How Nadia Bartel went from AFL WAG to one of the most influential names in fashion.

Video by MWN

Nadia Bartel laughs as she explains that yes, strangers will occasionally  – and not very subtly – ask what she does all day.

“It is funny for me because there are a lot of bloggers around at the moment and unfortunately, there are a few negative connotations associated with that.

“However, being a blogger is far more of a business now, and people are slowly starting to realise that.”

Of course, Nadia Bartel – blogger, business owner, Instagram star, mum-of-one and wife of former AFL player Jimmy Bartel – isn’t just a blogger. But she’s a fierce defender of anyone who wants be.

A quick peek of Bartel’s Instagram shows the occasional selfie, the odd family photo with son Aston and husband James and a littering of carefully curated outfit shots. For the creative types, Bartel’s feed is a stylish mecca of beautiful brands, beautiful cuts and beautiful clothing. But she’s the first to admit her Instagram feed is her work, not her life. And in a digital realm where we are only really starting to grasp the difference between brands and people, work and real life, Bartel admits many have the misguided perception that her job is to strike a pose with some pretty clothing in a pretty place and be on her way.

What they don’t see, however, is the “nitty gritty”.

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“There’s so much that goes on behind-the-scenes that I wouldn’t have the time to put on there. Packaging our products. Packing orders on the floor every night. Staying up until midnight making sure emails have gone out. There is so much that goes into it that you couldn’t begin to imagine, and a lot of it isn’t pretty.”

When Bartel mentions “it”, she’s talking about her startup, The Con-nection, of which she launched in 2015 with her younger sister Michelle. It’s a high-end store brimming with serious Aussie designers, “created for women who value simple, stylish and trans-seasonal product”.

When the sisters first had a thought bubble to launch a business together, they knew they had something no one else did. They had a brand to leverage off – Nadia’s – before they launched their own.

For as much as Instagram has become a place of perfect people in perfect places, it’s also become a hub for anyone who wants to create, or re-create, a brand in real time. For many, at first glance, the concept is trivial. But consider this: Instagram has given young people – on a silver platter of opportunity – the power to market and advertise for free, in turn giving them the ability to launch businesses with little more than brazen determination and a big idea.

Nadia Bartel, in populating her feed with fashion and beauty and style, gave herself a name outside of the WAG box so many sought to lock her into. Controlling your image is power, and Bartel realised that long before anyone else clued on to the fact all those outfit photos were the makings of a brand.

And her brand, it seemed, was polished fashion.

“The fact is, [my followers] don’t want to see you at work. They want to see you looking good, and what clothes you’re wearing.”

She knows this because they would tell her as much. Long before The Con-nection was launched, Bartel would be chased down for details on an outfit she had posted – a shirt she was wearing, a pair of jeans she really liked – with followers looking to buy it that second. Demand for good style and the eye for a good product will never die, and Bartel seemed to have a sprinkling of both.

So, why not take advantage of that?

“We had great success when we launched, but keeping that success has been hard – there have been so many low points and and so many high points. There have definitely been points when retail has been slower and some months when we ask ourselves how we going to pay this very expensive bill.

“When you have a start-up business, you don’t have the funds to have a big team around you, so you’re trying to spread yourself around different facets of the business.”

Overall, however, she’s proud of what they’ve put together.

“I think we have been very careful with the designers we have selected on there, and the pieces we have chosen as well. That was a point of difference we wanted because there is so much choice and I actually think that can be so overwhelming. Women are busy, they don’t have time to go shopping all day.”

She knows this because she is one.

And perhaps that’s why people have flocked to be part of her nearly 400,000-person-strong social media following. Not because they fell there, and not because of a WAG-tag.

Because for all the “negative connotations” the blogger-title elicits, they’re still the people we’re intrigued by most. Nadia Bartel saw that before we saw it in ourselves and a business was born on that recognition.

You may say trivial. Her enormous, loyal following points to clever.

You can see more from The Con-nection at their website here.

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