10 Years of Fashion & Beauty Blogging on SASSYBELLA.com. A short recap on the last decade.

Today, August 1st, 2012, marks a decade of blogging on SASSYBELLA.com. I remember distinctly that I had purchased SASSYBELLA.com back in July 2002 and chose to launch it on August 1st 2002 because it would be an easy day to remember. Who knew back then that I would be writing this blog post? It’s hard to reflect on what the last 10 years have meant to me – where do I start and how do I show my appreciation to everyone who has helped/motivated/embraced me and SASSYBELLA.com?

For those who don’t know the beginnings of SASSYBELLA.com, put simply, I was a nerd when it was cooler to be smoking at the back of school gym or practising for a school dance or play. Not that I was an anti-social outcast, I had my group of friends, played an instrument in high school, competed in school sports and had several crushes on boys that in hindsight were just a waste of time. But as fate would have it, the moment that changed my life was when my parents bought me a computer in all its chunky 1998 glory. Besides raising me and always being encouraging of everything I do, it was the best gift my parents ever got me.

That is where it all began.

To be honest I don’t know when exactly it was when I graduated from chatting with people on ICQ & mIRC to creating websites. But know I owe a great debt of gratitude to some wonderful and inspirational women for the early years. One was a friend who I endured weekend Chinese language lessons with, not that I was a particularly good student because I wanted to hang out at Chadstone Shopping Centre with friends and not in a classroom on a Saturday. But Leanne and I hit it off with our love of fashion, taking sticker photos and reading teen mags from the US and UK (not that I quite understood her love of Hanson) and she inspired me to create my own website on a lovely drag-and-drop website called Homestead. It eventually Homestead’s inability to do exactly what I wanted that led me to teach myself html and how to use Photoshop 5.5 (well before the days when CS was put in front of the versions), and started me on a course of launching website after website – some were blogs, some were not.

And then one day I stumbled upon a blog by a girl my age from England, Gemma. Back then we both had Livejournal-style blogs where I tended to ramble about my penchant for Miss Shop & Sportsgirl and how I would walk casually past HMV in Bourke Street Mall because one of the guys who worked there was a total babe. To this day I still don’t know his name (he will forever be ‘HMV guy’ to me) but Gemma and I became friends through blogging and lead quite similar lives in our early 20’s – studying journalism, moving from our home towns (not that Melbourne is a town) to a new city for work. The similarities ended when Gemma sold CatwalkQueen and was given the opportunity to work on it full time after the sale. Besides being slightly jealous, I was so happy for her.

There is one more person deserves a shout out too. She has been a part of my online journey for as long as I can remember – Susan. Over the years she has put up with all the dramas and the happy times, in blogging and life. She was the one who pushed me to join Facebook and Twitter before it was cool and one of my few girlfriends who can stand me talking about html, CSS and design issues. I only hope I’ve been there for her as much as she has been for me.

Why “sassybella”?

I wish I had chosen a much more fashionable name, but 10 years ago it came down to the fact that I loved the name of that Kirsten Dunst movie Crazy/Beautiful and I just changed the words a little. Would I have chosen the same name today? Probably not, but then what would I change it to? I have no idea.

I know you’re itching to know what SASSYBELLA.com looked like at the begining. Some of the screenshots I managed to find are on our Facebook page. Find them with the Timeline options on the right hand side of our page.

So why did I start and maintain SASSYBELLA.com in the early years?

Some of the early layouts

Imagine being a first year journalism student and sitting in a lecture hall full of people who potentially wanted to graduate and have a career in journalism – daunting considering the number of jobs available to the number of graduates every year. I had already logged weeks of work experience at print publications and decided it wasn’t enough, I needed to be writing somewhere – so why not use my website as a portfolio/commentary/news website where I could be writing articles and self-indulgent posts about things I liked, loved and obsessed over.

I remember my BBC-trained journalism lecturers being more than a little disgusted at my penchant for the lighter side of journalism (magazines, not online since digital wasn’t a huge part of the curriculum back then). But somehow I persisted and made the move to Sydney when I landed a job at a publishing house. Little did I know that SASSYBELLA.com would evolve into something that I am spending a large portion of my time on every day of the week.

