Margaret Zhang unabashedly calls herself “a nerd who grew up playing piano and ballet”, a person who “[doesn’t] come from a crazy wealthy family”. Neither does she have a “photographer boyfriend”, like some of the fashion bloggers that she may know.
Yet the life of this 20-year-old Australian blogger is anything but average. The multi-hyphenate talent travels the world as a photographer, stylist, writer and even a guest fashion buyer for Matches Fashion, all while juggling her schoolwork as an undergraduate.
The stars of Fashion Bloggers (L-R): Kate Waterhouse, Sara Donaldson, Margaret Zhang, Zanita Whittington, Amanda Shadforth. Image: NBC Universal
Now you’ll soon see her on television for Fashion Bloggers, a new reality TV series that follows the lives of top Australian bloggers the likes of Amanda Shadforth (of Oracle Fox), Sara Donaldson (Harper and Harley) and Margaret Zhang (Shine by Three).
Speaking to us through a phone call from Sydney, Zhang tells us more about her guilty Instagram habits, the less glamorous sides to fashion blogging and all the little things that make her tick.
Margaret Zhang for Fashion Bloggers. Image: NBC Universal
You don’t need designer dollars for a stylish outfit.
“Personal style is not able being able to afford things, it’s about working with what you have,” says Zhang. “I started my blog at 16; I used to shop a lot of vintage and make my own clothes. You make those investments once or twice a year, and you recycle things around it. There’s always a way to make something look good.”
Which is why she’s often caught stealing her boyfriend’s shirts.
While Zhang adores the crease-free silk shirts of French fashion label Equipment, she habitually snags a shirt or two from her boyfriend’s closet. “I’m always stealing my boyfriend’s clothes,” confesses Zhang, who loves them for the “tailoring” and the oversized fit. According to her, “soft, menswear-inspired tailoring” is the next biggest fashion trend.
Her beauty must-have can be bought in the supermarket’s food section.
Zhang swears by the “holy grail” that is extra virgin coconut oil, which she uses for her hair and as a makeover remover too. “10 bucks a jar will last you forever,” says Zhang. “It’s also the best hair oil ever.”
She’s a self-taught, D-I-Y girl.
It’s easy to imagine all fashion bloggers to be a glamorous lot, arm-in-arm with an equally stylish boyfriend while seated on frow row. But that’s not quite true, not for Margaret Zhang at least.
“I have a boyfriend but he doesn’t want to take pictures of me,” says Zhang quite candidly. “The biggest misconception about fashion bloggers is that all of them have photographer boyfriends. People don’t realise that I do everything [on my blog] myself, I don’t have a photographer, a publicist or a ghost writer.”
Zhang, who started her blog Shine by Three as a hobby when she was 16, has taught herself photography and fashion styling in the years since. Every photo that she shoots for her blog is taken with the help of a tripod and self-timer, just about anywhere. So Zhang is used to getting curious stares from passing strangers whenever she is the middle of a photoshoot.
And yes, she too gets glares from embarrassed friends; she confesses to having a habit of standing on chairs in restaurants, all for the sake of photogenic Instagrams of her meal.
She almost decided against joining the Fashion Bloggers show.
“I was a bit ‘iffy’ about [joining the show],” admits Zhang. “I’m not an ‘it’ girl, I don’t want to be a celebrity.” In the end she caved in to show people like her parents who are “not hugely informed” about the work that she does; she reveals that “my parents think it’s cool that i get to travel for work [but] they don’t know what it is that I do”.
Zhang hopes to “educate people about what it is that allows me to travel for work and the questions that people are constantly asking.” She urges fans to see the show “more of a documentary [on fashion blogging]; there’s no drama, no petty fighting, no girly conflict.”
The best way to become a top fashion blogger is not to dream of becoming one.
“Being fashion blogger doesn’t mean anything on its own,” declares Zhang. “You could have an Instagram and call yourself a fashion blogger. Someone told me that there’s as many as a million fashion blogs out there of varying quality.”
Instead, what she would suggest to aspiring bloggers is to stop dreaming of becoming a top fashion blogger and to focus instead on creating quality content. Zhang advises aspiring bloggers to aim for creative jobs related to the fashion industry and to build their portfolio as a fashion stylist, a photographer or a writer, while blogging. “Think of [fashion blogging] as a means of documenting your journey rather than the end product,” says Zhang quite wisely.
When it rains it pours, whether you’re a fashion blogger or not.
Zhang remembers what she’ll now consider a funny moment, when she was “rushing from class to a photoshoot. I’m soaked because of the rain, I was really dishevelled.” You’re likely to soon see the moment on screen in an upcoming Fashion Bloggers episode.