Mel Hwang is a style and lifestyle blogger balancing her creative outlets with a full-time job in digital advertising. Based in Toronto, you can find her immersed in chic, monochrome outfits, striving to express her voice through media outlets on the online sphere through the language of style. A visit to her Instagram profile will leave you with inspiring thoughts, as she sculpts her visual diary with a childhood memory or a current inspiration in mind to share with her followers.
She led me through a timeline of her career beginning from her first step into the fashion industry when she started modelling and blogging at 14. Get to know Mel, the creative mind behind Mel Inspired.
“Mel Inspired embodies my philosophy that you should live life inspired, constantly chase what inspires you, always pursue your creativity, and never apologize for who you are.”
Jennifer Lee: How would you describe yourself in a nutshell?
Mel Hwang: I am a creative individual marrying creative and business together. Anything that I do, whether through my blog Mel Inspired, or my full-time job, everything is centred around merging those two aspects.
JL: How would you describe your personal style?
MH: It sounds cheesy, but my personal style reflects how I’m feeling each day. My overall style at the moment reflects where I am in life- mostly business casual, pretty minimalistic- it’s all a side effect of the life that I live. If I’m feeling down, a well put-together outfit definitely makes me feel better.
JL: What is your first fashion memory?
MH: My first time at LG Fashion Week (Toronto Fashion Week) back in the day. I wore a crazy hat and there are still some photos surfacing around online. It’s my first memory because it was the time I entered the fashion industry for the first time. Looking back now, it’s such a fashion crime that I committed.
JL: Tell me about your blog, Mel Inspired. What is the main message you would like to put across to your followers?
MH: Mel Inspired came to life through my hopes of putting my learnings in life and style into a creative voice on a blog. The main message isn’t what to wear, or what products to use, but more surrounded by exploring the reasons on what we do and why we do. All my outfits have a life metaphor or childhood memory around it. I want to translate a message to my followers that every part of life is more meaningful than it looks like.
JL: You’ve also walked the runway for World Master Card Fashion Week in Toronto. Tell me about your experience on the runway and how you got started.
MH: My initial segway into fashion was when I started modelling at the age of 14, the same age I started blogging. I was scouted by an agent here in Toronto. I modelled throughout high school part-time, flying out to New York and Miami. When I hit puberty, my body stopped reflecting the image that the industry wanted. It was a struggle but a great experience. It’s always fantastic to see the vision of an artist on models down the runway. Modelling was a big part of my teenage life, and now I do it as an honour back to the art of fashion.
JL: What is it like to be directed by a brand as opposed to directing your own shoots for your own brand?
MH: I don’t miss modelling. I like the liberty of being able to choose my own creative vision to portray to the world. On the flip side, it’s always a positive experience being immersed in somebody else’s creative mind and understanding their brand to portray their vision. There’s so much value to be learned from it. As for directing my own shoots, it really gives me the ability to be genuine in sharing my thoughts. There is always the autonomy in me wanting to project what I really think.
JL: What is your opinion on social media- How has it influenced your life, and are you ever overwhelmed by it?
MH: Social media is attached to my life from the moment I wake up each day. I work with it in my full-time job too, in media advertising. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be overwhelmed by it. It’s a reality of the interactions in our world today, and fighting it would be a losing battle. I think it’s important that we don’t define ourselves from the statistics of social media. It’s a platform for you to share your voice, so the number of followers, whether you have a thousand or a hundred thousand followers, should not define your self-worth. It’s a mindset I try to keep a good pulse on.
JL: What is the best thing about Instagram? What do you think will be the next biggest social platform?
MH: I think Instagram is an amazing platform because it allows you to express yourself through imagery and pushes people to pull out a creative part of themselves. It’s been an incredible journey building my brand via Instagram. I spend so much time curating my feed, it’s a little bit of an obsession. I think it’s a great community everyone should take part in. I think the next social platform will definitely be something centred around video, like where Snapchat is currently heading. Videos are such a raw and organic way to express yourself and it’s completely different from Instagram where everything is overly curated. Unedited content is the next thing.
JL: How do you balance blogging and your full-time job?
