INSTAGRAM star Antoinette Marie has 1.1 M followers on the social media site. Her fans not only want what she is wearing — they want it off her back as soon as possible.
“Antoinette has more cut-through than just about anyone else,” marvels designer Alex Perry, “she wears it and it flies off the racks”.
Think of the low-key Greek girl, who posts under the handle @Sydneyfashionblogger, as a one-woman solution to the slump in retail spending.
What also makes Marie so interesting is that in just three years of blogging she has just as many followers in the US as she does in Australia. Rihanna follows her and so does Sophia Vergara and J Lo, along with their stylists.
“It can be overwhelming,” explains Marie.
“You have access to all these people in the palm of your hand. In the old days when you wanted to get an outfit to the stars, you had to go to the agent, then the stylist and then, if you were lucky, the celebrity might want to wear it.
“Now they just see something on Instagram — it’s instantaneous.”
Marie is now mobbed by paparazzi, especially when she travels in Europe — she likes to go on four trips a year.
The late pop artist, Andy Warhol, who favoured the pre-Instagram art form of Polaroids, predicted that “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes”.
A few years ago, Marie who was working at Bauer Media in creative production started taking selfies in front of the hedge at home.
I had a bar stool set up to use as a tripod with a timer on the camera, which was propped up by a book,” she says.
Later she started getting to the office an hour before work and taking pictures of herself in the lift. When she didn’t make it there before the rush, she moved to the carpark and set up images of herself in a semi-industrial landscape.
One moment she had 4000 followers on Facebook and the next it had snowballed.
“I went to work on Cosmopolitan magazine in the editorial side,” she says, “but by that time I was already getting requests from people who were willing to pay me to wear their clothes on camera. I kept cutting back my days before eventually going out on my own.
I used to feel like I need all these things, the designer shoes and the bags but I don’t feel like that any more.
She connected with fashion designer and stylist Dena Danis, of label Constantina and Louise, who was looking for people of influence to model her clothes.
Marie liked what she saw so much that she picked out a red playsuit to wear on social media. The post went viral and Danis ran out of the fabric because she had so many orders. It wasn’t long before the two women decided to work together. Now they are inseparable.
Antoinette Marie is startling to look at, with her long, platinum-blonde hair and her doll-like face with her signature painted eyebrows.
She turns heads when we meet in Woollahra but she is almost casual, in a sleeveless Witchery dress and Gianvito Rossi shoes, and carrying a beige Celine handbag.
Later she will pose for photos for her Instagram page on the street but none of the clothes are sponsored, meaning she has not been paid to wear them on social media.
Meanwhile the endless garment bags and designer packages keep rolling in, in the hope that she will be snapped with them.
“I love fashion, I really do love it,” Marie says, “but sometimes I feel a little bit greedy because I have so much. So once a month I grab as much as I can and take it down to my local Vinnies and just throw it in there. I love driving past later and looking in at the window to see my gown and my shoes.”
Marie has a golden triangle of thrift shops she supplies, including Vinnies in Oxford Street, Paddington, and Maroubra, and a thrift shop in Charing Cross.
“I used to feel like I need all these things, the designer shoes and the bags but I don’t feel like that any more,” she says. “I like to simplify my life to have more room for family and friends.”
Nevertheless, some of her relationships have changed since she became an Insta-style hit.
“Some people saw me as more of an opportunity than a friend,” she acknowledges. “That changed me a lot. But I still have many people around me who I grew up with and they love to bring me down to earth. They say things like ‘who do you think you are’ and we all have a laugh.”
Perhaps in the future, she will create a label of her own.
“It’s in the works,” she says confidently. “After all, you can’t do the same thing that you were doing three years ago.
How boring would that be?
Marie would also like to take the power of blogging into something very positive.
“The fashion industry can be very dark and superficial,” she says.
I would like to bring in a little light through charity work. I would also love to go into schools and talk about bullying because I got a little bit of it when I was growing up and I still get a little bit online.
But, admittedly, not very much. Each time that Marie hits the send button on her Instagram page, she is immediately deluged with thousands of likes and gushing comments.
“It’s part of everyday life now,” Marie says. “People look at social media just before they go to bed at night and before they rise in the morning.
Her yearly income is estimated at $150,000.