The Allure Of Karen Blanchard

Michael M.

Who is Karen Blanchard? She is a former street style photographer turned blogger who is now a massively followed content creator. She’s a woman who used to go under the monicker “Where Did U Get That” on Blogspot. I first discovered her in high school when I used to frequent Blogspot. Her outfits that didn’t give off clickbait energy deeply inspired me. Her pairings felt chic to me, and honestly, I wasn’t dressing like her; I merely aspired to. In this era, Aimee Song and Bryan Boy were also cutting their teeth in the blogging universe.

“I love wearing menswear, mannish style [and] masculine clothes,” she says from her home in Manhattan. She calls this way of dressing “tomboy chic.” Blanchard’s signature style is filled with high-end designer pieces from Saint Laurent fused with lower-end items by COS. She’s also heavily into The Frankie Shop right now. The price points of COS and The Frankie Shop compel Karen to stay loyal to both brands. As for Saint Laurent, she finds their pieces to be well-crafted and pricy but worth splurging on.

Her journey began in London, but now she’s living in New York City with her husband, Michael. Candidly, she tells me that boredom years ago led her to begin documenting her outfits. This respite offered her moments to key in on clothing she felt was expressive. Eventually, her following began climbing on Blogspot–and then it began skyrocketing on Instagram as the years continued. There’s a level of accessibility that feels innate to Karen’s accounts spanning TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. I failed to mention that there is also a warmth that can be heard in her voice when it is captured. Nothing ever feels forced, either. Instead, it is almost like you’re watching your best friend live out her dreams. Those dreams involve fashion month, sitting in the front row at shows, and occupying space in a predominantly non-diverse field. As a Black woman in fashion, Blanchard takes her presence seriously.

Blanchard is well aware of the disparities that exist in the fashion industry. During our interview, she recalls when she was a photographer in London and noticed that other street style photographers tended to focus on tall, thin white women who looked wealthy. She mentioned an instance where a photographer confessed to her that a magazine had instructed him to specifically look for women who fit this description. This was an unsettling but eye-opening experience for her. Even though she didn’t specify the date, this issue remains relevant in 2024.  It highlights the ongoing need for progress in the fashion industry in terms of racial representation and diversity. 

Aside from the previously mentioned recollection that felt a bit discouraging, Karen is flourishing in a way that feels downright like a winning season. During our conversation, she frequently smiles and laughs. When talking about her favorite brands, how she mixes and matches them, and how she dresses, it’s clear that she truly enjoys being a part of the global fashion industry. Diversity issues aside, Blanchard is still expressing herself–she’s having fun with it all, too.  

Below, we spoke with Karen about the highs and lows of being a content creator, her origins, the brands she’s loving right now, and the lack of diversity in fashion. 

What led you to launch your OG blog?

I started because [as] a cry for help. It was like a boredom from my office job, let’s put it that way. And it was. I was born and raised in London, most know, and I moved to New York and my job wasn’t what I do now. My job was working in an office. It was a 9:00 to 5:00 and had nothing to do with fashion. It was a printing company. I got the job because it was a visa as a means to stay in the country because I wasn’t married. There was no permanency. But it was a way for me to have a foot in the door and be in America, New York, specifically. And I started my blog, “Where Did You Get That,” as a creative outlet, and it was just to escape the day job and the humdrum boredom of that.

Because I knew I loved fashion, I knew I loved style and playing with all of that. It was a diary for me. It was very cathartic. I would finish my nine-to-five, go home, blog, and take outfit [photos] on the weekend with Michael. I’d shoot about back-to-back outfits so that I could just spread them out during that following week. It was almost like I had two jobs in a way. It was a hobby for a very, very, very long time. It wasn’t about making money. That’s not why I did it. A lot of people now start for that purpose, but it wasn’t seen then as a job. It was just a fun thing to do and I loved doing it. And as soon as I started doing it, I felt like, this is fun, this is cool, this is filling something here that the job [wasn’t]. That’s really where it began.

The Allure Of Karen Blanchard
Michael M.

