This Is What It's Like To Be A Fashion Blogger In Paris

We spend the day with Sparkles in Paris.

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It was forecast to snow the day I met up with Insaf Bennis. The plan was to spend a day at work with her, to find out how this Moroccan blogger in Paris has amassed over 19k followers in just over two years on the scene, and find out what it really takes to be successful in such a competitive market. The first thing I learned is that you have to keep going: rain or shine… or snow. 
Bennis greeted me with an enormous smile as she beckoned me into her apartment in the south of the city, casually rocking a pair of Levi’s and a classy sheer blouse. We got straight to work on the shoot, as the light was beginning to dwindle, even in the early afternoon. 
With a steady job and studies to balance from Monday to Friday, it's on the weekend that the blog, Sparkles in Paris, takes center-stage for Bennis, and when you've only got two days to produce an entire week's worth of posts, you really have to make the most of your time. She tells me how she plans up to six outfits at a time in advance and shoots them in quick succession, "and when I receive the pictures – it takes like 4, 5 days to send [them] to me – I just have to upload them to the blog and it's really fast." 

In fact, it seemed that everything she did was really fast: I watched as she took out an assortment of products sent to her by Glossy Box to photograph and arrange them on her bed with the precision and ease of a 5th Avenue window dresser. She prepared the products, set the scene and began snapping away in a matter of minutes. 

I glanced over to the large, trendy bookshelf filled with props and accessories I'd seen on Bennis' blog – the same ones I was now watching her deftly photograph for a promo shot that would be uploaded later in the week – and it hit me; everything in her apartment was bought with the blog in mind. Everything, probably, down to taking an apartment with such huge windows (natural light is, as we know, everything). 
Before she started @blogsparklesinparis, Bennis didn’t take Instagram very seriously, but now she’s a self-described “addict,” uploading a minimum of three posts a day to her account. “I was never into hashtags," a coy smile creeps over her face as she admits that she was late to discover the power of social media. 

But when she went on vacation to Buenos Aires (that was supposed to be a break from the blog) her career hit a turning point. She uploaded some sun-soaked pictures, and all of a sudden brands began contacting her to sponsor their products. And when people like Guerlain and Desigual are asking you to represent them through social media, you take it seriously. 
Though, Bennis explained, things aren't always so breezy: “some brands just say we love your Instagram, and send you things, hoping you might feature them… Some brands just want to pay $10 [for you to write about them].” 

Ten dollars didn’t seem a lot to me, considering Bennis, like many bloggers, will post to her website anywhere between one and three times a week (while her Instagram is a constant stream). So how do you make a successful career out of it?

Collaboration, she says, is essential. Bennis had told me what she loves about blogging is “sharing and exchanging with a community." But I couldn't make sense of this mantra, which she repeated throughout the day we spent together, when she, herself, wasn't shared with at the start. When Bennis first *began*, she tells me that she sought advice from other bloggers but they wouldn’t give her the time of day. But that hasn't impacted her own approach to the game, casually mentioning that she knows Imane Cohen, a fellow blogger whom she helped get started. It’s that kind of “be the change you want to see” attitude that will get her far in life.

It was time to head out to the Champs de Mars to meet up with Alexis, a photographer with whom Bennis works with regularly. It wasn’t snowing when we stepped out but there was a light drizzle of rain. We all retreated into our blanket scarves, and my sympathies went immediately to Bennis’ glossy locks. 

On the short walk over to the Eiffel Tower, nothing seemed to dampen her spirits. "Sometimes I want to stop, I want to say 'this weekend I won't do anything'... but since I have a meeting with a photographer, I cannot [cancel at the last minute]." There it was again: that community spirit, not wanting to let down others and driving herself to achieve something for everyone. She tells me how she’d love to take some time off from her other commitments and focus on fashion – a chance she might get very soon, with both her studies and work contract coming to an end later in the year. But in the meantime, Sparkles in Paris is reserved for the weekend, and she always makes the most of it. 
Introductions out the way, we quickly located a quiet spot to do the shoot in. While Alexis took light readings on his camera, Bennis flashed another radiant smile and sang “I’m singing in the rain” with a twirl. She was nothing like the highly-strung, pouty character that the fashion world is often mistaken for. Instead, she moved into position, quickly asked if her hair looked okay (cue: a quick finger comb from Diana), and got to work. 
Having worked together since October, Bennis and Alexis have an almost unspoken understanding: once the frame was set up, the shutter snapped shut countless times while the blogger smoothly moved from one position to another. Ten minutes later, it was over. 
Nothing about the speed with which the duo worked surprised me: just before the shoot began, we were discussing how Bennis nearly froze to death for a sponsored shoot, wearing just a t-shirt and jeans to showcase the products... in 40 degree weather. It almost didn't seem worth it to me to undergo such effort for a single blog post, but with blogging being taken more seriously, it can't hurt to already have a solid several-thousand-strong fanbase as a foundation. 

By the time I got home, back into the warmth of my own, cluttered, poorly-lit apartment, I logged into Instagram and her Insta Story had been freshly uploaded, telling her followers all about the day we'd just spent together.

All images by Diana Liu. 
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