The middle years

Like the awkward teen years we all go through, I went through it with SASSYBELLA.com. It was a time that coincided with my ‘quarter life crisis’ and the Australian lifestyle media trying to ignore that their readers were turning to the internet – even though it was clearly evident in North America and the UK with many teen magazines shuttering their print versions and turning to the web. It was a strange time for blogging, as well as for me personally. Melbourne seemed to embrace the blogging phenomenon a lot quicker than Sydney, with the early articles about blogging found mostly in Melbourne’s The Age newspaper and featured some of my blogging compatriots Alicia, Matt, Phoebe and Hayley.

I struggled to be completely comfortable in what I was doing with SASSYBELLA.com while I was working in publishing, but I had managed to build up a sizeable amount of content that followed the fashion blogging trend at the time to report on the latest fashion ad campaigns, news and celebrity style/gossip. It was never an option for me to jump in front of the camera and onto the personal style blogging bandwagon, a decision to day this I do not regret. Some girls do it beautifully but it is not for me.

But one fateful day in early 2009 I got a phone call from Graeme Lewesy, the then Marketing Director of IMG Fashion Australia asking if I would be interested in blogging for Australian Fashion Week as their official fashion blogger. What else do you say besides YES OF COURSE? It was an opportunity that to this day I was grateful to receive and I would like to say a huge thank you to Patty Huntington for. Patty, you have always been a fashion journalist that I admire and I’m grateful for your friendship during these years.

Even though I called SASSYBELLA.com’s “teen years” an awkward time, I did get some amazing opportunities in those times with not one but two trips to New Zealand, first to Wellington and then Dunedin. I also won the first Beauty Directory “blog” Star Award for this post and through work I was able to attend Blog World and the New Media Expo in Las Vegas which took my love for blogging to another level. Confession: I love a good geek conference. I could sit and debate the “boring” facts of blogging with you for hours (the glamorous facts being events/parties and style blogging). It was there where I spent too many days in the city of sin, being geeky (and doing hilarious things that should never be caught on camera) with the awesome Bree from The Blog Stylist.

The recent years

It seems like the last two years have gone by in a whirlwind but have been the most exciting, perhaps it’s because it’s the clearest in my mind. 2011 started with a bang – well actually a trip to Florence, Italy for LuisaViaRoma’s Firenze4Ever celebrations. It was an absolutely amazing experience for me (though I managed to catch a nasty flu on the way over and was bed ridden for days. I bet I was a joy to talk to when I had no voice).

2011 seems to be the year when Australia seemed to decide that bloggers are “ok” and PR’s, brand managers and agencies started doing blogger out reach. I honestly would have to go trawling through the blog to list everything amazing that has happened, but friendships were born and solidified.

2012 started off in the Northern Hemisphere, this time in Detroit, USA for a motor show. By far one of the most ‘un-fashion & beauty’ thing I have done as a blogger, but it was an all too intriguing invitation to turn down. Luckily I had a not-so-hidden love of sport which kind of translates into cars (by way of a love for Formula 1 racing) and it was fascinating to meet the other bloggers and web editors from other countries that Ford had flew in for the occasion and see how another industry worked. You can read all about it here.

As I write this, the rest of 2012 has blurred but I think my favourite achievement this year is my recent appointment as the Qantas Fashion Correspondent, brought on to tell the on-going story about the creation of the new Qantas uniforms by one of my favourite Australian fashion designers, Martin Grant. It was an honor to be asked to apply for the position, even more to receive a phone call to ask if I could be interested in accepting the position. Oh and the Toni & Guy Hair Meets Wardrobe campaignwas pretty awesome. 2012 is a story that has yet to be completed stay tuned for a proper recap (maybe) at the end of the year.

Do I make a full time living from blogging?

No comment. Why not you ask? Well, ask any of my friends and they will tell you that I’m never one to make claims or reveal too much without a considered response about this topic. What I will say is I have had more opportunities come to me in recent years thanks to blogging and the profile that blogging has allowed me.

A few words of advice for bloggers

You know that saying that if you are a Jack if all trades, you are the master of none? Well as a blogger I think you have to be jack of all trades. You are a one man band when you first start out and if you don’t learn how to do things like photo editing, the business of blogging and perhaps even learn a little bit of coding, the simple fact is that no one else will do it for you.

