Helen Carson meets Poppy Dinsey who went from property guru to online trendsetter.
Fashion blogger extraordinaire Poppy D — real name Poppy Dinsey — became an internet sensation with her novel website ‘What I Wore Today’, and the economics graduate will be in Belfast on Monday to share her social networking nous with others.
The 25-year-old from Gilford, outside London, says she is really excited to be visiting Belfast for the first time, where she will speak to Queen’s students and young entrepreneurs about how to carve a career in new media.
Even at this young age, Poppy is a high flyer, having been ranked as the fifth most influential person in the world of online property in 2008.
She graduated from UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies with a degree in Economics, Business and East European Studies.
“I chose this degree because I thought it would give me more job opportunities, although, I don’t have any Eastern European connections in my family.”
Even while at uni, Poppy began working in the then burgeoning ‘tech’ industry, and being based in London meant there were plenty of opportunities in the emerging dot com companies. She worked for various vertical search engines, specialising in classifieds and property search.
After graduating, her experience took her Globprix.com, a property search engine joint venture with Independent News & Media, owners of the Belfast Telegraph, where she worked in the business development and product marketing field, when she was 20. “I was travelling all around the world with my job, so it was quite exciting. But then the recession came, and it was really depressing writing about property.”
Poppy also found the male-dominated world of online property a bit dull: “I would be the only woman in an office of 30 men. If I was wearing a new dress or pair of shoes, and asked them what they thought, they didn’t care.
“I joined Twitter in 2009 and put a picture of what I was wearing on, and it was so nice getting loads of lovely comments about my outfit. I told the men in work — and they still didn’t care. At the end of 2009, I made a resolution to post a picture of myself every single day, 365 days of the year, on what I was wearing. It had to be a different outfit. This took about five minutes of my day — within a few months I had quit my job.
“I did start the blog initially as a bit of fun, and although I didn’t expect it to be as successful as it has become, I’m always looking for an opportunity.
“Like most women, I love fashion. The whole point of the blog was that I wouldn’t buy any new clothes to wear, but would use what I had in my wardrobe. I’m a classic girl in that my wardrobe is full of clothes, but I still can’t find anything to wear, so I had to be more creative. I did get used to it though.
“I was spending about £100 a month on clothes, which is not extortionate, and it was hard to come up with a new outfit everyday. I tended to go on a spree every three months, rather than every week or month.”
Having given up her job, though, Poppy had to move out of London and back in to her parents house in Gilford, so she could concentrate on the WIWT blog.
Very quickly, WIWT took off with over 90,000 hits a month, making Poppy the darling of the London fashion pack, where recessionista chic was all the rage, and she was in demand to cover events, such as London Fashion Week.
“WIWT is about not trying to live up to the false expectations of wearing Prada. Our business partners are Primark and H&M. People are more aware of money now, and it almost seems ridiculous to be spending a lot of money on any one thing. Even monied people think this way.”
Vodafone also sponsored the site, and the glossy mags set their sights on Poppy who has been profiled by Marie Claire, Company, Red, More! and newspapers such as The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Sun and The Daily Mail. Again, Poppy was considered an opinion-former following the huge appeal of WIWT, and she was listed as one of London’s 1,000 Most Influential People 2011 for her work in fashion and digital media. She has written for the Financial Times on her own digital revolution, while having her outfits featured on the Evening Standard’s website.
Poppy sold the site last September, but is still running it.
More recently, global players such as Microsoft has expressed interest in becoming partners on the site, according to Poppy.
Now she earns over £60,000 a year and lives in the posh London borough of Chelsea.
“I do have a nice life, but it is busy and manic. The experience has changed me, as now when I buy something I will think about whether a cardigan will go with something else or not before I buy it.”
It’s fairly safe to say, though, that Poppy will not struggle to find something new to wear everyday of the week — or for the rest of the year for that matter: “I’m really lucky as I get given so many clothes.”
She’s not resting on her fashionista laurels, though, with plans to grow WIWT: “The blog is all about users and getting lots of people to post what they are wearing. In the beginning it was just me.
“I would love to get women together to sell their clothes on the site, as women are fed up getting £20 for their designer jeans at jumble sales.”
She says it is the sheer simplicity of WIWT that is part of its success: “That is the problem with so many websites, there is too much going on.
“It is better to do one thing really well.”
Poppy is currently working on apps so all the WIWT users can tune in via their mobiles, be it an iPhone or android handset.
“It’s all about making it more social. I’m constantly thinking of ways to keep the momentum going. I spend half my life doing really nice things, and the other half doing things like tax. That’s what happens when you run your own business, you end up doing things that aren’t in your skill set.”
She says the best bit of advice for would-be bloggers is to be passionate about your idea.
And like Mark Zuckerburg who created Facebook, she is one of the new stars of the online world: “It seems quite trendy now to be an entrepreneur, thanks to shows like The Apprentice. We are the new rock stars. But you really, really have to believe in your idea 100%, or else you won’t convince anyone else. You need to be committed, it’s like a new born baby that needs you all of the time.
“It’s always nicer to do something you love for a living. I don’t think it has to be an amazing idea.”
Poppy D will be in the Great Hall, Queen’s University, Monday, 6pm. Queen’s Graduates’ Association members, £5 and non-members including young entrepreneurs (and current Queen’s students) for £20. For booking details log onto www.qub.ac.uk/home/Alumni/ or call tel 028 9097 3114
A self-confessed WIWT addict, Kerry McKittrick was one of the first fashionistas to contribute to Poppy’s blog
At Press outing to London Fashion Week a couple years ago I met a young blogger called Poppy. At the time I had never heard of her, but after sharing a nice lunch and deconstruction of the shows, I starting following her on Twitter and also went looking for her blog.
Once I found it I was hooked.
Every day I would log on to WIWT.com to find out what Poppy was wearing and also how she was wearing it. The pressure on anyone to show off their outfits daily meant that Poppy would mix and match her clothes to create different looks. This, combined with a quirky and startlingly honest writing style made her a firm favourite not just with me, but all of the girls I told about her.
On more than one occasion, over Friday night wine, the conversation would revolve around Poppy, her clothes and even sometimes her nails — inch long talons that she maintains herself. I was always fascinated with how she could type with them.
Part of Poppy's appeal is that her world is accessible for all. She is as happy to appear in Primark, as she is in Prada and often mixes designer with high street. She replies to comments from readers on her blog and followers on Twitter.
Nor is she unrealistic about her body shape — her shapely figure is not a size zero. Poppy also gives frank accounts of her experiences at London Fashion Week, beauty product reviews and, of course, her love of Mexican food.
As I was lucky enough to be a tester for the site, I was able to watch a simple blog turn into an internet phenomenon. What was once addictive, became essential. Anyone who has any interest in fashion or shopping will be instantly hooked as the site shows off a myriad of wonderful outfits as well as where to get them. You can even follow your fashion favourites as you would on Twitter.
This is not a platform to attract bitchy comments from other women. This is a chance for you to have a good look at yourself sartorially and do what Poppy does.
Putting a little effort into your daily look, styling things a little differently and delving into the depths of your wardrobe to find long-forgotten items can make a startling difference to your appearance.