Margaret Zhang is the 21 year old Aussie entrepreneur who’s studying law while publishing the wildly successful website Shine by Three. She’s a stylist, writer and photographer who’s starred in the TV series Fashion Bloggers, and is relentlessly snapped at Fashion Weeks around the world for her unique sense of style. Having collaborated with some of this planet’s top brands including Nike, VISA, Shopbop, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, she’s now one of the new faces for Clinique internationally.
Having met Margaret ages ago when we both interviewed Italian fashion designer Roberto Cavalli, I was thrilled to have a good girlie chat with her again about how she prioritises it all, tips for bloggers who want to work with brands, the time she swapped shoes with Miranda, how to apply the perfect winged eyeliner, and why we all need a bodysuit stat.
And despite her international acclaim, she remains as warm and as down to earth as ever. But whatever you do, don’t call her a ‘Fashion Blogger!’
Fox in Flats: The first time we met was about three years ago and we were both interviewing Roberto Cavalli. He even chatted with me about his pet monkeys!
Margaret: Yeah. Oh my god, how funny. He said some really interesting things… I was like, “Dude, your PR person did not want you to say that!”
Fox in Flats: Thinking about since then, you must have interviewed lots of amazing people over the years. What are some of the highlights?
Margaret: Yeah, there’s been a couple. I’ve met Miranda Kerr a few times while working with Swarovski. She’s so sweet. We get along quite well and our personalities kind of fit. She loves shoes. We did a shoot in Austria and her shoes are like killing her so we swapped. And that was a bit hilarious and everyone was really confused.
Fox in Flats: So you’ve literally walked in around her shoes?
Margaret: Yeah, literally. They’re really uncomfortable. I was like, “Girl, I’m glad you’re wearing my shoes because you’ll be in a bad mood otherwise.”
Viktor and Rolf I think is a really big one. I met them last year. I was only going to a showroom to see their stuff and they walked up the stairs and I had that moment. I think it’s the only time in my life where I’m just completely lost it.
Fox in Flats: Really?
Margaret: Because I loved them since I was 12 – their stuff was so conducive to that whole costume stage I was in. And so I was like, “I don’t know what to say to you guys. I loved you guys since I was 12.” And they’re like, “You make us feel old. What are you talking about?” They’re so wonderful and they’re like one of the few I think who were just really genuine to their craft. I saw their Couture show in Paris and it was sensational. That was definitely like that kind of moment.
How she fits it all in
Fox in Flats: With all of the stuff that you’ve got on your plate – which blows my mind that you’re studying and doing all this as well – how do you prioritize?
Margaret: It depends on what’s happening at that time. So when I have exams and assessments I just have to step back a bit from work and people understand that. And then when I have a lot of jobs going on I’m like, yes, I might take away from study a little bit and just plan ahead and do it all or I’ll do it later. But time passes. You have exams for a week and you’ll be done in a week. So you just kind of have to believe it that way and just take it as they come.
Fox in Flats: Do you have any productivity tips or apps that you use?
Margaret: I don’t have a television, which is really great.
Fox in Flats: You don’t have a TV???
Margaret: No, I don’t have a TV. It’s a waste of time. Also I don’t drink at all. I’ve never had alcohol. I never have a hangover. I guess that would be counter-productive. I don’t drink coffee so I don’t have like a low at the end of the day. You kind of just keep drinking water and drink a little green tea, which is good, not as high in caffeine. It’s good that I do lots of things because you kind of procrastinate between them because you’re always kind of getting something done somehow. If I’m sick of reading textbooks then I just go and do my website stuff because I feel good about it at that time and that’s where my head’s at.
Fox in Flats: Some people are very rigid with their structure and plan like… do something on the blog on the first part of the day or Instagram something at a certain time. Do you do that or do you kind of just do it as you feel like?
Margaret: I don’t think I’d get anything done if I did that. Usually I will write myself an hourly schedule, or like this is when I’m going to do this…it never happens because something about the obligation just makes you not want to do it.
Fox in Flats: Makes you want to rebel?
Margaret: Yeah. If you just have a list of things that you need to get done in the day then it just happens in that day.
Fox in Flats: A bit more organic.
Margaret: Yeah, I think so.
On working with brands
Fox in Flats: You’ve done some amazing brand collaborations. When you started out, how did you start working with brands?
Margaret: I guess I’m a big believer in building relationships with brands. For example like Swarovski I collaborated with them for over 4 years. And that started very organically where I would just shoot editorial stuff and incorporate some of their product, and built that relationship with their selling team. That led to an agreement with their international team. And now it’s a really solid relationship that we’ve built with a big creative staff.
And similarly with Clinique – I’ve always used Clinique products. There will always be a few key products in my cosmetics bag. They’re such a long-standing brand with iconic products that everybody knows about.
