From small town blogger to international style authority in just four short years - few have experienced as rapid an ascension to fame as Kayture founder Kristina Bazan. The petite Swiss national with a fan club to rival the Kardashians' - they call themselves the Kayturettes and have to be seen to be believed - has amassed over 1.6 million Instagram followers and more luxury brand affiliations than we care to count since she launched her blog in January 2011 from her bedroom in Switzerland. Among them: the face of digital campaigns for Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Kérastase; official reporter for Lancôme at New York Fashion Week and official fashion week insider for Hugo Boss.
Kayture is first and foremost a fashion blog: a platform for Bazan to showcase her outfits and inspire her legions of adoring fans. It's highly personal - Bazan is a self-confessed open book, with many posts reading like diary entries, yet with an editorial look. A big part of Kayture's success is Bazan's knack for styling carefully considered ensembles and shooting high-quality images. Initially, her outfits were almost exclusively high street - Zara and H&M were firm favourites - but as her influence spread and she gained access to luxury brands, Bazan's fashion choices have become even more fascinating.
Over the course of four years Bazan has cemented herself as one of the most influential fashion bloggers ever. The irony is she started it all in an attempt to launch a music career, which took a backseat as tastemakers worldwide - Vogue editors and luxury label creative directors among them - took notice of Kayture's fashion focus. Nevertheless, Bazan packed her bags and moved to LA earlier this year to pursue singing. We interviewed the global phenomenon to find out exactlty how a Swiss teenager found herself negotiating partnerships with Chopard before she'd even hit her twenties.
Where did your interest in fashion come from?
I grew up with a mum who couldn't afford designer clothing or even designer cosmetics. But every time she bought a bottle of perfume or a pair of shoes she'd treasure them so much that I would be fascinated by them.
Where did you find inspiration growing up?
Growing up we travelled all the time, so I was exposed to different cultures that influenced my taste. I was born in Minsk, Belarus, then we moved to the States when I was four, then Switzerland when I was seven - all completely different places! But the only thing that was stable was the music clips and movies I was watching - old black and white films like Breakfast At Tiffany's and Marilyn Monroe movies - I was fascinated by how timeless and elegant they looked.
Your blog is four years old - how has it changed over that time?
Kayture has grown into something much more established - we've learnt so much about the industry and witnessed the evolution of digital in such a dramatic way. Because we started so young we had to learn things very quickly and it was hard - neither of our families are in the fashion industry and we had no-one to advise us, so we had to figure it out ourselves. It's really matured and has a strategy behind it now. We have to plan, hire new people, just like we were running a company. Which it is. But we have to do all this without affecting the blog's authenticity.
What was the focus of the blog in its early days - was it always high fashion?
No, because [it] wasn't always [possible] - when I started at 17, I had no idea what high fashion was! But I loved it, I used to watch shows on my computer from my little bedroom in Switzerland. I couldn't afford it, but I wanted to get closer to that world, as it seemed so far away and so magical to me. When I started blogging I could only afford Zara and H&M but I would ask my mum to ask her friends if I could borrow their bags. But my fans appreciate that - that I can take something from H&M and make it look expensive.
How did you gain access to the high fashion pieces you blog about?
Because we aimed for that high aesthetic - I wanted my images to look editorial - I think that intrigued a lot of brands. They reached out to us. One of our first projects was with Vogue - they flew us to Tokyo for Vogue Fashion's Night Out [and] that launched a lot of things for us. I met Michael Kors that night, Roberto Cavalli, Anna Wintour - it was amazing. That was only after six months of blogging.
How did Vogue find out about you?
I used to post pictures on Lookbook - it's a platform for people to share their outfits. If your outfit gets a lot of likes, it ends up on the homepage and I was there often. A lot of magazines started reaching out to me, asking for images for their street style sections. I was in Vogue and Elle a few times and editors started noticing me and checking my blog and they loved it. So that's how Vogue Fashion's Night Out came about. I thought we were going to be kidnapped - it was my first big trip, my parents were so scared, they double-checked everything!
How did your first partnerships with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton come about?
They contacted me. I always wanted to work with Louis Vuitton - travel is one of the most important components of Kayture so they're the perfect brand for us. They were looking for someone in Switzerland since they were opening a store there. We only met the PR once and then a week later we were shooting the video.
Have they all pursued you or have you approached them?
Once I had credibility I did start reaching out. When you don't have experience you don't want to waste the brand's time. I wanted to wait until I was confident enough. I reached out to Chloé - I've always been absolutely in love with them, I relate to their aesthetic so well. I wrote to their PR company and asked to meet for coffee, so we met in Paris and had a great conversation. They appreciated that I knew so much about the designers and their collections - I didn't just show up because I wanted free stuff. I care about the brand.
Which designers or brands are you linked with at the moment?
We're very selective. We have a great relationship with Dior and we work a lot with jewellery brands like Chopard - it's part of the culture of Switzerland. Elie Saab is another one - I know him and his son very well. It's been amazing attending their shows during Fashion Week and I've been wearing their dresses on the red carpet.
The past four years must have been a huge learning process - what have been the biggest challenges?
Starting your own company is a challenge. Most of my friends were going out and got money from their parents, but James and I had so many responsibilities and had to cover so many expenses on our own we had to grow up very quickly. Being in the public eye was very confusing at first. I'm such an open book and I was judged for things I didn't even think about - photos of my family, my boyfriend - I've had to learn to take the criticism and ignore the haters.
What's the deal with James?
James was my boyfriend originally but he's my business partner now. We started dating when we were really young and we started the blog about a year after we started dating. When you work with someone it changes everything. We're both so ambitious, our passion for work started taking over. We just evolved into something else.
You're prolific on social media - do you manage the accounts yourself?
I do have people helping me but I manage my Instagram myself, no one will ever touch it. It's personal to me. Our Facebook is more of a news feed so it's shared between James, Fiona and myself. We have a team of three in LA - me, James and Fiona - and three in Switzerland. My mum works in finance and is one of the most disciplined people I know, so she manages our accounting and the administration side of the blog, then we have an editorial assistant and a freelance videographer.
You've garnered quite a fan club - what are your thoughts on the Kayturettes phenomenon?
I'm amazed by our followers. Last Fashion Week was completely mad. In January we wanted to say thanks so we chose five of our Instagram followers to send customised gifts to - we stalked them on Instagram to find things we thought they'd like - and they loved it. The most mind-blowing meet and greet was in Paris during Fashion Week, we announced a few days before on Twitter and Instagram that I'd be meeting people outside a show and never would I have thought that so many people would show up - we needed the show security to come out.
If your music career takes off, what will that mean for Kayture?
I'll just roll with the flow. Blogging is really important in my life; I've always had to write. It's like my drug. I still have a diary that I write in every day. Maybe one day I'll be giving backstage access to my tours and showing my outfits. Fashion is so closely linked to music now - Rhianna's the face of Dior. Everything's changing and there are no rules. A blog lets you link everything together.
See what happens when Bazan hits the streets during Paris Fashion Week, below: