How Kellie Brown Broke Out of Marketing to Make Herself a Brand
As the plus-sized fashion industry has expanded over the last decade, so has the impact of the “fatfluencer.” Plus-sized influencers have emerged from the niche blogosphere into fashion magazines and major brand campaigns. One of the people responsible for that shift is Kellie Brown. For years she worked as a PR/marketing executive and helped plus-sized clothing companies launch creative campaigns that harnessed the power of the cool fat girls. Brown played her role behind the scenes while building her own fashion and lifestyle blog, And I Get Dressed. Because she understood how to work the front and back of the house, she easily joined their ranks.
These days And I Get Dressed is where you’ll find the best of Brown’s writing, style, and merch (she sells apparel and accessories with slogans like “Fat Icon”). If you want to get a little more personal, you can join her growing ranks of subscribers on YouTube. Thanks to that PR background, Brown has also mastered the art of the press moment. She is the person responsible for #fatfashionweek, which encouraged plus-sized women to speak up about their experiences and the need for inclusion at the industry’s paramount event. In 2018 she also made Essence magazine’s 25 Most Stylish list. Read on to find out how she’s branching out into home decor, and hopefully, a full fashion collaboration.
Expand Your Lane
[After I started my blog] I was still doing publicity and creating marketing campaigns for brands. Swimsuits For All was my client. They were a company that catered to, like, your mom, your grandma, women who go on cruises. They were looking to attract a younger audience so I proposed that we do a collaboration with Gabi Fresh. She had just gone viral for doing a fatkini post. I was like, We should create something with this girl, and it took off from there. I conceptualized it. I did the negotiation between Gabi's agent and the company. I helped with a lot of the creative, and did all of the PR for year one, and I think two. All the press that it got, I was responsible for that.
Then Catherine's, the sister company to Lane Bryant, was looking for the same thing: to create moments [with] awesome content and partner with influencers. Because it was a brand that skewed a little bit older, I came up with the concept of “best day ever.” We did these incredible trips all over the world, from Jamaica to Paris to Sedona. The purpose was to show plus-sized women being gorgeous and living these really beautiful moments in clothing. So I was still also working behind the scenes orchestrating some of the biggest campaigns that the plus-sized world had seen.
I was also PR director for Damon John, from Shark Tank. I was introduced to him by a former colleague at my old agency. He's an incredible human being. I learned so much from him, a different type of work ethic. He's relentless when it comes to his own schedule. He's also just incredibly entrepreneurial, always had something smart or insightful to say. The first thing I learned from him was to be really good to the people around you. When my mom passed away, I left town for a month and they literally mailed me my check. He said "If I can't hold you down now, you shouldn't work for me." That's something that I never forgot.
I found him to be just an inspiring person in many ways. It really made me want to put the effort that I was putting into him, into myself. It made me want to work as hard for myself as he works for himself. That was when I experienced a shift and decided to go full throttle with putting myself out there. As a publicist and a marketer you're so trained to play the background. Whether you orchestrated the event or thought of the idea, you're used to just standing to the side and letting your work speak for itself. You're not really self promotional. It's weird. So I decided that I wanted to put energy into my brand. I did the Catherine's trips because it was a fun opportunity, but after that I knew that I wanted to mostly focus on building my own brand.
The scale up was just a natural evolution. Because I am a marketer first and foremost in terms of how I think, it's always just about elevating, diversifying, naturally finding my lane. I started my YouTube a couple years ago. I was tired of just taking photos for my blog. Back then I felt like if you were a fashion blogger it’s because people really just wanted your outfits. You didn't have to say a whole lot. I would always try to express myself creatively as a writer or with little funny tidbits. But at that time, I needed to flex a different muscle in my brain, and I thought YouTube would be a great opportunity. I saw the world really going towards video a couple years ago and thought I needed to be on video platforms.
I think that my Instagram/blog audience is completely different from my YouTube audience. It's just about how people like to consume media. I thought that when I started a YouTube channel, because I had around 50,000 followers on Instagram, that it would be automatic subscribers on YouTube. It is building an entirely new audience. I see YouTubers who have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and if I go to their Instagram there aren’t that many people there.
Video just allows you to connect more deeply to people. You're not looking just at a photo of them or a caption. They're not just following me because they think I'm pretty or like my outfit. They're connected to me more emotionally. They like to repeat some of the silly things that I say.
Take Small Risks
I've always been really specific about the type of brands that I align myself with and I’ve become even more rigid about that. Last year I started doing merch, which I had been thinking about for so long. It’s been exciting to create, essentially, a line of really fun t-shirts, sweatshirts, and things that I would love to wear but never come in plus sizes. You always see the cute tee but it's like small, medium, large.
You need a proof of concept, even for yourself. My proof of concept was that when I wear an outfit, I use affiliate links and can see how many people react to purchase, and click when I post things. I know that my voice is trusted because people shop when I say what I like. I already know that I have an audience of people who trust my taste and trust me to say what is cool or not. That was really it. There was no big plan. There's all these tools and resources at everyone's disposal. I Googled and I already had some ideas about what kind of shirts I would make. So I literally just did it.
Sometimes successes come from action and not just years of plotting. Sometimes you just need to do it, and fail small. That’s another thing that I learned from Daymond. You're going to make mistakes. Small mistakes are easier to recover from than big ones. Creating merch was a small risk versus using all the money I had to start a private label collection.
I just started a home decor Instagram account. So that's been really fun. It's @aigdhome. I named my blog And I Get Dressed because I always knew that there were going to be multiple interests of mine that I wanted to express through content and merchandise. Fashion and style are sort of the exclamation point. I love home decor... and I get dressed. I love beauty... and I get dressed. I love travel… and I get dressed. Expanding my merch is something I'm really interested in and have been doing. I'm really committed to some sort of collaboration with a fashion brand this year. It feels really overdue. My numbers haven't been huge, historically. I'm not a million follower person, but my impact on the industry, on what customers buy and shop, and all the media I get around style shows that I know what women want to wear, especially plus sized people.