Brutal reality of a Kmart influencer
While some Australian Instagram stars can command as much as $50,000 a post, there's a group of "influencers" that don't earn a single cent.
This unheard of breed are the Kmart influencers - the women (and a few men too) - who gave the once daggy brand a new lease of life with their pretty photos of its bargain-priced clothes.
The group of cash-savvy fashionistas from across the country have transformed the budget clothing label through clever styling and their unique abilities to be able to spot a diamond in the rough, causing frenzies over outfits with their lust-worthy photos.
Unlike other "influencers" who not only are paid for their posts, but also often receive the goods they are promoting free of charge, the Kmart followers buy all the outfits they model themselves.
This week, to mark the launch of a new spring summer clothing line, the brand brought together around 40 of Kmart's biggest influencers at a luxury hotel in Brisbane - and news.com.au were there to meet them.
"The Kmart followers have been so great to us, and so loyal as well, and so committed to the brand and really want to see us be successful in apparel so we just wanted to be able to spoil them a bit," Julie Miller-Sensini, Kmart's general manager of apparel and design, told news.com.au.
"Working with these women is so important to Kmart because they love the products and they share the love.
"We're really delighted and surprised by how they put looks together sometimes and the effect we see their posts have on the stock on our shelves."
But just what does it take to be a Kmart influencer, and how much work goes into creating photos that cause stock to fly of the shelves?
'IT'S BLOODY HARD WORK'
After spending 24 hours with the creme de la creme of Kmart influencers, I can reveal it's bloody hard work.
When I joined the group at The Calile, a five-star hotel billed as an "urban retreat", I had no idea what to expect. I've met a few influencers in my time and if I'm honest they were cold and snooty. These girls though were anything but.
They were all buzzing at the glamour of being flown in to stay in a nice hotel and couldn't wait to catch a glimpse of the new line. It was very endearing.
The new line, compared to other fashion ranges for the brand, was a big deal as it was the first that Julie had designed - in case you're not aware, she's the woman behind the brand's homewares transformation a few years back.
Once we'd heard all about the inspiration behind the earthy colour palette of the line (it's the Aussie landscape if you're interested), we were led into another room where each piece was on display.
It featured an adjoining room holding racks of the stuff that the influencers were allowed to rifle through to try and take home.
After choosing a few pieces though, the real work began - capturing the Insta-worthy snaps that would send shoppers rushing through Kmart's doors. After all, it was the reason we were all here.
Thankfully, the resort offered plenty of stunning backdrops for the influencers to take the photos. From a palm-tree lined pool to grey stone walls and even an island - there were no shortages of "photo moments", perfect for capturing the new outfits.
"I wanted to present this new apparel in an environment that was a little bit coastal and that really elevates the brand because that's the transition we need to make in apparel," Julie told news.com.au.
"We wanted to showcase the fact we've got world class designers, we've got an incredible sourcing team and now a really amazing apparel range that will hopefully make people stop and stand back, like they did with the homewares and go, 'oh my God, I can't believe it's Kmart'."
Everywhere I turned mini iPhone photoshoots were happening and within a few hours my Instagram feed had turned into a Kmart catalogue.
While everyone was laughing and helping each other get "the shot" - it still felt super high pressured to me.
I could hear people asking for more photos and saw more than one person walk to another area and ask someone else to take their picture because they weren't happy with what they'd got.
'KMART IS MY CARDIO'
Dani from affordable style blog luxeandlemonade told news.com.au she fell into the world of Kmart influencing two years ago after she started sharing her budget outfits online as a hobby.
"Some people like to go running and get a thrill out of that but I just like to run in Kmart, that's my cardio," she said.
Despite having a "lovely community" supporting her, she said sometimes there was pressure to fulfil her 12,000 followers needs.
"It can be quite stressful to get the perfect shot," she said.
"I work full-time so I have to plan my content in advance, I'll answer questions on the train to and from work and I try to limit them by giving as much information upfront."
Even with her success, Dani isn't in a position to start earning a living from all the work she does to maintain her Instagram page.
"I've not made a dollar from this and I'm cool with that. This is my hobby and it's not something I would monetise. I actually love my day job, this is my extra curricular activity," she said.
Tina Abeysekara from affordable style blog Trash To Treasured told news.com.au she'd experienced the same demands from her 88,000 followers too.
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And that’s a wrap on a whirlwind @kmartaus press trip 💃🏽 Wearing a little DIY twin set, yep from @kmartaus 😍 All the goodies and details are over on my Instastories but I’ll keep you posted as they hit stores 🤗 DETAILS: $27 Unlined Jacket (Size 8) $17 Button Pleat Shorts (Size 10) Old @ninewestaus shoes Old @yourockstyle_ cami
"I get so many questions and quite often, none of them even start with a hello or thank you, which can be quite draining," she said. "So you have to take some time out for yourself sometimes."
Tina is one of the rare few in the budget fashion blogging world though who is making money from her passion.
"I took a year off work in July to give it a real go," she said, explaining she recently flew to London for a partnerships with UK store Marks and Spencer where she charged a premium for answering questions about the products from her followers.
Many of the other Kmart influencers were mums, meaning they were juggling kids and family life around running their Instagram or Facebook feeds.
Popular Facebook group Kmart Mums Australia, which has over 350,000 followers, so just imagine how much maintenance goes into running that. It's definitely no walk in the park.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub's calculator, some of the biggest Kmart influencers with 100,000 followers could be charging up to $655 per post which while not enough to retire on is certainly not a number to be sniffed at.
STEPPING INTO A KMART INFLUENCER'S SHOES
Armed with a few outfits and after witnessing dozens of Insta-shoots, I decided to find out for myself exactly what goes into producing that picture perfect shot that makes you want to buy something.
Unlike a normal photo, the clothes are the "star of the snap" I was told, after being instructed to stand in front of a grey wall to ensure there were "no distractions".
Wearing a pair of khaki linen blend pants which cost $18 and a white cotton shirt, $17, I channelled my inner Tammy Hembrow. But apparently posing isn't how this is done.
"Maybe you should try looking out into the distance," I was told. Okay then.
It took around 10 minutes to get a snap with a thumbs up from the influencers and if I'm honest I felt stressed and clammy in that balmy Brisbane heat. Talk about brutal.
Putting my previous fail behind me, I decided to give it another go.
Another shot that proved popular among the squad was by the pool, so after a quick outfit change - slipping into striped linen blend jumpsuit, $25, paired with a mini basket bag, $12, - I enlisted Dani to take my photo.
But looking casual and effortless, while making sure the clothes were the star is harder than it looks. When I saw someone wading through the pool, desperately trying to keep her clothes dry, to get a shot on an island in the middle - I gave up trying. At least some of my friends, and the Australians who read my yarn, may get a laugh out of the pics.
While it was easy for me to accept I wasn't cut out for the influencer life, I have to admit I had a new found respect for anyone who does it, especially those Kmart queens who don't get paid for it.
The journalist travelled to Brisbane as a guest of Kmart Australia