Many little girls dream of a career in the fashion industry – rubbing shoulders with the greatest designers, the most talented photographers and the mightily beautiful, not to mention the couture clothing. So when Mandy Shadforth of the Oracle Fox blog confesses it all happened to her ‘by accident’, one can only gasp in amazement. Jessica Jane Sammut investigates.
Many people write blogs. It can be a cathartic way of mentally unloading, a social attempt to reach out to like-minded people, a fun, creative hobby to juxtapose a pressure-laden corporate job, or a just a way to document a moment’s pleasure or an amusing anecdote. Yes, there are all sorts of reasons for writing a blog, so when Mandy Shadforth launched her alter ego, Oracle Fox, onto the blogosphere to share her love of fashion imagery and to feed her creative soul, no one could have predicted the incredible impact she was about to have on the world of fashion. The move made Mandy a sizzling hot topic across Australia and the international arena, conquering Europe and America in the blink of an eye and leading to her own Billabong Capsule Collection just months later.
“I have always loved creativity and art,” explains Mandy. “As a child, I was a bit of free spirit. Having lived on the Sunshine Coast all my life, I have a deep love of the ocean and of natural aesthetic beauty – or my interpretation of it – and this is what has always inspired me. It is amazing that I have been able to harness this creativity and get to where I am today.”
The elder sister to one brother, Mandy enjoyed an idyllic upbringing among the space and sunshine of the Coast, always knowing that she was not going to fit into the mould of an academic or corporate tycoon.
“As a young girl, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew it was going to have to be something artistic,” Mandy recalls. “In grade six, my teacher told me to make my vocation my vacation, and this stuck in my mind. I loved that idea. I wanted to do something positive that people benefited from; I adored art and the joy it offered.
“Mum and Dad both had a very strong work ethic and were more mainstream in their approach to life. It must have been hard for them to have had a daughter who didn’t adhere to the school-university-corporate job mentality, but somehow they managed to be extremely supportive of my talents and encouraged me to follow my own path in this regard. So that is what I did.”
After school, Mandy became a sign writer.
“I worked with a sign writer at first, undertaking a mini apprenticeship, and then at 21 started my own business,” Mandy explains. “I was a bit of a tomboy. I raced dirt bikes and became quite involved in the dirt bike circuit. I even have screws in my shoulders and right knee from several accidents. It was a world away from the industry I am in now.
“Alongside my sign writing, I continued with my art and set up my own website to it. I found sign writing creatively rather restrictive. It was very commercial, and I longed to be avant-garde, so as the internet became more progressive and blogs were invented, I figured this could become another expressive outlet for me. Oracle Fox was born. Initially, I was motivated to post about the things I liked in order to drive people to my art website, but as time went by, I saw that more and more people were reading my blog purely out of interest for what I had to say. I had no strategy, no goal, it was all very organic. It was then that I started to get approached by the fashion industry, becoming known for my love of street style. To me, I was just posting about the things that I liked, but for some reason, my voice was being listened to.
“Within six months of starting Oracle Fox, I had 3,000 followers and had been nominated as the international Up & Coming Blogger of the Year internationally by Bloglovin’, chosen from over six million blogs. I flew over to New York during Fashion Week for the awards ceremony, and found myself mixing with the editors of high-profile US magazines and renowned fashion photographers. It was a spin-out.
“From there on, I never looked back. When the blog was eight-months-old, I was contacted by Billabong who were looking for a muse for their 2012 spring / summer collection, and much to my amazement, they wanted me to be it. The Oracle Fox Billabong Capsule Collection was created. I had great input into the design of the collection, flying over to California to work on it, and then the collaboration was launched at the Pipeline Masters surfing competition in Hawaii in December, where a huge party was held at the Billabong House. So far, the collection has gone into stores in over 50 countries all over the world and has nearly sold out!”
With some fashion writers / lovers / bloggers spending years, even whole childhoods, dreaming of the day they will break into the industry, it is an utter credit to Mandy that she has achieved this with such speed and ease. Such is her credibility, artistic eye and ability to express herself through the most beautifully curated inspirational fashion images which she places on her blog, that she is adored by thousands of fans.
A member now of the Harpers Bazaar Style Network, Oracle Fox and Mandy have truly hit the big-time and it blows my mind that this young lady has achieved such success in such a ‘cliquey’ sphere – an arena which certainly holds no prisoners and suffers no fools. With more than 30,000 followers now in just under two years, the Oracle Fox blog is on fire.
“From my blog, I have also become a fashion stylist,” smiles Mandy, “styling editorial fashion shoots. This has also fed my passion for photography. I have been lucky enough to be exposed to some of the best photographers in the world who have taught me a whole range of tips. Like my art and my blog, I apply the same rules to my photography – to me, the point is the ‘look’ of something, whether it be a shoe, a dress, a person. It’s the lines, the light, how something hangs.”
Mandy Shadforth might have been in the right place at the right time. She might have even been fashion’s answer to a black void. Perhaps she was just an editor’s dream in trying to update an old editorial format, but for whatever reason, Mandy has been catapulted into the fashion stratosphere, known the world over for her taste and style.
Now a full-time blogger and fashionista, Mandy keeps her blog updated, works with designers, styles fashion shoots, photographs fashion, attends designer parties and launches (Louis Vuitton in Sydney a recent case-in-point), sifts through products and clothing sent to her by the industry, forecasts trends and fields more than 110 emails per day. Not bad for a girl who admits she always liked a bit of ‘cruisy’ lifestyle. Her 10 hour a day schedule is harder than she has ever worked, but in having created a career out of her passion, she has also created a life without the grind. Mandy has not only fulfilled her dream of making her vocation her vacation, as advised by that wise teacher all those years ago, but you could even say she has smashed that maxim to pieces. And all by accident. It just goes to show what can happen if you follow your heart.