She was once a small town girl from southern Indiana; now she’s a big-time Midwestern style blogger with over 12,000 Instagram followers. Purdue University senior and marketing major Chandler Nehrt (a.k.a. Candidly Chan) knows a thing or two about using her personal style to gain mass appeal. I sat down with her to discuss behind-the-scenes aspect of her blog.
McKenzie Price: How did the blog start?
Chandler Nehrt: When I got to college I was so used to being in high school and having all these things to do, like sports, that took up all my time. So when I was a freshman I really didn’t have anything to take up my spare time. I had always been into fashion, but coming from a small, farming community, it’s like completely non-existent. I had also been into photography and had always loved to write, so when I got to college it was my boyfriend’s idea that I start blogging. At first, it was kind of a joke and just, “Oh, whatever, yeah I’ll do it.” I started under a completely different name and I knew nothing about what I was doing. Looking back now, it was pretty terrible, but as I got better at picking out outfits, my following started growing. I switched over to Candidly Chan, and now it’s more of a job than a hobby.
MP: How and when did the blog become successful?
CN: I would say definitely within the last year and a half. January of 2015 was when I got an email from Charlotte Russe, and they were the first big company that I picked up a collaboration with. It’s kind of a two-way street as far as the content creation goes. I do stuff for them and it helps them because they’re basically getting free advertising. At the same time, if they repost anything from me, then my following shoots up. Once I started doing stuff with them, I remember it just kind of took off from there. Then you get more followers and other stores see you on their stuff and then you get picked up.
MP: How does working with collaborators work?
CN: They normally email me and say, “Hey, we’ve seen your Instagram and we checked out your blog. We really like your style and think you’d be a great fit for our brand. Would you like to collaborate?” And if I say yes, they normally send back, “Great! We’re so excited to have you on board. Send us links to either two outfits or three pieces that you love, along with a shipping address and we’ll get that out to you immediately.” That’s almost word for word how every conversation goes. After posting, I try to send back all the edited, final copies of photos, just so they can use them for their social media. I know Charlotte Russe loves to use their “influencer team” on the website. With the way social media is going, I feel like consumers are more likely to buy a product that they see on a blogger, or what they perceive to be a “normal person” rather than a model that they hired.
MP: Besides Charlotte Russe of course, what brands do you collaborate with?
CN: American Eagle, GG Boutique, PacSun, Poshsquare, Jord WOOD, and T. Madison.
MP: Do you style yourself?
CN: Yes and no. Basically companies will keep your personal style but also promote what they want to focus on. For example, Charlotte Russe’s marketing department will send me, “This is what we’re promoting this time of year.” Maybe they’re focusing on denim pieces or outfits based around fall scarves, and then I have freedom to pick whatever I want under that realm. The only company that doesn’t do that is American Eagle. They’re more of a, “We need this piece shot, do you wanna shoot it?” type of thing. I used to do a lot of my own stuff, but now I’ve gotten so backed up with collaborations that I have going on that everything I’ve posted since February of this year is collaborative stuff. I’m so far behind. I have a lot to catch up on still.
MP: Explain the process of you getting packages and posting.
CN: If I have multiple brands at once, I try to keep them separate. So once I get the packages, depending on if I’m home or in Indy, I will find someone who can shoot me. I usually shoot in the afternoon. Once I get photos done, I always post a sneak peek on Instagram, mostly because I can’t stand it – I have to! I usually shoot multiple outfits in one sitting because it’s easier that way. Then I run it through Lightroom. As far as writing the blog post goes, it’s just kind of picking what photos I want from the ones that we took. My writing style, as far as posts go, is very haphazard. I kinda just write about whatever is going on in life and a little bit about what I’m wearing and loving right now and then something about the brand. The longest part is finding the pieces online because I have to link everything back to the original site. A lot of times I’ll switch pictures in and out, hit preview 80 times to see what I like and see that it matches my site because it has a theme like my Instagram does.
MP: So who takes your pictures?
CN: A lot of different people. My best friend from back home is a photographer, and he was doing my stuff consistently for about a year, which was so nice. He goes to Purdue now too, but if he’s not available my friends take them. It’s actually kind of funny because the close friends that I’ve made at school are bloggers. It’s the greatest thing ever because you wouldn’t believe how hard it is find someone who wants to take pictures with you. Either they don’t know how to take pictures or they don’t want to commit their time to taking pictures for someone else. It’s so nice to have those friends because we shoot together. We can text each other like, “Hey, I just got a new package, wanna go shoot this afternoon?” And usually they have something to shoot also, so that works out great. My boyfriend takes them sometimes too, if I can convince him to.
MP: So how many followers do you have on Instagram?
MP: Can you tell how many followers you have on your actual site?
CN: Yeah! I have stats on each post, so it tracks views, individual visitors, and what they clicked on the most. The ones that get the most amount of engagement on average are around 900 to like 1,100 views. It’s kind of hard to judge online because so many are relying on social media to see content now. The fact that you can get a good amount of people to get on and actually look at the website is pretty good.
MP: Where is your readership?
CN: The tracker that I have only shows the country, so I mean obviously most are in the United States. There are some international ones that get on there every once in awhile, which is funny. Usually they’re Germany or other countries who speak English.
