Antoinette Goodfellow, commonly known in the Kiwi fashion influencer scene as 'Antoinette Bon Bon' created her platform 'Bon Bon Girls' only two years ago and in that time it has grown to attract the attention of over thousands with her summery beauty and fashion inspiration all year round.
We met at the incredible Auckland Hilton Hotel for this exquisite photo session, and then caught up for an early morning to coffee to chat all things New Zealand fashion, beauty and popular issues in the new media. A big thank you to the Hilton Auckland for having us!
20 Questions with Antoinette Bon Bon of Bon Bon Girls | Style Feature
How did you create BonBon girls and why did you become a blogger?
My blog started out as Antoinette BonBon and that came from my Instagram name. Soon after, I decided I wanted to create a store, so I named it BonBon Girls. However, I started with no financial backing or long term goals so it didn’t end up working out. But I kept the name for my blog. I knew I wanted to start the blog after working at fashion week one year. I saw what the NZ Bloggers were doing and I was a bit envious I guess! They looked really glam, and I thought hey! That should be me. When you’re styling hair for big fashion shows, you’re doing the same hairstyle over and over with no time to spare. I loved it but I was definitely wanting a position where I could enjoy the show and have more of a creative role.
So when was the start of Antoinette BonBon?
Before the blog, I was hairdressing and letting some of my craziness out experimenting with new looks. Every month I would have a new hairstyle and colour.. I did everything under the sun. A number of stylists wanted to take advantage of my crazy styles and use me in their photoshoots. So that’s how I got started. From there, I met Sara Allsop who is an editorial hairstylist. I started working on photoshoots with her, and soon after I met fashion photographer Fiona Quinn. She asked me to work with her and it branched out from there. I met different people and tried different things. I started creating my own shoots where I had creative direction and loved planning the outcome of my own images. That stemmed into me wanting to blog about fashion because I had a lot of inspiration around me at that stage, I enjoyed going to fashion shows and I had a lot of ideas.
It sounds like you felt you had more potential. So how did that all go for you in the beginning?
I started my blog and continued posting on Instagram, but I guess the shoots we did in the beginning weren’t that great because we were still trying to figure everything out. My husband had just bought a DSLR camera, and I was also trying to learn how to edit photos. We had a bit of trouble in the beginning learning everything at once.
Such a big chunk of knowledge to just absorb so quickly!
Yeah, and you can imagine how that would have gone. It was fun but it was always a battle. Even finding locations, and learning how to take the photos nicely. It was hit and miss. Sometimes they turned out really great and other times, not so great... [Laughs]
How do you describe your aesthetic, and how does your lifestyle influence that?
I guess my aesthetic is very girly, I am naturally that way. I love those L.A beach vibes, I’m a summer baby so I shoot at the beach a lot. I’ve been told by other people that my style is just really achievable. It’s not something I purposely do, it’s just that the pieces I shoot are just what I would wear in real life. Others have told me they feel they could go and buy the same outfits for themselves and easily recreate the looks I do.
You started as a hairdresser, then a model, and have worked on an impressive array of campaigns and projects. How has your role in the fashion industry evolved over the years?
I don’t know if it has evolved, I feel I was more into the fashion lifestyle when I started. Now I have taken a step back and I’m doing my own thing. There’s been a few events that have happened so now my main focus is my family and friends. I’m not focused on going to the popular events and fashion shows anymore, if anything I’ve taken a step back from fashion and moved towards every day style. I used to class myself as a “fashion” blogger but now I have moved into the direction of lifestyle, travel and everyday outfits.
A different direction than what you thought, but you are feeling a lot better about it?
I feel like it’s a lot more genuine and achievable for me. Something I can do naturally and consistently.
What type of article have you most enjoyed creating and why?
I wrote an article about a time in my life when I was counting calories and became very obsessed with my weight. I really enjoyed writing about that experience because even though I felt like it could be seen as cliche, I know that it did help a lot of people. I am genuinely a confident person, and I do feel like I am comfortable with myself. My point was to highlight how easily you can become caught up with your body image. If someone like me, who is confident and happy can end up in a state of being so obsessed with my weight then it can happen to anyone. I had really bad anxiety, and it was all fuelled from not going over my calorie count at that point. I do feel like it resonated with so many people because it was just so honest. It’s a little bit raw too, I read it again and although it’s not perfectly written, it’s real. It just is what it is.
