Blogger Behind BrainPickings Is A Bulgarian Ex-Bodybuilder

I had long assumed (admittedly without doing any research into the subject) that Maria Popova, the blogger behind BrainPickings.org, to be 40-something or 50-something, perhaps involved in academia or tech. But the web curator — who has intentionally kept herself and her personal life separate from the brand — is someone else entirely: a 28-year-old Bulgarian former bodybuilder who used to work in advertising.

In a profile in Thursday’s New York Times Style section, the blogger explains how she’s managed to make a living off curating cultural thinkpieces, like Susan Sontag’s rules for raising children, Ray Bradbury’s tips for facing rejection, and Thomas Edison’s to-do list. She stars each morning with a workout, Bulgarian bodybuilder-style, and then pens three blog posts and 50 tweets per day. BrainPickings.org takes no advertising and is completely financed by reader donations. She does well enough to live in a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. 

Charmingly, Popova told the Times she has no interest in cashing out. (I have no doubt some investor somewhere thinks he could make her blog into a great TV show or — heh — a book.) "I get asked all the time, ‘How’s it going to scale? What’s next?’" She told the paper. "What I do is what I do, and I don’t think I’m ever going to change that."

BrainPickings has crashed since the article appeared … so one thing she might want to change, at least, is a more powerful server.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica.Wakeman@Gmail.com. Follow me on Twitter.

A City-By-City Guide to the Best Street Style Blogs

True, there are some style signatures that are internationally chic, but if you want to get a sense of what’s on the ground where you’re going (or what may be coming to your city next) check out these international style influencers.

Paris: The Cherry Blossom Girl. That Charlotte Gainsbourg hair, that effortless French-girl cool — Alix has got it in spades. A fashion designer and amateur photographer, she blends designer pieces with cheap basics exactly like you wish you could.

Tokyo: Japanese Streets. Japan continues to be a rich source of inspiration for fashion enthusiasts, and as their street style has attracted international attention, photojournalist Kjeld Duits has been there since the very beginning. His site now blends runway and street coverage, for a comprehensive look at the local aesthetic.

Milan: The Blonde Salad. Italians are the original street-style icons, with their love of all things theatrical and sexy combining with their appreciation for quality craft and materials. One of the anointed obsessives is Chiara Ferragni, a charming young fashionista with a closet to die for.

Helsinki: Hel Looks. Not looking to Finland for your fashion tips? Perhaps you should be, particularly as the cold weather rolls in — because co-founders Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen’s subjects do stylish layers and statement outerwear to rival any we’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Copenhagen: The Locals. One of the world’s design capitals doesn’t fall down on the job when it comes to fashion design either. Søren Jepsen captures his casually sophisticated friends and neighbors (and visiting street style icons) in their natural habitat.

The Ultimate Fashion Tumblr Directory

Tumblr has inevitably become the go-to microblogging platform for the on-the-go sartorial set. With the ability to share virtually anything from anywhere, connecting with a social media savvy audience has never been easier. And ever since Tumblr’s new fashion director, Rich Tong, sent 20 bloggers to NYFW, the fashion industry has recognized that creating a Tumblr account is an absolute must if they’re looking to gain more digital presence this year. The result? A slew of new tumblogs from all of our favorite magazines, designers, and influencers. And we know what a major pain it can be to track them all down, so we’ve created a convenient little directory just for you.

Magazines BlackBook: That’s us! Follow for your daily fix of fashion art (like the above Burberry collage for AnOther), nightlife, music, food porn, and pop culture. The Cut: Clips from New York magazine’s daily fashion blog. Purple Diary: Snaps from Purple Magazine’s editor-in-chief and Parisian playboy, Olivier Zahm. RUSSH: Our absolute favorite Australian cult fashion mag. V Magazine: Selected images and snippets of features from this much-adored glossy. Whatever Eva Wants: Insights, sneak peeks, and daily looks from Teen Vogue’s too-cute beauty director, Eva Chen. Women’s Wear Daily: Fashion show images and industry news straight from the authority of fashion.

Boutiques/Retail Chains Colette: Hot shots from the team behind this cool-kid Parisian concept store. We’re still loving the holiday gift guide they hooked us up with last year. The Bergdorf Goodman Swipe: We’ve mentioned this brilliant behind-the-scenes concept before, and we seriously can’t get enough of it. Net-a-Porter: The photo diary of the editors behind one of our favorite online luxury boutiques. Of a Kind: Tumblr’s first-ever e-commerce boutique. Features weekly new designer profiles and limited-edition retail items made exclusively for their store.

Designers McQ: In honor of Alexander McQueen’s contemporary line re-launch, the brand has created this space to feature images and videos of girls around the world donning the new designs. Oscar PR Girl: An inside look at the world of Oscar de la Renta’s fabulous PR girl. We dig her Twitter, too. Prabal Gurung: The well-spoken designer’s personal photo archive.

Bloggers/Influencers Julia Frakes: It’s a place for “sloppy bits & motley baubles unfit for bona fide publishing elsewhere in her various day jobs,” says the too-cute model and Nylon contributor. The Man Repeller: I mean, does she really need an introduction at this point? Natalie’s Menagerie: That’s me! I mainly just reblog rad images and talk about random things I’m obsessed with, like French ’80s pop and dangerously-high heels. Stephanie LaCava: This Vogue and Vanity Fair contributor is intellectual, chic, and has an affinity for sweets. We’re in love. Tavi Gevinson: A condensed, more frequently-updated version of the teen phenom’s main blog. Terry’s Diary: Studio shots from everyone’s favorite NSFW photographer, Terry Richardson. Sara Zucker: Obsessive lookbooking and meticulous tip-mongering from the assiduous style blogger.