MP: What about your Instagram followers?
CN: I have a lot of followers from around here just because I’m from Indiana, but most general following comes from west of here, so California. That’s where all the fashion stuff happens, and New York. Or if I go on vacation and I’ll post a picture and put a location in Georgia or Florida or something and people will post, “Oh my gosh, you’re in Georgia?” That’s always so cool when they engage that way.
MP: Have you ever had someone come up to you in public?
CN: I have! Not out of state, but I have at festivals and stuff in Indiana. And I had a girl come up to me in Urban Outfitters once who was originally from Indiana but living in West Virginia. She followed me and she came up to me and was like, “Oh my gosh, are you Candidly Chan?” And I said, “Yes! I love you! Thank you for coming up!” It was the coolest thing ever and she was so sweet.
MP: How would you describe the theme of your blog?
CN: I think what I wanted to do was try to create a theme that matched my style. I tend to stick to neutral colors and tones, so I wanted the way it looks to be similar to match that, which is not hard to do as far as photos goes. As far as the tone, the thing I say all the time in my blog posts is, “I want to keep it real with you guys.” I don’t know, I feel like social media, and online media in general, is so deceiving nowadays. You’re not gonna post bad things that happen in your life or the days where you don’t look great. I want people to feel like they get to know me past whatever they see in photos. For writing and the tone I like to set, it’s usually pretty light and I try to be funny. I don’t know if I’m actually funny. I try to write the way that I would speak. Whatever comes to my mind when I’m typing, I write it out and if it sounds a lot dumber in writing than it did in my head, then I’ll delete it.
MP: What is blogging like in Indiana?
CN: When I first got started, especially with people in Indiana who aren’t experimental with clothes, people would say, “Why are you dressed up for class?” It’s gotten to the point now where I don’t care, I’m gonna wear whatever I want. I have to say, that’s all come from having a blog. I have so much more confidence in what I wear and what I know I like. Trying to grow in Indiana is difficult because for people in California, they can go meet with these companies and meet with other bloggers and those who have made it in the fashion industry. It’s almost like in order to get to that level of success, you have to be better than the people who have those opportunities in their hands already. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet, but I’ll get back to you!
MP: What is the best part about having a blog?
CN: I love getting to engage with my followers. I get a lot of emails from people on Instagram or have grabbed my email off my website that will say they love this or love what I’m doing. I got an email from a girl the other day, “I’m from a super small town in Illinois and you have taught me that I can wear whatever I want, no matter where I come from.” That is so cute! Emails like that make my day. I love getting to talk to people.
MP: The worst?
CN: When companies like Charlotte Russe or American Eagle, who have tons of followers, post pictures of me it’s always comments like, “You’re disgusting. Eat a cheeseburger” or “What are you even wearing?” People pick people apart on social media. I’ve learned to take everything with a grain of salt because if you put yourself out there, that stuff is always gonna happen. I’ve learned to deal with that, it doesn’t really bother me as much anymore. But that was definitely the worst at the beginning.
MP: Describe your personal style.
CN: Neutral tones, I don’t like girly, frilly, pink. Kind of minimalist and edgy, but also comfortable.
MP: Any style stars or celebs whose style you covet?
CN: Kendall Jenner! She’s so naturally stunning. I think her street style is so cool because she’s always casual, but she looks flawless.
MP: Favorite stores?
CN: Urban Outfitters, Forever 21, TopShop.
MP: One thing you can’t live without in your wardrobe?
CN: Black booties! I have like 80 pairs of them.
MP: Your style uniform?
CN: I would say either ripped jeans and any kind of tee, plain or patterned with Adidas sneakers OR a t shirt dress and sneakers.
MP: Plans after graduation?
CN: I don’t have a definite answer yet. I think what I’m going to try to do, or what my dream job would be, would be to either A) get on board with one of these companies that I’m working with. The only reason I say that is because being a marketing management major, all the companies I’m working with, my contact is usually the marketing director or the social media coordinator. I have a lot of connections I could use to my advantage. The only issue with that is I’m afraid if I get on board, that excludes me from working with other companies. OR I would love to work at a bigger magazine, that would be so cool. I feel like I would be happy anywhere, doing styling or shooting, whatever. The thing I need to figure out is location. I’m gonna continue to blog and if by some miracle it becomes big enough to live off, that would be fan-freaking-tastic.
MP: What are other blogs that you follow and gain inspiration from?
CN: Happily Grey, Sincerely Jules, Hunt for Styles, and Little Black Boots.
MP: Tips or advice for those wanting to blog, especially in the Midwest?
CN: The biggest thing that I learned that I wish someone would have told me in the beginning is Rome wasn’t built in a day. I used to get so frustrated because you want to follow all of those big bloggers to get inspiration and see what they’re doing in the fashion world. You always look at their feeds and see all these awesome photos and how many followers they have, and you immediately want to compare yourselves to them. You absolutely cannot do that – that will wreck your confidence. I remember thinking, “I don’t even want to continue,” because I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere and I’m not getting any new followers. But it’s a slow process, getting started. You have to consistently put out good content for a long time with very little recognition before someone picks you up and is like, “I like you. Let’s see if we can take this somewhere.” I spent six months beating myself up. Be patient, it will eventually work itself out as long as you stay with it.