Game Changers The Expat Issue

A chat with the UAE’s first fashion blogger

Tala Samman is the UAE’s first fashion blogger, having launched and maintained her blog since 2009.
Tala Samman. Courtesy.

26-year-old Tala Samman is  the UAE’s first fashion blogger, having launched and maintained her blog since 2009. The blog began as a celebration of what Tala loved in the world of fashion. Over the years, it has expanded to include what she loves in the worlds of travel, beauty, and food as well. Since its inception, My Fash Diary has been nominated for several awards, including the Marie Claire Magazine, UK Blog, and Twitter Awards.

The blog has kept Tala quite occupied over the last eight years. She has collaborated with online fashion giants ASOS and Net-a-Porter as well international design houses like Halston and Tom Ford. She has also been featured in publications such as The Guardian and Grazia UK, and has interviewed fashion designers and celebrities such as Carolina Herrera and Nicole Richie for The Huffington Post

We managed to speak with the busy blogger late last month before she jetted off to China to discuss how the advent of vlogging is impacting the blogging scene, find out whether or not blogging is truly dying, and more.

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Tala Samman, US-born but originally Syrian. I grew up in Dubai, studied in the London College of Fashion, then moved back to Dubai, and joined Arabia as an editor. I’ve been running my blog for eight years, ever since I was a college student. I quit my job as an editor to focus on my blog. Nowadays, I DJ on the side too. It’s a passion I’ve had for a few years.

You state that My Fash Diary was the first blog of its kind to come out of the UAE, back in 2009.  What made you do it when blogging wasn’t popular? What were you hoping to accomplish?

When I started, blogs were practically unheard of in the UAE and they weren’t yet that popular in the UK either, where I was studying at the time. I was only 17 and I was doing really cool things as a fashion student in London, so it was a way of sharing my experiences. It was just for my friends, who pushed me to start a blog in the first place, as well as girls who love fashion. To be honest, I thought nothing of it at the time.

Some of your earliest blogging memories…

I remember that I used to update my blog three times a day when I first began, even though I only had 10 readers (who were just my friends)! The blog’s been organic from the beginning. I never actively promoted it. I was lucky that a Khaleej Times journalist wrote a piece about it. Because of the article, a lot of people started following my blog and commenting on it. Once I had people that I didn’t know reading the blog it created pressure on me to produce new content and  to constantly update it. But, I had no goals at the time. I made no money out of it for the first couple of years.

It’s been eight years since you first started your blog. Lots of things have changed. Platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat have made vlogging pretty popular. Yet, you haven’t ventured into the vlogging world. Why is that?

You need to know what your strengths are. Some girls have vlogs and they’re so good at them and that’s their thing. I personally don’t think I’m the best person to speak on camera. I dabbled with it for a while a few years ago but it wasn’t for me and I never really got into it. I think it’s super important for people to stick to their strengths and it’s not mine. 

Do you think that vlogging will mark the end of blogging?

I think that each have their own audience. It seems that the younger generation seem to enjoy vlogs more. I, and girls I know who are my age and older, prefer to read blogs. So, speaking from personal experience, I don’t think vlogs are going to take over or that blogs are going to be disappearing anytime soon. Blogs will definitely change and evolve because of the oversaturated market, however. But, they won’t disappear. People always appreciate real content rather than brand-led content. That’s what blogs provide people with.

Nowadays many people in the Arabian Gulf region just get their information from social media outlets such as Instagram and Snapchat.  Have you noticed a reduced number of people visiting and following your blog in comparison to your social media channels?

Years ago, people would visit the site around three to four times a day.  These days, regular readers check the site once a week or when there’s a direct link on social media. I do feel like there’s so much content online nowadays, so people have less time to actively visit websites on a daily basis. 

Why do you think people in the region now focus more on building their social media accounts as opposed to blogs? Do you think people can call properly themselves ‘influencers’ without having blogs?

People always want to opt for a quicker and easier option.  Bloggers realise that and that’s why most of them really do focus on their Instagram content more than before. No, I don’t think anyone should call themselves influencers.

How has blogging impacted your life?

Blogging has given me incredible opportunities that I never thought I’d have. For example, it allowed me to work with brands that I grew up admiring and to meet people that I’ve always been a fan of.  

But the one thing that continues to amaze me, nine years on, is how blogs build communities of people who share similar interests; people who are real and authentic. To me, that never gets old. That’s why I prefer to read blogs over magazines. Blogs are my go-to for travel tips and recommendations, among other things.

The most memorable experience blogging has led you to…

I’ve done really cool things because of my blog. I got to interview Robert De Niro two years ago, which was amazing! I also got to meet Gigi Hadid, who I admire. I travelled the world with the blog. I also grew up with it. I started by just focusing on fashion. Now, I cover food, travel, beauty, in addition to fashion.  

With such a busy schedule, how do you manage to regularly update your blog?

Being consistent is really important for a blogger because you can easily lose a reader when you’re inconsistent with your content. The way I ensure consistency and keeping my blog up to date is through apps and to-do lists. I’m a big fan of them and I rely on them to remember things throughout the day and to get things done.

A blogger you look up to…

Geri Hirsch of Because I’m Addicted. Hers is the first blog I ever followed. She’s always been someone I admire and I’m lucky I got to meet her at a Clarins event a few years ago.

Future plans for your blog…

When I first started out I used to set short-term and long-term goals for my blog. But I would never stick to them, especially because the online world and industry are constantly changing. Now, I’m just riding the Internet waves.  So, I don’t really have any future plans. I just focus on creating good content and that’s something that’s never changed for me.

Click here to check out Tala’s blog My Fash DiarySekka Editorial.

Sekka Editorial.