Six years ago, Brittany Xavier was a marketing executive in the corporate world when she decided to take the leap and launch a style blog called Thrifts and Threads. What started out as a hobby on nights and weekends quickly proved to be a profitable business and after a year and a half, she was able to quit her full-time job.
Fast-forward to today and that humble website is now a multifaceted platform reaching 1.2 million Instagram followers and 20k YouTube subscribers. Xavier has collaborated with all the high-end brands from Cartier to YSL and in 2018 she partnered with Inspr to launch her very first fashion line.
Ahead, Xavier tells Create & Cultivate how she moved past the fear of leaving steady weekly paychecks to do her own thing, what keeps her motivated and inspired on her most challenging days, and how she stays true to her authentic style when navigating trends or partnering with high-profile brands.
CREATE & CULTIVATE: Take us back to the moment you decided to launch your personal brand and describe the feeling when you left your stable job and paycheck to do your own thing. How did you move past the fear and take the leap? What preparation did you do beforehand?
BRITTANY XAVIER: It was getting to the point where I was much busier with my blog and the jobs coming in, but I was also missing networking opportunities with brands by not being available during the day. I knew that to really grow with my blog, I would need to dedicate more time to it without having to work during the day somewhere else. But for me to come to that realization was a very bizarre feeling because I never intended to work for myself. I always loved the idea of having a safe work environment and a consistent paycheck each week.
I decided to track the jobs I needed to book for the next three months in order to make the same salary at my full-time job, plus the amount I was contributing to insurance and 401k. Once I made that same total amount from my blog three months in a row, I felt that was a good time to quit. My last day at my full-time job was also my daughter Jadyn’s last day at school for the summer, I remember feeling like it was a vacation that would never end. I wasn’t going back to working for someone else— it was an incredible feeling and it made me hustle even more in the time shortly thereafter to ensure I would succeed.
You launched a fashion blog called Thrifts and Threads that highlights both thrift store discoveries and more investment-worthy pieces. How has the site evolved since then? How much is your blog still an important part of your content strategy now that Instagram has taken off for you?
I launched my blog in December 2013 with the idea to highlight finds I found at thrift and vintage stores, but very quickly I realized it wasn’t a sustainable model, I couldn’t offer exact links to anything I found and it was also unrelatable for my readers who didn’t live in L.A. with the best vintage shopping available. I wanted to be a place anyone could come to, regardless of where they lived, to find style inspiration and have the ability to get the pieces I was wearing as well. From then on, I didn’t focus on vintage as much but offering affordable pieces to mix in with my high-end designer favorites. And it worked well for me!
But about two years ago, I got super bored with how things were going—everyone’s Instagram photos were all the same: very staged feeling—and I felt like I was in a bit of a rut, lacking inspiration, just going through the motions and doing the same thing I had always done. I had Instagram down as far as followers went, I knew what time and what to post that would help me grow. But honestly, I was bored with that; I felt like I needed to switch from growth mode to more long-term branding. My husband and I researched different cameras that would give more of an editorial feel, I started saving image ideas from Vogue and making mood boards. During this time, I also changed from Thrifts and Threads to Brittany Xavier on my blog and Instagram.
My blog is still a very important part of my content strategy. At the beginning of each month, my team and I have a content calendar planning meeting where we plan each fashion, beauty, travel, and personal post for the month. The “Shop My Instagram” feature on my blog is also updated three days a week so it’s become a convenient place for my Instagram followers to find a resource on my blog as well.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?
This is what I was feeling about two years ago and I realized I needed to figure out what was making me crave a change. I wanted the freedom to test and experiment with what else would work for me beyond the typical routine I was so used to. That meant I needed to disconnect from my usual and start brainstorming, researching and planning—getting refreshed is hugely important. Also, keep your focus on your long-term goals as it will help make the short-term decisions easier.
The influencer space, particularly in fashion, is incredibly saturated. How do you stay true to your own authentic style, despite input from audiences and outside trends? And how do you stand out in a competitive space?
This has always been very important to me. I think it comes down to being strong-willed—there have been times where I’ve felt pressure from a brand to select a style that didn’t feel true to me. I don’t back down with it—if it’s not my style, I won’t wear it. You can easily see when someone doesn’t have their own voice, you can get lost and drowned out very quickly in this industry if you’re wishy-washy. You have to stay focused.
