Twin sisters, Sam and Caili Beckerman have shaken the world of fashion blogging. They hit it like a whirlwind and now share some of the tricks that allowed the girls to make such a huge impression on the online community.
According to the sisters, self-tanner is one of the main secrets to amazing pictures that can go onto the blog. They use a variety of techniques, applying it tactically to draw attention to specific traits. According to Sam, the tanner can slim out your legs, and Caili adds that putting some on your face and under the breasts allows you to look stunningly fresh even when dressed for the cold.
Another trick in their arsenal is the pose they take, which is the so-called ‘flamingo’. The pose is rather simple, you just bend one of your legs a bit and rest the foot against the other leg.
Girls are also fans of contouring, a technique that can ‘redesign’ the planes of your face, highlighting cheekbones or distracting from some imperfections. For example, Caili claims to have an ‘Elvis lip’, an issue that she remedies with careful application of contouring. Girls warn to be careful when doing it yourself, lest you distort your face.
The 36-year-old Beckerman twins are a fashion phenomenon: walking, talking, flamingo-ing Sindy dolls who play out their distinctive brand of style stereo via their blog and an Instagram account that has Rihanna as one of its 165,000 followers. In person it is as difficult to tell them apart as it is in their photos — it is not so much that they talk over each other as that their sentences merge in a giggly froth of fashion, a kind of conversational cappuccino. (Aptly enough their faces were recently immortalised in frothed milk by a New York barista.)
The Beckermans are a two-woman brand partly because there are, of course, two of them, but above all because they don’t do tasteful. “We have never been able to do that head-to-toe beige thing,” says Sam (I think). “There is something when you wear colour — it’s like a free feeling.” “We like raver style, skater style, surf style . . .” Cailli adds. “We love anything fruitloopy,” Sam concludes.
Fruitloopiness. That’s a big part of their appeal. They seem to be having so much darn fun all the time. Not for them the poker-faced, cooler-than-thou approach to fashion favoured by so many of its biggest names: the clothes the twins wear, and the personas they project, seem almost cartoonish. “We think: wear whatever makes you happy,” Cailli says. “We have never been ones to hold back.” Sam: “We are definitely not mainstream.”
We meet at their hotel during Paris Fashion Week. I know I have found the right room because of the quartet of vast suitcases stacked outside the door: three to four outfit changes a day dictates a whole lot of luggage. What was in those suitcases is piled high on every surface in their room: Aldo thigh boots; H&M floral dresses and Kenzo coats; bags, bags, bags by everyone from Moschino to Coach. “We know how to bomb places out pretty good,” Sam says.
Amid all the chaos — surveyed by a peculiarly apposite mural of Marie Antoinette — is a neat rail of Chanel looks from the current collection, which the sisters will wear to the brand’s catwalk show that week. They talk me through the outfits with a kind of religious reverence, practically genuflecting in front of a cerise tweed ensemble. “We used to go into the Chanel store in Toronto as kids,” Sam says. (Yes: they are Canadian, another point of difference in fashion-land.) “We would be drawing and getting ideas. We were in there the other day and they said: ‘We remember when you were in here with your crayons.’ ”
Chanel is just one of the brands with which the twins have the kind of nebulous yet lucrative relationship that defines the successful end of bloggerdom. You may or may not be surprised to learn that Aldo, Coach, H&M, Kenzo and Moschino are five more. They won’t discuss how much they make from brands but the total is likely to be well into six figures. Their hotel stay is on their own buck for a change. “It’s nice to be in a place you don’t have to Instagram,” Cailli says.
OK, so these labels pay for the twins’ globetrotting shopaholic antics — not that they need to buy their own clothes any more — but doesn’t this compromise their relationship with their audience? “We are very careful about the brands we choose to work with,” Cailli says. “We have our Chanel family, our Aldo family . . .”
Chanel and Aldo. Not two brands you would expect to see in the same sentence, never mind on the same Instagram account. That is another thing that makes the Beckermans stand out: they embrace high-low dressing and their flashier adoptive families seem fine with that. “The reality is we do mix it all together,” Sam says. “And that’s how a lot of people dress.”