MH: That’s a hard question, because I don’t! my life is consumed by those two things. I’m lucky to have a great support system that shares the same love of blogging, and it’s become more of a social aspect of my life. Many of my friends blog, or are very supportive of the blogging environment. My boyfriend is also a huge supporter of my blog, so we do photo walks as our dates. I conduct my blog as a business at this point, so when I’m not at work, I’m blogging 30-35 hours a week. But at the end of the day, it’s what I enjoy doing, so I don’t look at it as work.
JL: Where do you shop?
MH: It’s something I’m not incredibly proud of because I’d love to support more local brands, but admittedly, I get a lot of my shopping done via fast fashion, like Zara and H&M due to time constraints. I also love thrifting. It’s fun to put together a super affordable outfit and challenge myself to pull a luxe feeling out of it. Other than that, I do like to invest in more special pieces from a designer boutique to pick up a new purse from time to time.
JL: What are you currently coveting?
MH: I’m coveting a lot. A new purse is on the horizon- the Celine Phantom, an M2Malletier, or the Mansur Gavriel Lady Bag. I like to mark my accomplishments and milestones with purses!
JL: What is your favourite and least favourite trend this season?
MH: I’m in love with the choker trend. It’s an homage to the generation in which I grew up in, and ties to my personal nostalgia. I’m actually starting a side business with chokers. I’ll keep you guys posted on that. There isn’t a trend this season that I dislike too much. Trends are like news, it’s not necessarily bad because it either speaks to you or it doesn’t. I was initially going to say bell bottoms, but I can’t say I dislike that because I styled them a few weeks ago after listening to September 99 by Earth Wind & Fire.
JL: You always have an “INSPIRATION” reference on your Instagram posts. Can you tell me the story behind it?
MH: The response to that on my Instagram has been so supportive. Everyone was telling me that I needed a short, sweet caption to go with my minimalist style. There is always so much more that I want to share with the image itself. Although the images speak a thousand words, I want to make sure that the message is conveyed to my followers. It’s definitely been a commitment coming up with 2 to 3 content ideas with a chunk of text to go with each of them, but I’ve committed to it because I love being able to sculpt a discussion around an image, rather than just saying “#OOTD.”
JL: What else other than fashion are you passionate about?
MH: The online industry as a whole is something that I’m immensely passionate about, together with the arms that extend out of that, like coding, marketing evaluation, and young entrepreneurship built on the online sphere. I think the Internet is so beautiful in the way that it brings us all together. Another thing that I work towards in many aspects of my life is female empowerment. It’s incredible how much we’ve come as a gender and it’s something that I hope to continue supporting.
JL: What are you most proud of?
MH: Unbinding myself from the fears of what people think has been a personal progress which allowed me to build my brand effectively. It was something that I struggled with, especially growing up modelling. The entire industry was based off of what people think, and in some regards, so is my career now. But at the end of the day, it’s better to be yourself and accept that others think what they may.
JL: What is the most exciting thing you’re working on right now?
MH: My choker project! It came out of an Instagram inspiration and when I started incorporating chokers into my outfit posts. I felt more attached to the images when I looked back and it reminded me of my childhood when life was more carefree. That lifestyle is so allusive and it’s something I’m inspired by. It will also have a charitable aspect going towards empowering women. The project will be launched around August to September this year. Also, my Youtube channel which I started a month ago. I wanted to share my voice in a raw and organic matter and took a leap of faith. I’m posting a new video every Saturday.
JL: What is your take on Toronto’s style and culture, and how do you stay engaged in it?
MH: Toronto has a very North American style, and it comes from the life that we live, having 6 months of winter. The style and fashion industry is very collaborative and supportive. I try to stay involved as much as possible connecting with new people. If one of my followers ask to have coffee, I’ll make sure to make time for them. It’s not so much in regard to staying in the style industry but how I continuously connect with other individuals and learn from them.
JL: Fill in the blank “I could not live without___”
MH: My cellphone.
JL: How would you like to see your brand grow?
MH: I’d love to work on my brand full time, and share my positivity and learnings with the people that I love- all 21 thousand followers. Living my life with them would be awesome.