Can you talk about keeping your followers engaged? Do you actually read comments?

Yes, I do, because I think it’s important to one, engage, and two, to see what they’re feeling as well and what like, what they don’t like. And you know when you’re going to know is get it direct from them. Because that’s your feedback and that’s your way of having that two-way conversation as well. So, I do engage. When I get DMs on my Instagram, I do reply back. Or if it’s a question that everyone’s asking, I’ll just do a story out of it so everyone can see the answer, so that’s easier.

I have YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram as my main platforms at the moment, and the level of engagement varies on each of those. I think YouTube has the most engaged audience, probably because the content is longer. If someone invests their time in watching a 20 or 30-minute video, they are more invested in you. So, the comments on YouTube are probably the most personal. It’s also the platform where you can get more personal because you can do vlogs and show your life at home. I don’t do that as much on Instagram, so YouTube is where you can get deeper.

The Allure Of Karen Blanchard
Michael M.

Back when I first started following you I loved the idea of a Black woman who looked like me being in the blogging space putting herself out there with her outfits. What do you feel resonates most with your audience now, is it the accessibility of the clothing and your personality?

It’s a [combination] of what you just said. Personality, because on YouTube and videos now in general, because all platforms are reliant on video, you get the chance to talk. And I do have something to say, which is why I started my YouTube channel in the first place. It’s not that I was bored, but I was semi-bored with “Where Did You Get That” only showing photos of me. It’s just this silence. It’s like, “Who is that mystery girl?” Just pictures of me. And you don’t know what I sound like, my accent, if I have one, if I do what is it? What do I have to say? So I started the YouTube so I could actually talk. That’s why.

I believe my success is due to a combination of my personality and the feedback I’ve received from my followers and fellow content creators. They have told me, “You have a strong on-camera presence.” In addition to that, it’s the accessibility of the outfits I release. I don’t exclude any particular audience. I cater to those with lower, mid, and luxury budgets, which is exactly how I shop as well. I mix and match different designs. So, it’s a combination of offering a mix of high and low-end fashion, along with my personality and voice. 

How do you come up with your day-to-day outfits? 

It depends. Sometimes it is a feeling as well as what event I’m going to. I think the event is first and foremost, and then I dress for it. When I have to figure out what to wear; it’s really about what I feel like wearing for this event. Usually, there’s one thing I feel like wearing and I style around it. Whatever that thing is, it could be a certain blazer, and I think, Oh, I feel like wearing this blazer today, so what am I going to wear with it? That’s usually the way it works. It’s about what is that one thing I want to wear today, and then I just figure out the rest around it. Maybe it could be a pair of shoes, like, “Oh, I’d love to wear these shoes today.” So I have to come up with the outfit around those shoes. It’s just playing around with different options.

On a bit of a more chaotic note, what is it like attending runway shows and presentations during fashion month? I’d love to hear your perspective. 

It’s tough. You definitely have to prepare for it. In the beginning, it was just New York, so it was easy because I live here anyway. But once you incorporate travel overseas you have things that you’re usually attending every single day. In the beginning, it was overwhelming with so much happening and ping-ponging around a city you’ve never been to.  So, you try to figure it out. Thankfully, Michael comes with me. It’s almost impossible to go by yourself because it’s just too much.

Figuring out outfits, figuring out where you’ve got to go, who’s going to shoot you, all of that. And you’re going to events where it’s just nice to have company with you. So you need at least if you can, just one other person. You just have to plan it out just like if you have a busy week at home. You’ve just got to plan it like, what am I doing this week? But it does change on a day-to-day basis. It’s just very much all hands on deck and just like, “Okay, I’ve got to do this, this and this today.” And then outside the Fashion Week events, you’ve also got work that you’ve got happening that’s outside of Fashion Week. The deliverables that you may have to do for clients that are happening on the back end that no one is seeing.

That’s also happening in tangent with getting dressed and going to a show or going to an event. There’s an unseen element that people don’t even know that’s happening. And also there’s a few things that people aren’t aware of and I don’t think they realize that they are literally deliverables that you have to do. 

