Song of Style is the vehicle for Los Angeles-based Instagram darling AIMEE SONG. In Seoul, she chats with KIM BUI KOLLAR about her ardent following
AIMEE SONG has 4.6 million Instagram followers and that amounts to some major social currency. Today that’s almost all you need in the way of an introduction, without being a traditional celebrity or the offspring of one, On a recent trip for a photoshoot in Seoul, the bubbly Los Angeles-based interior designer and blogger (aka @songofstyle) reveals some secrets to her Instagram success.
When I meet her in her hotel room, Aimee (pronounced “ahh-mee”) is in hair and make-up, surrounded by a group of young women tending to her beauty needs. I get comfortable on the couch next to her chair as she’s getting the finishing touches done on her hair. Armed with my questions in my head, I take a breath before I start. But she beats me to the punch: “When did you get to Seoul? Are you loving it?
I haven’t seen you since Paris.”
I handle most of the talking as we do the requisite warm-up chat. Aimee asks loads of questions about my history and my relationship with the designers she’s seen me with. And she asks with such genuine interest and deftness, I almost forget who’s supposed to being interviewing who – well, almost. As the beauty team finishes, Aimee takes a photograph with everyone and asks for all of their social media monikers in Korean for tagging purposes.
We hop into a black Mercedes with her photographer boyfriend, Jacopo, and there’s even more sharing. Like a see-saw, the conversation is a constant back-and-forth as she asks to see photos of my family; she comments on my kids, inclusively passing the phone to Jacopo in the front. Aimee is a true Southern California girl – and those from California know
the importance of this SoCal distinction. Heading north to attend the Academy of Art University in San Francisco for her degree in interior architecture, she found herself completely ill-prepared for the Bay Area climate, with a wardrobe of denim cut-off shorts and other warm-weather garb.
Beyond the specific world of celebrity before Hedi Slimane set up camp in California – pretty much limited to either music or the silver screen – Los Angeles was not a place of influence for fashion in the way that Paris and New York were. There was definitely a style reference specific to the region, but it complemented a way of life and its interests, generally lacking the notable diversity and extremes of the Fashion Week cities. But that’s all changed today, as LA has rapidly become a prime spot on the style map.
We arrive at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, designed by starchitect Zaha Hadid as a cultural and exhibition hall in the centre of Seoul and which opened in 2014. It became the most tagged place in Seoul in 2015 on Instagram – the research is still underway to discover if its social importance can be attributed more to the Hadid design or to the fact that Korean television drama You Who Came from the Stars was filmed there that year. Black Mercedes number two is waiting for us at the location: a Sprinter for Aimee to do her outfit changes. We decide on the first look and the shoot begins.
Aimee’s first blog post was in 2008, while she was still in school – long before the ubiquity of Instagram and social media as we now know it. Today’s shoot is fairly low-key in terms of production but it’s quite obvious to see that she’s well versed in being photographed for street style, which is distinctly different from the extremes in poses and angles of fashion photography. There’s no music to give the shoot a specific ambience, but Aimee makes up for it with giggles and chit-chat between shots. Fun and laid-back, I get the feeling that if someone had suggested we sing our own tunes, she would have been the first to croon.
For Aimee’s 30th birthday last year, rather than staging a lavish party, she took a different path and celebrated with New York-based non-profit organisation Charity: Water, which helps provide clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Particularly disheartened at seeing basic rights such as education denied to young children while she was travelling through India, Aimee felt that she could help with an even more fundamental need. Charity: Water uses
100 per cent of its donations to build wells around rural parts of India and she wanted to leverage her broad social media influence – 100,000 YouTube subscribers and 4.1 million Instagram followers at the time – to rally support for the cause.
“Aimee needs to be credited for being part of the original golden blogger crew from Los Angeles that has started a bit of a movement. Maybe it’s the magical California light that allows for optimum images or the ample bougainvillea everywhere”
The result: nearly US$82,000 was raised and a powerful PSA video on her blog that continues to drive support for the organisation.
What’s the magic that makes Song of Style? We asked a few brands who’ve worked with Aimee to get a better understanding. “She was one of the first to wear our Azaelea dress and helped to make that style one of our brand’s iconic pieces,” shares Han Chong, creative director and founder of London-based Self-Portrait. To put it into tangible numbers, the Azaelea dress is now in its 12th season of selling – retailers just don’t want to see it go.
Since Aimee has such an incredible following (read: a willing audience) and has effectively been able to move large quantities of products for other brands, wouldn’t a collection of her own seem like a natural business decision? Her answer: no interest. She prefers to do collaborations and has a few under her belt, such as a capsule collection for Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster. With her sister, Dani, she has a project called Two Songs, in which they design graphic (and a bit cheeky) T-shirts and sweatshirts based on causes that they want to help –breast cancer awareness, love for all and so forth. Some of the proceeds from sales are donated to organisations working with each specific focus. Today, she’s brought the brand’s Love Wins T-shirt to include in the shoot.
Aimee needs to be credited for being part of the original “golden blogger” crew from Los Angeles (alongside Sincerely Jules and Rumi Neely) that has started a bit of a movement. Maybe it’s the magical California light that allows for optimum images or the ample bougainvillea everywhere. But it seems like a lot of girls have moved to LA or popped up as of lately – Garance Doré, Chiara Ferragani, Chriselle Lim and Vanessa Hong, to name a few.
Ten years is a substantial amount of time to work at anything. The production value of Aimee’s output has clearly gotten better with time. After having spent an afternoon with her, it’s clear to see why she has secured a lasting and prime position in the sphere of social media influence – the accessibility of her pretty aesthetic, her genuine warmth, and the ability to share and be silly with her company. Let’s not forget that there have been a few timeless songs written about California girls.