An economics grad turns shopping into an influential blog and keeps on moving with the times.
Chinese imprints of Vogue, Elle and Cosmopolitan were plentiful at Cher Bai’s home in Shanghai. And her mom, a vice-president of a major department store, set a stylish example in silk blouses and blazers from Celine and Chanel. But Bai was confined to a boarding school uniform while she was growing up. So by the time she started studying economics at the University of Toronto, she had a pent-up appetite for fashion that was voracious. “I went crazy,” she says of her weekly shopping sprees at Club Monaco, Aritzia and Zara.
After graduating in 2014, Bai worked as a legal assistant in a law office, but her fashion consumption was still going full steam. “My friends were like, ‘Why not share it online?’” she says. “So my blog and Instagram are called CherMyCloset.” (And, yes, she is named after that Cher.)
After only one year, Bai’s little venture was paying the bills, largely through brand partnerships. She quit her law job and is grateful that her family didn’t balk. “All Asian parents want their kids to be doctors, lawyers or bankers—but not my mom,” she says.
Bai now has more than 200,000 followers on Instagram, and she has stepped up the level of brands she wears to include Tibi, Chanel and Low Classic (a Korean favourite). She recently added the Louis Vuitton Multi Pochette Accessoires to her “blogger bag” collection. And a highlight of the past year was a makeup collab with M.A.C that is sold exclusively at Hudson’s Bay.
Still, as a blogger in a saturated market, Bai says she needs a Plan B. Hers is a fashion jewellery collection called TJE—the T is for her husband, Todd Xu, the J is for their two-year-old daughter, Jade, and the E is from her name.
Xu is a trained engineer who has been working as Bai’s full-time photographer. “He loves drawing and painting and has a more artistic side than I do so he does most of the jewellery design,” she says. “I do the social media for the brand.”
With so much time spent on social media, Bai is hyper-aware of shifting moods, including the movement toward more mindful shopping. “I have a responsibility to recycle clothes and wear them again, and I will shop less at H&M and Zara,” she pledges. “But it’s hard for influencers. I have to post at least once a day, and I can only post an outfit maybe two or three times. You have to always wear something new and trendy. You have to be on top of your game.”
How does she deal with that unrelenting pressure? “At first, I felt very pressured to buy a purse because it was trendy, even if I didn’t like it,” she says. “But now, I feel like I can be me. You have to stay true to yourself. Nowadays, everyone is a blogger and they shoot in similar places and have similar feeds with similar tones to their photos. Your strong suit is that no one is you. You have to be you.”
See the rest of this issue’s cover profiles here.