I first saw Christina when I was DJing a pool party at the Thompson Hotel in the Lower East Side of Manhattan; The sun was setting behind the skyline; The downtown fashion set was standing around the edge of the narrow lap pool, which has an image of Andy Warhol printed onto the floor tiles, and in between sips from $8 cans of Tecate everyone was being way too cool then a head covered with curls--a surprising rarity in New York--bombed into the water fully clothed! The party starter was Christina Caradona, and in that moment the ardor of the party grew. We didn’t end up meeting that evening, but my curiosity about her remained, and it intensified when I found out she was a “fashion blogger”. I thought, “What the hell is that?!”
Christina is the face and creator of Trop Rouge [it means “Too Red” in French], a fashion blog that features photos of herself in different outfits. It’s like a street style blog, but only features one subject. There’s a ton of them around, but only a small group of individuals has managed to build huge followings, online fanbases so large that big brands pay to seed products through their blogs, and famous designers make sure bloggers like Christina sit in the front row at their fashion week shows. Christina is an “influencer”, which is such a wank of a term, but it’s true.
I decided to feature Christina in Konichiwang because I was curious to find out how her blog blossomed into a career and how she developed a community of fans that felt connected to what she was doing. After some emailing back and forth through her management company, we organized to meet for tea in Saturdays Surf NYC.
I entered Saturdays and was greeted by Paige, the effervescent barista--who also works for the Saturdays magazine, and interns at Monster Children--looked after me with a hot peppermint tea and took me down the narrow store past racks of clothes and a tiled table with books and magazines, of which I hope Konichiwang will soon sit. The garden at the back of the store was surprisingly chilled, even though it’s just one block from the insanity of Broadway & Canal. Outside I spotted Christina sitting in the corner of the decked courtyard wearing a summer dress and a leather jacket while on her shoulders curls bushed out from beneath a wide-brimmed hat. She made me feel at ease immediately so after some chit chat about our dating lives--her telling me of a crush she had on a boy that used to work at Saturdays, and me describing my plans for the first date I was going on that evening--we got onto chatting about her blog.
Christina Caradona: Are the loud voices ruining everything or is it all right? [A group of chefs speaking French were loudly chatting nearby.]
Greenie: No, it’s fine. Let’s talk about Trop Rouge.
CC: I started my blog, I guess 3 years ago when my family and I moved back from France. At the time I didn't know what a blog was. I remember I was managing an American Apparel store and my friend Mariah, who I still thank to this day because basically she showed me what a blog was, she was like, "Christina, do you know what a blog is?" and I was like, "Eww what's a blog? Sounds like a disease”. You know what I mean?
G: Yes. Sometimes I think they still are diseases.
CC: It's a disgusting word. I said, "No, I don't know what a blog is," and she bounced back with, "You should look at it. There are really cool blogs, there’s also Tumblr." I was like, "What's a Tumblr?" I remember when I first started, I was like, "What am I going to call it?" My brother was in the other room brushing his teeth. I said, "What if it's really like a French name, I want it be like Tors or something." and he was like, "Why don't you just call it Trop Rouge." Immediately I said, "Trop Rouge, that's cool. But it doesn't matter because no one is going to read it.” Then I told him he should do it with me and he said "No, that's so stupid. Blogs are stupid."
G: But he’s the one who started taking photos of you?
CC: Yes, my brother started taking photos of me because, you see, when your friends take photos you never know if you're being too sexy or something but if it's my brother taking photos then it's good for everyone to look at.
G: Your brother is going to call you out if it gets creepy?
CC: Yes, he's going to say, "Don't do that. That's weird." I remember my mom saying, "This is stupid, you're so into yourself." But I thought blogging was fun, and it wasn't popular at the time.
G: How quickly did it take off?
CC: I feel like it took off pretty quickly during the summer. I think that I started it in February 2009 and during that summer I started to get a little bit of recognition for it. That's how I met Karen from DBA [Digital Brand Architects. The management company that represents Christina] I think that I was one of the first girls to actually sign onto DBA. At the time I thought, "This is cool, a manager, managing my blog but it’s weird too."
Sorry, I'm smoking and it's all going on you. You’re like, ”Eww, she's a gross bitch.”
Anyway, after that summer it started to snowball even though I never marketed it.
G: So it was just natural growth?
CC: Yes. I had never really told anyone about it but my friends became interested and it just took off from word of mouth.
G: You started as a hobby, do you feel that it's a job now?
CC: I'm having so much fun with it, so I don't think it's a hard job but a fun hobby.
G: Can you take a vacation for a week and plan your posts in advance?
CC: No, I never plan because I don't want to premeditate anything. I always talk about things that I was doing the day before or the week before, the songs I was listening to when I was writing it. However, I do filter my blog a bit because I don't want viewers to know exactly what size of tampon I use or if I'm crying because a boy dumped me.
G: How much post work do you?
CC: I look at the photos and if it's dark I'll just make it lighter, but no extreme editing or retouching because it's not realistic.
G: How do you feel about being a billboard?
CC: It makes me feel good that brands think I have enough influence to alter someone’s decision for something. So that's kind of cool.
G: Do you think you've got potential to get across other messages rather than just selling clothes?
GG: Definitely. I worked with Kenzo, where myself and some other blogger girls from around the world were talking about women's rights.
G: How serious are you with what you're doing?
CC: I'm pretty serious, but I feel like you need to also have a sense of humor because you really can't take anything you do too seriously. If I was working with other people's money like those in finance...
G: I don't think they take that seriously.
CC: When you remember what you were doing before and how you even started it, when you do that, you can step back and be like, "This is funny and I’m so lucky."
G: That's how I feel about this date tonight. Are you ready to draw?
CC: Yeah, I'm such a bad drawer.
G: Come on, that’s the point. Everyone sucks at drawing but everyone should just do it more often.
SELF PORTRAIT CAPTION
Saturdays Surf NYC
Address: 31 Crosby St, New York, NY 10013, United States
Hours: 8:30 am – 7:00 pm