What brands are you feeling strongly about right now?

I think at the moment my style is evolving. I’m moving away from prints. I was very much into mixing prints and I’m, I’ve noticed, moving away into more solid colors instead, a little bit more chic versus hobo before, which is what I was. I’m more so chic slash edgy tomboyish now. I love wearing menswear and masculine clothes. I’m forever loving on the lower-end, Frankie Shop because I think that they embody a very accessible way to get that kind of look, accessibility-wise. I always love vintage. That never goes out, to compliment what I like. But in terms of [the] higher end, I think at the moment there’s no one in particular who I can say I’m gravitating towards this particular. I’m loving Cos at the moment, actually, also from a lower end. I’m quite liking what they’re doing.

I think from a completely opposite, from a luxury standpoint, I love what Saint Laurent is doing. I think it’s just super chic and super clean. And obviously, it’s a luxury price point, but I feel like the pieces are so well-made and just so lasting in terms of the cut. And I’ve invested in some pieces. And I buy them in Europe because it’s way less priced than it is in America. I just wait until I’m overseas, then I’ll go and get it. It just makes much more sense.

The Allure Of Karen Blanchard
Michael M.

You mentioned this idea of an edgy tomboy. Do you feel like the chic and more sleeker look is the current style era that you’re living through right now for you?

It’s a combination of both because I think your style can marry two elements and not necessarily only be one. For me is that combination of something that feels a little bit edgy, tomboyish, somehow. There’s that element somehow in there. And also a little bit more chic as well. Something that’s a timeless element to it. But there are days when I ping-pong and I’ll just wear something that feels much more… What’s the word? It still has a hobo edge to it. For example, I was wearing a brown vintage suede jacket this week, and it has fringing down the sleeves and the back and along the hem, but I think I worked with this long maxi skirt, which is the chic element. So it’s combining those two eras and those two aesthetics together, and I love to do stuff like that.

Do you feel as though there are significant factors that need to be altered within the fashion industry when it comes to diversity?

I completely agree. The last point you made resonates with me because I believe we should focus on what is rather than what isn’t. When it comes to fashion, particularly luxury fashion, I feel that whatever debuts on the runway eventually trickles down to the high street and beyond. I’m excited because I believe that the current generation is more outspoken than its predecessors. This generation will eventually become the future designers, and I anticipate that their unique personalities will be reflected in the clothing they create. 

No one stays in the position of a creative director forever, so eventually, companies will need to hire new talent. With the rise of social media, everyone’s opinions are instantly made public, and brands can’t control what people think anymore. They can see and hear the opinions, and they’re worried about the impact. All it takes is enough people to agree with an opinion, and the brands feel pressured to change.

I’m always thinking about the lack of Black people on mastheads at major publications, while we are featured in street style photos during fashion month. I agree that there aren’t enough people who look like us in leadership positions, making important decisions. I think what’s happening is a reflection of the lack of diversity within those organizations, from the people they invite to the decision-makers in the room. Do you have any other thoughts on diversity? 

Just think of the editor-in-chief formerly of British Vogue, Edward Enninful. He’s a Black man, and you could see the difference once he was employed. That is just one quick example of what’s happening inside, and that’s what needs to have change completely. I look forward to seeing that happen. It’s still happening very slowly. I was talking to somebody who worked for a well-known designer in Paris. She was an intern there and she told me, “Karen, outside of me and one other person, we were the only Black people in the entire building,” in terms of the office.

That’s crazy. I also often think about how fashion is made up of friends, connections to one’s family, that idea of nepotism and just passing people around based on who they’re connected to and who they know. It’s a level of comfort too. I think that’s something that’s going to have to shift.

They don’t care what it looks like and it’s more like inviting, hiring, using, paying whoever they know, who they like. And it is very much a relationship industry, that is for sure. It’s about who you know, et cetera. And I can see that now. I didn’t realize it was so much that. I thought it was much more in my naive mind thinking, As long as you look good and you love fashion, you have a sense of your style, that’s going to be enough. But it’s not.

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