If you’re serious about blogging, don’t expect to succeed at it immediately. It is a marathon not a sprint – something I’ve said many times before about attending and covering a fashion week. The simple truth of the matter is that you won’t be the next Rumi Neely or Susie Bubble overnight, and to be honest you probably won’t ever reach those heights, but depending on what you want to get out of blogging, there is so much out there you could achieve.

My tips for bloggers:

  • Create a content plan and set yourself realistic traffic goals
  • Teach yourself some simple html, don’t play ignorant about the fact that you should at least know what this does: <a href=””></a>
  • Work well with PRs and Marketing people, don’t ask for free clothes or beauty products unless you can justify to the brand what you can do for them.
  • Have fun with it, readers can tell if you’re not.
  • Lastly, get out there and meet your fellow bloggers. Bloggers are friendly, I promise! A friend once said to me that she was in a lift with me (before we were friends) and was too nervous to say hello because I was Helen from SASSYBELLA.com. Errr, little old me?

And I would like to thank the academy…

Through blogging I have met and become friends with many many amazing people who I am so grateful to have known. First and foremost I should probably thank the guy who has been the technical driving force behind SASSYBELLA.com after I gave up being the master of all trades, Justin, thank you. We met through work and one day he offered to help me with the back end of SASSYBELLA.com and since then has never rescinded that offer (though at times I think I may push him to wish he hadn’t offered in the first place). As much as I knew how to do, SASSYBELLA.com would not be the same without you and I am eternally grateful for your technical expertise and friendship.

Next on my thank list is YOU, the amazing readers who have kept coming back to SASSYBELLA.com to read what I write. I can list friends who have made an impact in my life but at the end of the day it is the readers that keep me continually striving to create new content.

And then comes the people who listen to me rant and rave and have been inspirations to me more than they will ever know: Elise Phillips, Kimberly Foster, Heidy Suwidji, Nadia Bailey, Prue Healey, Megan Aney, Tash Williams, Carly Jacobs, Bree Lawson, Nikki Parkinson, Kate McKibbin, Emily Doig, Bonnie Blackburn, Clare Lancaster, Dororthy Polka and all the awesome people who have contributed to SASSYBELLA.com over the years.

I’m sure there are many many people who I have forgotten to mention by name. If your name should be there and I have forgotten, please yell at me when I see you next.

So I’m throwing a party tonight to celebrate 10 years…

Find out more about it here. And stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (@sassybella). But I should take the time to thank the amazing Elise (again – honestly, this girl is awesome), Bree Taylor, Cheri and Lisa Solomans for all your help with putting this together. And a thank you in advance to Nicole Cooper for taking photos and Andrew Kaineder for offering to film the proceedings.

And that is it, for now.

So with the loooooong rant over, I would love to know how long you’ve been reading SASSYBELLA.com and what you want to see happen in the next few years?


  • Kim says:

    Congratulations honey! Such an amazing achievement, I’m super proud of you and all that you have done for fashion blogging in Australia. Have an amazing time tonight, I shall be raising a glass to your success from afar.

    Lots of love, xx

  • Gemma says:

    Oh God, HMV boy!

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY. You should be so so proud of all you’ve done. I’m so happy to have sort-of enjoyed the journey with you. Here’s to 10, 20, 50 more years! xxx

  • Sam says:

    Amazing! I remember visiting your blog when all of the early layouts (above) were being used. Must admit that you’re design skills were what first attracted me to your blog but I’ve been a silent follower since I first found your blog, during the transition from the more personal to professional blog, etc. So happy that you’ve done so well over the last 10 years – keep up the good work!

  • kostenlose says:

    You could definitely see your enthusiasm within the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  • Akisa says:

    Happy 10th anniversary Helen!

  • Kelly says:

    Congratulations Helen! Can hardly believe it’s been 10 whole years and to think of everything you’ve achieved in that time… such an amazing achievement. I remember those early layouts too – there also may or may not have been talk of A1 if I recall correctly!? It’s been wonderful seeing both your career and SASSYBELLA.com go from strength-to-strength xx

  • Kim West says:

    Congratulations of your 10th year of blogniversary. Im sure it wasnt quite that long for you. I am really so amazed at how you have first started and then ended as one of the most successful fashion blogs.

  • Arina George says:

    I have been checking out a few of your stories and it’s nice stuff.Thanks for sharing.

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