Peony Lim is a London-based blogger and content creator who is as original as they come. Hers is a blog you should grab a cup of tea to read – its content is gorgeously moreish. Naturally, we’d recommend including a digital gander on www.peonylim.com in your next winding down routine, if you haven’t already. But, while some may choose to peruse the site for elegant editorials and practical tips, others no doubt use the platform as a source of inspiration; from practical (her taste is impeccable) to motivational purposes. Peony’s look and perspectives are clearly unique to her and the content she creates is all the more authentic for it.
We caught up with the striking entrepreneur to talk beauty, diversity and the job of blogging. Namely, why carving out safe spaces in the digital world is oh, so important.
What motivated you to start blogging?
Peony: I started in the most bizarre, roundabout way. I went to a university called the Courtauld Institute and it was at the same time the BFC had their show space to the square of Somerset House. I was just lurking around, as students do, and it was at the beginning of street-style photography. Some of the photographers liked my style so I ended up being photographed. I was nobody, just happened to be there at the right place and the right time.
By the time I’d graduated, I was in Vogue and across those early street-style sites. At that time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Some of my friends suggested I start a blog and I thought I’d try it for the summer, because I didn’t have anything planned and I needed a creative outlet. So I gave them little cards with the website on it – back then it was ‘blogspot.com!’ From the first month I had a collaboration so it was professional from the very beginning.
You studied at one of the world’s leading universities for the arts. Does your experience at the Courtauld inform your work as a content creator?
Peony: I went to art school before I went to university. First I did a creative foundation, then I went on to do an academic degree at the Courtauld. They were two completely different approaches, from practical to theoretical. When I was only doing art, I found it quite intellectually stifling and got bored quite quickly. Obviously I’m not a creative enough person to just do that. I think digital has been a really amazing hybrid for me. It’s kind of balanced the two sides of me: my intellect and my creativity. And it’s definitely informed a lot of decisions I’ve made for the site.
Would you consider an academic career in the arts? Or do you prefer to enjoy and share, rather than analyse and critique?
Peony: I’ve been offered more traditional jobs, having had the site for nearly ten years, people have come to me saying they’re launching a new magazine and asking if I’d be interested in being head of this digital brand etc. But the thing I’ve always felt is that I just wasn’t done with this. There’s still so much I wanted to do and I wasn’t ready to leave it behind. I don’t feel I’ve taken this project (the blog) to its completion. The funny thing is I came into it thinking it would just be a bit of fun for the summer, not realising it would become a job for the rest of my life. The more I did it, the more interested and compelled I was by it. Thus, the more I started falling in love with the job.
What kind of experience do you like your readers to have when they visit the site, peonylim.com?
Peony: From the very beginning I had a kind of mission statement of what I wanted – and didn’t want – to be online. I never wanted to be over-personal or negative. In ten years of content, there was nothing (negative) written about any brand, person or product. There’s so much of that online and I didn’t need to add to that. I always wanted the blog to be a positive space that was very female-focused. There’s a reason I’ve never really done swimwear or lingerie collaborations. I just don’t think that’s what inspires sisterhood and I want it to be a place of sisterhood. I want it to be a positive space that leaves you feeling inspired and I would never want a woman to leave my site and feel worse about themselves, only better.
Also, having grown up in a very white environment being mixed race, diversity and inclusivity is very important to me. Not in a we-need-to-talk-about-it-all-the-time way, but just in the ‘I’m happy with my features as they are’ kind of way. Nobody’s perfect; I don’t love myself, I don’t think I’m beautiful but I’m happy to have a face that looks Asian and not mess with it. I hope that in whatever subtle way that will tell other Asian girls – or other people who look different – that they don’t need to have surgery, they don’t need to have fillers, they don’t need to change how they look. They’re wonderful in their originality.
Peony’s first priority as a digital storyteller is ensuring her followers enjoy the content she creates. This doesn’t mean she hasn’t got a message to share with her audience. It’s just that hers is a subtle approach. “Sometimes it’s better to kill them with kindness, so to speak,” Peony tells us. Read on for the second instalment of her interview with Sable mag.
In your opinion, is the world of blogging, or ‘influencing,’ a dying art?
