The rise of influencers has been one of the biggest shifts in marketing over the last decade. Many solo entrepreneurs have gone from making videos in their bedrooms to making millions of dollars through brand sponsorship and Youtube ads. However, like many other industries, there have been differences in the opportunities afforded to people from different demographics. This is particularly prevalent for black influencers who see significantly fewer opportunities from brands than their counterparts regardless of whether their metrics are equal. One influencer who is paving the way by being the first Black British influencer to launch a solo clothing collection with a leading fast-fashion brand ISAWITFIRST is Mariam Musa.
Musa grew up in Surrey, a county in South East England. The area was predominantly white and she recalls “being only one of a few black girls in school”. Because of this, she didn’t fit the perception of beauty most people around her were used to seeing and was very aware of it. This inspired her to develop an interest in fashion and makeup to make herself feel good. As time went on this developed into a passion for fashion and beauty when Instagram and the idea of influencers were starting to take off. A few friends of hers, who shortly after this began managing her, suggested setting up an account and posting photos and videos online. With her management VAMP’s help, she started posting and gained a little bit of traction but nothing overwhelming. On finishing university she started working at fashion retailer H&M.
She used this opportunity to take photos “I wasn’t earning much at the time so what I would do is try different outfits and take photos, mainly in the changing room in the store, then post them online” she recalls. These photos started to gain more traction and she began receiving gifts from brands and going to events. “I set up my YouTube channel in 2015 and it was doing well, particularly for beauty content as there weren’t many black YouTubers online at the time teaching black women how to find the right shade and learn new and easy techniques”.
At this point, her following was over 70k on Instagram and this led to an opportunity to be on reality TV show Survival of the Fittest. Whilst the show was relatively short-lived in terms of success, Musa got exposure to reality TV and some of the experiences you would encounter in this industry but felt it wasn’t quite for her. However, the show and being in the public eye did expose her to a new audience who took to her warm and fun personality and she decided to pursue her first love of content creating and began doing this full time. The turning point for her came when she started creating styling videos giving people tips on how to save money without compromising on appearance “I hate spending money and there’s loads of pressure nowadays to wear designer items so I would give tips on how to do your fashion on a budget or wear one outfit in many ways” she says. As she gained traction with these types of videos, opportunities to work with brands came about and one of the first brands to reach out to her for a big partnership was ISAWITFIRST.
Collaborating With ISAWITFIRST
Mariam’s relationship with the brand began in 2018 when she collaborated with them on her popular styling videos. Since then, she’s worked with them on various collaborations and became an ambassador for their Love Island 2019 sponsorship featuring in their promotional advert which featured on TV and billboards across the country.
Due to the close relationship with the brand and the success of the ambassadorship, discussions around a bespoke collection for Mariam began in late 2019. Due to COVID-19 things took longer than usual but within 6 months the collection was complete and features 52 pieces with prices ranging from £8 – £50. The collection is a mixture of styles that embody Mariam’s character and fashion sense.
On launching the collection Musa says “Having this collection with ISAWITFIRST has been such an overwhelming but exciting experience for me. It’s been the perfect example that hard work pays off. As a Black influencer in the fashion and makeup industry, it hasn’t always been easy but since I began working with ISAWITFIRST, I’ve always felt love. From when I started my styling videos back in 2018, ISAWITFIRST was the first brand to want to work with me for this content and also pay me fairly for it.
This collection with ISAWITFIRST is a clear reflection of my character and it was very important to me to ensure there were different types of girl included in the campaign. I asked my friends who are also black influencers to join me as they represent different shapes, sizes, and skin tones and are a massive support system for me in the industry. Representation is really important to me and I hope that this might be the small boost black girls in the UK need to keep pushing and know that nothing is too big or too crazy to achieve.”
On the collaboration Mariam’s manager Ruby Aryiku, co-founder of all black female PR & Talent Agency VAMP said “We’re excited about this collection as whilst influencer collections aren’t new or often particularly game-changing, we believe this one is. We’ve seen all our favorite fashion brands launch collections with dozens of influencers in the UK for years, however, none have been with black women.
It’s worth noting that there have been a few black celebrities and public figures launch collections with fast-fashion brands over the last few years and that representation was so important to the Black community in the UK. However, with the impact that black influencers and content creators have on the black community and beyond in the UK, it’s surprising that a collection with one hasn’t come about sooner
We’re proud to lead that change and hopefully welcome more investment and belief into black influencers and their audiences.”
This article is part of a series featuring diverse people making a difference. You can find more articles (click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released message/follow me on Twitter @TommyASC91