I remember the first time when I went to America I was like 14 or 15 going on a two week exchange with a strange American family in Michigan. They were lovely by the way, totally conservative. And on the plane on a change over from LA to Detroit there was this very distressed woman who had her Clinique taken off her at security because it was over the size limit. Actually she was really stressed and her daughter did not understand the stress and her Dad said, “Just leave your mother alone. Mommy’s got her Clinique taken off her.” She was just really depressed. Clinique’s really important to people.
Fox in Flats: At least it wasn’t mummy’s caffeine fix!
Margaret: Yeah! Ha ha ha!
Fox in Flats: What advice would you have for up and coming bloggers who want to get on the radar with working with brands?
Margaret: Don’t think of yourself as a blogger. I think it’s important to have a blog and you’re a blogger in that sense I guess. But use your blog as a platform to kind of showcase your skills and really push yourself. Like if you’re a photographer you push yourself to shoot different kinds of content and then use the website or the portfolio to show what you’re doing. If you’re a journalist you write opinion pieces about news articles, news opinions, and news events in your field rather than just waiting for things to come around, just like chase something else. And think about how you could work with other brands in your capacity and work with other publications in your capacity. Because there’s so much room. It’s such a grey area that you can really carve it out the way you want.
I think that’s one of the most common mistakes is labelling yourself as a blogger. I mean, if you are a fashion blogger, what does it mean?”
Like you travel along, take pretty pictures, that’s nice. What else do you do? Like how much longevity can you get out of that? How long can you take pictures of yourself? You probably don’t want to be taking pictures of yourself when you’re 80. Like how do you evolve?
There’s going to be a point where your consumer grows up and grows out of you in a sense. And you have kind of seen that with a lot of the original bloggers where they rely quite heavily on their audience and some of their audience isn’t into ‘vintage’ anymore, or whatever is their thing. Or the audience could someday afford expensive clothes and doesn’t really want to buy for cheaper stuff. They drop off from that and someday you don’t have an audience. How can you extend that?
Fox in Flats: Extend the life cycle of your brand, right?
Margaret: Right, exactly. I think it’s important to have a little more than that. Because someone just asked me “What risks have you managed in being a full-time blogger?” And I was like, “Yeah, being a full-time blogger is actually risky, but I haven’t done that.” That was very awkward. It’s the same as any business really. You wouldn’t do anything that would only last for a year.
Fox in Flats: Yeah, exactly. Because I think a lot of people think that they can become a blogger as a quick way to make money.
Margaret: Totally. And it’s different to a celebrity. You’re an actor, you have skills. That’s why you’re famous, and it just so happens that it maybe leads to other endorsements and things like that. But I think as a blogger you’re quite limited on that degree of celebrity, that’s kind of a niche thing. You need to use a blog to showcase your skills.
On being a poster girl for Clinique
Fox in Flats: And thinking about the campaign you’ve got with Clinique. How did it come about and what’s actually involved in the campaign?
Margaret: Well, Clinique came to me at the end of last year in LA. “Hey, we’ve been looking at what you’ve been doing. I’ve been following you for a while.” They’d done a lot of research about what it is that I do…
Fox in Flats: Don’t they go through an agent to talk to you or did they come to you directly?
Margaret: They went to me direct. Generally that’s what happens with brands that I already have a relationship. I try not to get my agency too much in the way of things, only with logistical things like… I mean you kind of don’t want to be dealing with contracts and I get awkward with money conversations and stuff. So agents are great for that. But it’s good for me to be involved in the whole premise of the campaign – I loved this. It’s about the belief in youth and the belief in young entrepreneurship, and the belief in very diverse women who do very different things but kind of reached a similar level of acclaim in their respective fields. Obviously, I have a huge amount respect for the other women involved in the campaign (Tavi Gevinson – Fashion Blogger, Editor in Chief, Actress & Singer, Hannah Bronfman – DJ, Model & Founder of HBFit) just exceptional people. So down to earth. The most super chill, super great sense of humour.
Fox in Flats: I love the premise of the campaign that revolves around the theme “if you could give your future self any advice, what would it be?” The videos that you guys made are so authentic.
Margaret’s advice to her future self:
See the world. Write your own ticket. Picture it first. And make it happen.”
Margaret: What I love about this campaign is that what you see is what you get. We’re all exactly like that in real life. Because sometimes you get kind of disillusioned about how an actor is packaged by their management to be a certain way than they might be in person. But I think it’s really innovative and it’s very forward thinking for Clinique to look at influencers in this way. Because honestly days of sticking celebrities on fragrances are quite numbered I feel. I just don’t think that it works any more. People are quite cynical…
Fox in Flats: They would doubt authenticity.