I think people really appreciate that in contrast to a lot of the fake content that’s shared. It’s a struggle for me, creating beautiful work and making visual magic but at the same time I don’t want to compromise the integrity of the images I create.
It’s important to express yourself, and with every opinion piece there’s always going to be some negativity. Whether it means you’re doing the right thing or not, you can never ever impress everyone. Everyone has a different opinion.
What inspires you to create fresh content and how do you decide what to focus on?
To be honest, a lot of other bloggers inspire me. Instagram is a great tool to get fresh ideas and content. “Thrifts and Threads” in L.A, is so inspiring because she’s really consistent and her work is so professional all the time. She’s a mum and a wife, she’s a very normal, down to earth person. And she’s started her blog and done really well out of it. It shows anyone can do it if they put enough work into it. Pia Muehlenbeck’s style is also influences me a lot. She's very feminine, chic and summery- to me she can do no wrong.
In terms of all the ideas you have, how do you decide what to write about and put out?
I run out of time and I need to only use the content I am most passionate about. I also try to balance out the sponsored pieces with opinion articles. I don’t want my sponsored posts to overshadow what I am doing. Even though I would never take on sponsored content I don’t believe in, I feel like when I put the hashtag #ad, or #sponsored, people question whether it’s completely genuine. That’s why I want to focus on creating more content just for me.
I can understand that must be a difficulty, because at the same time this is a business and you want it to thrive, right?
Yea it is a bit of a dilemma because you want to have more time to do it but in order to have more time, you need to be making more money to take more time out to do it.
What’s the hardest thing about being a fashion influencer in NZ?
I guess it’s been pushing aside negative thoughts, you get to know the other bloggers and you figure out who’s faking the numbers and who’s getting opportunities because of that. Fake followers are a big problem and because NZ is so small it’s really obvious. That was my biggest hurdle with NZ blogging because so many people artificially inflate their numbers. You are ripping people off, brands are investing in you and your content and if your exposure is not the amount you claim, then it’s a scam for the brand. I feel I have moved past it now, I don’t want to radiate any negativity. I would rather focus on what I am doing, on my own content and how I can do better, especially how I can help other people out.
I think that as we move forward, a lot of these problems will become a lot more transparent in the industry. We will just ride that wave as it comes. What would you have done differently in your journey if you knew five years ago what you know now?
I probably would have done more homework before I started my blog, instead of just starting it straight away. Planning, what’s that? [Laughs] I would have had more content prepared and if I could I would have tried to be more consistent from the beginning. I think I would have taken more action, because I knew in the beginning I wanted to turn my blog into my job. But looking back, I was doing it all wrong. I started it with good intentions but I had no idea what I was doing! I am becoming better at moving my ideas into a reality, even though they can be so big!
Who are your favourite labels or designers and how do they inspire your work?
I don't follow designers that much, although I do love Tory Burch… I usually follow what my budget will allow! I love Showpo, Princess Polly and Sabo Skirt. Their clothing is very flattering and it’s not expensive. They’re not investment pieces that I generally keep for the long term but the silhouettes and styles are very feminine. For me it’s not the designer, it’s about the piece itself - if I see something I like then I will find out who creates it later on. Usually I gravitate towards pieces that are more summery, if I can see myself in the piece somewhere relaxing during the summer then that’s usually what I pick out. I really like beautiful pieces.
What has been your greatest success so far?
I feel like right now I am in a good head-space. I have only just become self employed, and that’s the first steps of me being where I want to be. It’s great because I have more time to not only work on my blog but also have fun, and enjoy a good lifestyle. I guess it’s pretty cool we just bought our own house too. My husband and I have both become self employed so that’s awesome. It’s a good feeling to know we are in charge of our own income but we are not struggling. I thought that when we jumped into self employment, it would be a massive struggle and I am glad that it’s not like that, it hasn’t come to that yet!
What about your greatest failure, and what did you learn from it?
I don’t actually take enough risks to have any massive failures. The store could have been it, but it’s hard to call that a failure when I don't feel like I really tried. My failure is being too timid, I need to take more action. I learned through the shop to really go for it and to not half-ass it. To put more effort into it and do everything 100%
Wise advice, what is still your biggest challenge?
