support up and coming designers and going to fashion week introducing new designers, discovering them. It has always been something that I really enjoyed doing. It's an opportunity to support new talent which is really exciting.
Was becoming an influencer something that happened by accident or did you see yourself doing that?
It was completely by accident. I moved to London 9 years ago to study fashion design and got into London College of Fashion to study design and marketing. And then on the side I was reading a few blogs from the states. Like I said it was 9 or so years ago, so everything about vlogs and all about personal style bloggers people were using websites like lookbook. It was purely outfit inspiration.
I remember I had this huge shoe collection and I was just addicted to shopping, like ebay and etsy. I am just passionate about style, so I remember I looked at my shoe collection at some point and just thought it needs so more attention. University students have no where to wear them, so I started this visual diary which was of regular stories of things that I would wear. Without even thinking about it, it had a strong direction and I got really interested into photography so I started to put more time and effort into that.
I started to shoot on automated settings and taught myself how to shoot - that was always something that was interesting to me. It started to interest me, to work with and brands and start to produce content that they could post or behind the scenes for fashion week so that someone else could use as well. I kind of just wedged myself into this gap that didn’t really exist at the time. Now of course there’s millions of bloggers and influencers and freelance photographers and anyone with a phone can take part in it now, which is fine.
A few years ago I felt the need to just box myself in and feel the need to be labelled. Am I an influencer, am I a blogger or a stylist? Now I enjoy not having a label, I can do many things.
London is known for its creativity and being a real cultural hub. Its where GFW takes place each year! What do you think of, when you think about London ?
I think if I were to compare say the fashion weeks with other major cities, London is definitely the young fine place for me, a lot of university students come to London to study, so it brings that creativity and youth and just being excited about having a young London element. I think it's such a cool aspect, it's not so serious, it's quite free, it's amazing. It's something that a lot of young people going through - a stage in their life trying to find clarity, trying to find themselves. I’m in my thirties you know I need to remind myself London always has something to offer and there so many, even when you look at the areas in London, it's very easy to find your style, you know if you're in southwest or a Notting Hill girl or you want to be east. You know one city it divides itself in a good way so there’s something for everyone.
I always think about it, there are so many contradictions that have negative connotations but actually it's a great thing, because it means people can be anywhere they want to be on that spectrum and still fit in and be different at the same time which is really nice.
There are a lot of students at the moment in their studios getting ready for GFW18. What advice would you give them?
What would I say without sounding so cliché? Obviously you need to do your own thing, it's so easy on a sub conscious level to copy now a days. You would see something and forget where you saw it, you know it's mix of things like pinterest, saving instagram pictures and cut outs.
So definitely allow yourself to be influenced, that’s fine as you need to have an understanding of where the market is at the moment and what is trending and where and what looks right because even if you are doing your own thing, you want employers to pay attention to you. You want people to think that what you are creating feels now and interesting. Keep one eye on the outside world don’t get too sucked into your own head thinking that everything is against you, but definitely quality over quantity because there are so many young designers and established designers as well that are constantly creating or recreating so make sure that everything you produce is to a high quality.
Keep your eyes open go and sit somewhere in store, maybe and if you think could your collection be at Dover Street Market or wherever you feel or dream of being and maybe spend time going into store and sitting around with the customers, and see if you can see your collection being there, think a bit ahead.
How do you stay true to yourself on social media and counteract any negativity?
It’s a difficult question because I don’t really know how to put my finger down on exact advice. I do save a lot of screen shots from instagram so maybe go into your subconscious mind and look at your inspiration but don’t try and make something that someone has already done. Allow yourself to be inspired by different light, colour, settings or styles but don’t take the inspiration literally don’t get your phone and shoot something else don’t recreate something because then you will end up second best.
Trust your own instincts because people can always copy you as well but they will never know what your next step is if you are creative and you are able to build up that confidence then you can give all your ideas out for free and it's not going to be harming you.
Interview by Annabel Waterhouse-Biggins