They wear vintage too. “We were always wearing it as teenagers,” Cailli says. “Our grandfather was a pharmacist and he gave us his white coats . . .” Sam: “. . . And we would have tracksuits and we would wear that outfit to school. We have never been worried what other people think. I don’t know whether that’s because there are two of us. It’s just who we are. We are kind of badass like that.”
The Beckermans tell a story of a happily odd-girls-out upbringing, what with the white coats, the yoga-teacher mother who changed her hair colour so often that they once got into the wrong car after school, the obsessive “fashion scrapbooking and journalling” in the basement and a predictably outré approach to home sewing (they knocked up a ruched leopard-print velvet prom dress at the age of 14). Yes, they were bullied, they tell me in passing, but they couldn’t seem to have cared less.
They dreamt of being designers and, having studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, pulled it off for a few years. “When it ended we had to figure out, ‘What do we want to do? Who am I?’ ” Cailli says, with telling slippage between first persons singular and plural. They started a blog in 2009, a month after their label shuttered, and long before most people even knew what a blog was.
Fashion is a really happy place for a lot of women
“It was like an online scrapbook, a journal of our life and what we were doing,” Sam explains. (Yes: scrapbooking again.) And what were they doing? Dressing up in clothes the right side of bonkers (just) and doing the same to their long-suffering pomeranians, Cubby and Marni. (Cubby’s most recent appearance on their Instagram account was in a quilted pumpkin suit.)
“There was no Instagram, no nothing,” Cailli continues. “People were like, ‘What is blogging? What do you actually do?’ And we were like, ‘Basically we are just taking photos of ourselves all day.’ ”
For three years they paid their fantabalous way by working part time at a friend’s baby store. Then they went full-time on the blog. The rest is social media history.
On the subject of which, what do they make of the recent so-called bloggergate — yes, really — when assorted journalists from American Vogue lamented bloggers who dress up to be photographed outside the fashion shows, bloggers like the Beckermans in other words? (“Find another business,” wrote one. “You are heralding the death of style.” Another labelled bloggers “pathetic” and “desperate”.)
“It’s very hurtful to call anyone pathetic,” Cailli says, serious for the first time. “It’s mean. We just won’t stand for it. We hear a lot from kids saying: ‘We love that you can express yourselves. We love that you can wear whatever you want to wear. All that passion makes me happy, makes me want to go after my dreams too.’ ”
It’s no surprise that the Beckermans see bloggerdom, and indeed fashion, as all light, all empowerment. “Fashion is a really happy place for a lot of women,” Sam says. “It’s our job to wear what we love, what makes us happy, and to inspire other people, and wear what makes them happy. But if people are making fun of you, that’s not . . . It’s not good energy.
“It’s hard to start a blog,” Sam continues, “to put yourself out there, dressing up, getting your photo taken. But the hardest thing about blogging is keeping it going, because things happen in life. I got my appendix removed, I broke my foot. Cailli blogged in a neck brace . . .” “. . . Sam blogged in a wheelchair.” “We could have stopped, but we didn’t.” By now they are giggling again.
The twins love all things Disney, they tell me. What strikes me after an hour in their company is that Beckerman-land has more than a little in common with the Disney kingdom: its colourful uplands are relentlessly sunlit, far more chiaro than scuro. Their agent — bloggers have agents now — describes them as “human glitter” and Jeremy Scott, the Moschino designer, has said: “I love that they’re optimistic, uplifting, positive. And it’s not a put-on. It’s who they are.”
I think he is right. Cailli and Sam are so perma-jolly that, cynical Brit that I am, I want to find them fake, but somehow they aren’t. They are unlike anyone else I have met: authentically synthetic, synthetically authentic. Add to that the smooth impermeability of the natural-born optimist and they seem perfectly suited (no doubt in Chanel) for the parallel universe of social media. I leave them dressing up, of course. And laughing.