Just pushing myself to create better content and hustling!
What have you found the best method to reach your goals?
Probably this little app called “Asana”. I’m such a nerd, if I don’t have things written down and organised for me it’s hard for me to get them done. I’m a real to-do list kind of person. If I have something to do I put it in my app, and it will send me an email reminder so I know to get onto it. Otherwise I will push it to the back of my mind!
That’s really handy, do you have any other advice or mantra that motivates you?
For me personally I find motivation from other people, so I like to collaborate a lot. I feel collaborations between bloggers isn’t done enough in New Zealand. In L.A. bloggers are always down to get together on the weekend, for no reason other than to get to know people and do something a bit more fun. Whereas when I’ve reached out to other NZ bloggers, alot of them are keen but they don’t follow through. There’s not enough motivation to really go for that. I think if you get two bloggers together you’re not only getting to know others interested in the same things as you, you’re reaching each other’s audience, and creating something fun that’s a bit different. I feel there needs to be more of that.
I think that’s a large part of your success, perhaps from your background as a hairdresser. In the creative scene we understand the importance of collaboration and that’s where the magic happens.
How do you feel the NZ fashion industry has influenced you, if at all?
I guess in the beginning it just inspired me to get started. I was very inspired by NZ designers, fashion shows and working with other creatives in New Zealand.
How has the new era of digital fashion media [Bloggers, Vloggers, Influencers] changed the world, how has that impacted you as a blogger?
It’s definitely impacted me in the sense that I have to be more confident. A few years ago I would have never talked to my camera! So it’s given me a more “just do it” attitude. If you want to stay relevant and for people to get to know you, then talking and showing your personality helps to engage with your audience better. I just get inspiration off people that way.
What about in a negative sense as well, how has this new wave affected you? We touched on the prevalence of fake followings before, have you seen a rise in this?
Yea definitely, people are seeing these opportunities that are given to bigger bloggers so they bump up their numbers in order to get those too. It’s just a given. The more that it gets known how bloggers are paid to do certain things, the more people are going to want this type of lifestyle and will do whatever they can to get it.
Have you experienced much criticism? How did you handle that?
There was an article from the Herald I was in, talking about bloggers and how we make money. It was a positive article, even though they made out like I was earning a lot more than I actually was! I make good money on some jobs but it’s not every week. It’s a few paid gigs a month. A Facebook "friend" shared the article, criticising me and implied I was lying on the piece. I corrected her and left it at that, but it was very upsetting. I felt sick at the time reading all the negative comments people were making on this girl’s post, so I just had to put my phone down. In NZ tall poppy syndrome is such a major issue, so claws were going to come out. I’m just not used to dealing with it. It was disappointing because the person who posted the comments is known as a leader for women in business, but was insincere.
What issues are the most important for young women now, and how have you touched on that with your blog?
Counting calories and extreme dieting is a huge issue. I also have an issue with the whole new wave of girls online who have extensive surgery and then deny it to their following. I think it just sets an unrealistic expectation for the younger generation. I don’t have an issue with surgery itself. Just don’t deny it, when you’re an influencer you have a duty to be honest.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
To not compare to myself to others, and to keep going even when you don’t feel like it. I find Gary Vee very inspirational and his advice pushes me into a good headspace. He just tells it like it is, and puts things into perspective.
What’s your biggest strength and weakness?
My weakness is that I often don’t push myself enough. However, my biggest strength is I don’t give up!
How do you balance your work with life?
It’s just come with time, having the confidence to become self-employed so I can have that balance. I couldn’t have done it a few years ago. I can now back myself in what I am doing, in both my blogging and my hairstyling... and that just comes with time. You want things to be happening for you in your early 20’s but it’s just not meant to be happening now for you. For some people it is but others it’s just not the right time. Trust the process.
How do you want to be remembered, what do you want to be your legacy?
Is this when I die!? I suppose I want to be remembered for my content, I want to eventually develop an aesthetic where people know it’s mine even if I am not in the photo!
I noticed on your blog that you want to start your own fashion label in future, is that still something on the cards?
Yeah, I do! It has changed and shifted a little bit, but I would like to start something of my own. I just need to plan everything out, but it will come with time.
Photographer. Creator. Dreamer ♥