Margaret’s fashion hits, tips, and failures
Fox in Flats: Your street style fashion is well documented, and you’ve appeared in places like Harper’s BAZAAR, NYLON, ELLE. But do you ever look back on on an outfit and just go, “What was that?”
Margaret: Oh the “What was I thinking?” outfit? For sure! In the dead of winter in New York, you kind of lose your common sense because it’s so cold. And so you’re like, “I’m just going to put on all of my clothes the entire time.” So there end up being a lot of layers. I love to layer. It’s kinda my thing. But sometimes I look like a snowman… I try to belt things around the waist, but sometimes I look back and think “Man, I should’ve just braved the cold.” But it gets SO cold. Like it was minus 20 degrees. Some girls would turn up in a summer dress and their legs were blue. I was like, “Man, you’re going to have frostbite and you’re going to die.”
Fox in Flats: You’ve got to suffer for fashion but not that much… And what have been some of your favourite outfits?
Margaret: Exactly, no, not that much! As far as good ones? I think all the good ones I’ve always been wearing one earring. Like I don’t know why.
Fox in Flats: Inspired by…
Margaret: I just like the asymmetry, I feel really weird with two earrings, there are two things to worry about.
I’ve been doing a thing where you wear a little one on one side and then like a danglier one on the other side.
Fox in Flats: That’s cool.
Margaret: Yeah, but it stresses people out a bit. Most of the people are like, whaaat..?
Fox in Flats: Does that apply to rings and bracelets, and stuff like that?
Margaret: I don’t wear any of that… Just like one side and like a bracelet, otherwise there’s like too much stuff going on.
Fox in Flats: What do you wear off duty? Like if I were to rock up at your place unannounced?
Margaret: Shredded boyfriend jeans. I love a good high waist. They’re just very forgiving and very spacious and you can just sit however you want. A love a good jersey tee… I’m really into body suits at the moment. I ordered six nude body suits the other day from Missguided, just in different shades. So there’s a long sleeved one that’s like a brown and nude, and then a short sleeved one that’s like a lot of nude, and then one that’s like a sandy nude…
Fox in Flats: Do you wear them on their own or as a layer?
Margaret: No, just as a top. So you wear that and then like a blazer over the top with a high rise pant.
Fox in Flats: And do they still do up down there like the old school way? I remember wearing them to uni with my 501’s twenty years ago!?
Margaret: Yeah, like the old school way, and they’re so good. They look high quality because it’s really hard to make a body suit badly, and yet they’re dirt cheap.
Fox in Flats: So that’s your outfit tip, what everyone should be buying right now?
Margaret: Yeah, for the next big thing. Because how annoying is it when you tuck your shirt in and it kind of falls down everywhere.
Fox in Flats: Totally! Everything comes back around again in fashion, right?
Shop Maggie’s bodysuits:
Fox in Flats: What are your favorite types of flats to wear?
Margaret: I love boots. I have a great ACNE pair which I love. I wear them all the time. I literally wore them every day for about six months, always when I travel – I even went hiking in them once. But I think those boots because I’ve worn in so much they’re the most comfortable shoes.
Fox in Flats: Yeah, like slippers.
Margaret: Yeah, and I love a pointy flat. I’ve got a pair with a little lace up situation and they’re really pretty and cute.
Fox in Flats: Final thing I need to ask you about…I’m obsessed with your winged eyeliner. What are your tips for how to do that and get it so fine?
Margaret: Okay, I’m actually really bad at it and I had someone do it today…
Fox in Flats: I’m very happy to hear that…
Margaret: I went over the Clinique counter because they’re awesome. Seriously she barely touched my face. She was like ‘”swish!” But there’s always hacks and shortcuts that I’ve tried like using business cards…
Fox in Flats: …yeah, sticky tape!
Margaret: Honestly, I think my best time – the time that I got it really right – is I do it looking in the mirror and then you just follow your eyelash line, where your eyelashes go because they kind of flick up at the end so you just follow the eyelash line because it kind of goes through it, and then you go straight and flick it out a little bit.
Fox in Flats: So you’re literally looking down?
Margaret: Yeah, look down at the mirror and kind of like that. And then repeat on the other side.
Fox in Flats: Yeah, why is it that one side is always perfect and the other it’s all kinds of wrong??!
Margaret: Because your eyes are a different shapes I guess?
Fox in Flats: If only we had someone to do our makeup everyday, right? Now that’d be living the dream.
Margaret: We all dare to dream.
Inspired by the theme of the Clinique campaign #FaceForward and the question “if you could give your future self any advice, what would it be?” my answer is:
Don’t settle. Stay brave. Be truthful, gentle and fearless. And drink that wine. Life is too short to not have fun.”
What advice would you give to your future self?