To stand out, I also always want to evolve and be open to trying new content and being a place where my readers/followers find value. I definitely don’t want my followers to be bored and expect the same thing from me. I want to be a mix of everyday relatability but also a place that’s aspirational too. I feel that I’m super open and unscripted on my IG stories and you can get to know me from watching those as well. I feel it’s important in this space to allow your readers to feel like they know you and are hanging out daily with you.
You have 1.2 million followers on Instagram now, which can often lead people to believe that your life is perfect and without its struggles. What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your job now? How do you let people know about the realities beyond the filter? Why is that important?
The question I get a lot is, “What do you do for your job?” Sometimes, people don’t understand how you can monetize this. Even though I’m very open with how my day is going, I rarely show the constant e-mails, conference calls, briefs, and redline contracts that go into this before a job is in motion. I’m not showing all the behind the scenes 24/7. For the most part, you jump on my page or blog and you’re seeing the final product. I have a manager, an assistant, and two interns—there are so many other things that seem like menial tasks that people would never think that I’m doing all day, but that’s what goes into it too. You can’t just shoot one picture and hope for the best, there’s so much more strategy and long-term planning that goes into this and if I shared that all day long I wouldn’t get anything done—I need to zone out and get to work!
You also have to be ok with being vulnerable, I recently shared my story of being a young mom on my YouTube channel and it was crazy the number of other women that had gone through a similar situation and said they connected with me even more because of my story. I’m so thankful that I can use my platform to help others who are going through similar struggles as well!
With success comes opportunity, but that also means you have your hands full. What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going even on your most challenging days?
There was one time about four months after I quit my full-time job when Jadyn was back in school and my husband hadn’t yet quit his full-time to work with me. I was feeling majorly overwhelmed with too many deadlines and feeling pulled thin without any help. Jadyn told me that she didn’t want me to quit because she loves that I get to pick her up from school and that she no longer had to go to daycare. That melted my heart! I never want to go back to working for someone else, I love being able to be there for my daughter when she needs me—that keeps me motivated.
You are one of our favorite people to follow on social media. What is your best social media advice? How do you make it on social media today? What’s the secret?
Aw, thank you! My best social media advice is: having a strong voice. Being consistent is huge, as is having a strategic content strategy. When I first started, I didn’t have Instagram down, but I posted three times a day; two times were blog post promotions and one was my daily outfit. I knew I wanted to grow my blog traffic and I figured if people loved my regular outfits they would want to read my blog too. But I didn’t have any real strategy, I was pretty clueless about how it all worked and just went off what I thought would work (and luckily it did!). But if you can start out more strategic, I think that you can make more of an impact earlier. I also think having a conversation with your followers is really important. Always be engaged with the comments and the DMs. Offer value to your followers, be a resource!
What advice would you give a woman at the beginning of her career in the fashion industry? How hard is it to break out and see success in the way that you have?
Say no to going out with friends and sleeping in on the weekends, give it all you got, and network, network, network! It’s hard work, but I always think if I didn’t start small, I wouldn’t have my business today.
What is the best advice you’ve been given? Or a favorite piece of #realtalk?
Never lose sight of what drives your creativity and curiosity!
What’s a mistake you made and what did you learn from it? How did you turn it into an opportunity?
I remember, about a year after I started, I agreed to do a job with a piece that looked different when it arrived than it looked online and I immediately didn’t love it. Instead of letting the brand know that I was misled by the original photo and see what other options they had, I shot the piece and was very unhappy with the result, I knew it wasn’t 100% my style and I said never again. Now I always speak up if something doesn’t feel right from the start rather than backpedaling later.
How has the fashion industry changed since you first entered the industry? What are your hopes for the space? What’s next for you?
I see digital coverage and advertising as being much more of a focus than when I first started and I hope it continues in that direction because it really means that anyone who loves fashion and has a unique voice for it has the ability to get their foot in the industry.
What’s next for me? My daughter is about to turn 13 (!), so the teenage years? Haha no, many amazing projects are in the works (most I can’t share!), but one of my favorites will always be mom life.
What is the #1 book you always recommend? Why?
Hands down, The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. I think it’s a great book for anyone that is considering creating a side-job. You need to start small, and this book will help you if you need a little more inspiration to understand that it’s feasible.
Photographer: Jenna Peffley