Peony: I think the best part of anything survives. Digital is such a new space – we are mapping out where the boundaries of this new world will exist. And it’s a really, really, mercurial changeable thing. What we choose to do now in this space as spokespeople, as representatives of whatever community, is really important. This is something we need to talk about more: the digital space is now almost more powerful than any geographical space. Why is it that we have so little control, so little safety net? There’s really nothing holding us back.
Do you think blogs will stand the digital test of time?
Peony: Inevitably, I think there was a bubble of influencers, bloggers etc. that is definitely in the process of being popped. I don’t think I ever really experienced the peak of that bubble because what they were looking for and thought was important, wasn’t what I represented. The clients I’ve had, I’ve had for a decade and they’re enduring relationships. I think there will always be people that ride the wave, and true creative talent will always survive. They’ll have something new and interesting to say because they’re better, brighter and more innovative than anyone. Those who just rode that wave won’t survive (the industry). It’s just the sifting of the chaff. So I don’t think the age of blogs is gone, I just think the age of fad blogs is past.
People seem to be losing faith in the standard and authenticity of influencers. Do you think the industry’s oversaturation has rendered the blogger obsolete?
Peony: There’s a reason that so many of the original, majorly successful bloggers were mixed race or Asian: it’s because we were underrepresented everywhere else. That’s what made what we said online so important; we were speaking to an audience that wasn’t being spoken to anywhere else. In that surge of content creators, a lot of norm core joined the conversation and then it became a much less diverse and much more generic conversation both in terms of type of content and social-economic bracket. A lot of the girls who were successful in that time don’t even have a blog – just Instagram. So we now have a very different kind of creator. But I think we’re now moving back into the real world, not just the representative white world. (Blogging) is not something we do because it pays better or whatever, rather something we’re really proud of that we want to maintain and make important.
Here’s a fun question, which item do you most covet on Sable Beauty’s list of treats?
Peony: Kjaer Weis. Their packaging is everything and I’ve never tried anything from that brand so I would love to try that. I’m also obsessed with Cool Earth. They do one of the best sunscreens ever. Theirs is the only sunscreen that doesn’t transfer yellow onto a white swimsuit, which is very important for me! I would definitely go for all of the Cool Earth products. And they’re not stocked that widely in the UK so it’s actually quite hard to get samples so I would be taking everything from them!
Could you tell us about some of your favourite recent collaborations – and why they were so special?
Peony: I really loved the editorials we shot for Aerin in Mexico with the pom-poms. It was quite hectic to take all of that stuff to Mexico and set it up after and shoot it. Aerin Lauder was on the beach with me while I was shooting so it was quite high pressured! That was one of the most pressurised shoots but I really loved the content, I felt it represented the fragrance well and had a good feeling. I’ve only been doing beauty for a year and a half now and I love it because it still feels fresh and exciting to me.
I also did a collaboration with Louis Vuitton around their Jeff Koons collection. I loved it because it really challenged me as a stylist. Sometimes I need that, almost to remind myself what my aesthetic is. Then we did a jewellery shoot with Chanel by some white cliffs (evoking the white cliffs of Dover). It’s a really beautiful lifestyle story and was very much inspired by the photography of brands like Toast. It’s very different to the style of the rest of the content – I have barely any makeup on and it’s very grainy. I love that Chanel could give me that creative freedom to do stuff that’s different. It’s not about being really pretty, it’s about having a mood and being evocative. I look through those images and I feel proud of that story.
Not everyone gets to work with Chanel!
Peony: Chanel is actually one of my oldest clients and I’m really lucky that they’ve always been so supportive. They only work with a few people and they’re very loyal to those people. They give you creative freedom and invest in those creatives. That’s the best kind of client because what you’re able to do with them lasts for years. Some of the editorials I’ve done for them is seven years old and people still reference them to me. It just goes to show that any strong image will last a long time. It’s about quality content.
What does the near future look like for www.peonylim.com?
Peony: At the moment it looks crazy busy, to be honest! Especially now, when I’m planning all the shoots and content for the rest of the year. There’s just a lot of really exciting stuff coming forward that I think the stories will be really beautiful. I’m so excited to share them because it’s going to be really unique to my aesthetic and also to my life. There’s a lot of classic Peony Lim content to come but also some new angles, too.