Everything Else Inspire Me Now: If you like weird fashion, funny food, and über-creative branding, then this is your place. Pose App: Daily musings from the Pose mobile shopping app, maintained by former BlackBook writer, Alisa Gould-Simon. Shoe Lust: Shoes, shoes, shoes, and more shoes. We’re obsessed. StyleLikeU: Our favorite closet-peeking site, which we recently profiled.

NOWMANIFEST: The Superblogger’s New Elite Platform

In an age when a new fashion blogger is born every hour, the pioneers of this phenomenon remain a tight-knit group. This group encompasses a collection of figures that are now referred to on a one-name basis, rather than by the blogs that got them there: Rumi, Bryan, Susie, and Tavi, to name a few. They’ve been featured in more editorials and campaigns than your average emerging celebrity and have an army of loyal followers that big businesses attempt to tap into on the daily by offering them free clothes, giveaways for contests, and money for ad space. These are the Superbloggers. And while every new and known blogger is on Bloglovin’, the popular blog-reading filter with open registration, a new hub has emerged just for the Rumis and Bryans of the world. Meet NOWMANIFEST.

Their mission statement: “Gathering the world’s most renowned bloggers in fashion under the NOWMANIFEST name, we aim to inspire and guide readers around the world. Our bloggers are handpicked due to their strong sense of trends and great impact on their readers. NOWMANIFEST addresses the modern consumer with an eye for fashion and style, and the ones seeking to be fashion-forward.” The chosen ones are the aforementioned Rumi Neely of Fashiontoast and Bryanboy, as well as recent H&M collaborator Elin Kling and the online version of one established publication–Industrie Magazine. The platform is essentially a funnel for all the content posted on each member’s main blog, as we have yet to see any posts specifically tailored to the space. They’re boasting that there’s “more to come” in the new few weeks, so we’ll check back as more content is added.

Although NOWMANIFEST is still very new, they’ve managed to accumulate hundreds of followers on Twitter and over 1,000 fans on Facebook, mainly for the household names tied to it. We’re curious to see who will be joining next. Our pick is Susie Bubble or Hanneli.

Ann Taylor’s On Tumblr Is On Tumblr

For reasons I’m still not sure I really grasp, big brands have been really slow to adopt Tumblr. Not just media brands (present company excepted), but regular consumer brands that otherwise can’t get their pants off fast enough for Facebook, Twitter, or Foursquare have been a little skittish around the general anarchy and bloggy generalities of Tumblr. Well, who else would lead the charge into this uncharted territory but … Ann Taylor?

Well sure, why not. Hence the long-gestating On Tumblr, which is really just a curated content sifter that lets you dip your extremity in the Tumblr content flow without getting swept away under a tidal wave of MemeGenerator pics.

On Tumblr is not much more than a hybrid child of Tumblr’s Directory with the mosaic approach first popularized by Tumblr Mosaic and later adopted for all Tumblr archive pages. You can either surf in a selection based on categories deemed interesting by Ann Taylor, or check out similar recommendations curated by BlackBook. No hidden agenda … it’s just a fun content toy. You can add your own suggestions into the mix by clicking “Participate.” So play around, and ask yourself why AOL hasn’t bought this thing yet.

Swedish Style Maven Elin Kling on Designing for H&M & Her Advice to New Fashion Bloggers

When news broke that H&M was teaming up with a fashion blogger to design a capsule collection, everyone in the blogosphere lost their minds. Up until then, the cool kid of fast-fashion had only collaborated with established designers like Lanvin and Sonia Rykiel to create limited edition wares, so for a mere fashion enthusiast to land such a coveted with the brand was unheard of. But the Swedish company didn’t just select anyone for the gig — they tapped Elin Kling, their country’s top fashion personality and blogger behind Style by Kling. The 11-piece collection (featuring the showstopping dress above and more here) is set to launch in Sweden at select stores this week, which means all of us stateside will have to rely on eBay to score any of it. And while there’s no doubt that H&M made the right pick, just who is this international fashion phenom that we’re dubbing the Chosen One?

Being the first fashion blogger ever to collaborate on a line with H&M is a pretty big deal. What do you think this means for the blogger community? I think it means a lot for the fashion blog industry. It’s a huge business, but not fully accepted yet. In Sweden, fashion bloggers get more respect today than they did two years ago, and this collaboration is another big step. The industry has a way of seeing fashion bloggers as one product, but that’s like comparing daily, weekly and monthly magazines. It’s up to each individual to create their own blog, and that’s actually also what I like about it — that there aren’t any rules. But it’s also important to remind yourself that your blog is a very strong CV, so don´t waste it.

How were you approached to work with H&M? 
 We had a lunch and they presented the idea of having me as a guest designer, so we talked through the details. When I got back home I made few mood boards about the feeling, materials, and colors, and I showed it to them the next day. They told me that they were surprised in a good way, thank god.

Every piece in your capsule collection is insanely chic and we can’t wait to see what you design next. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future? Wow. I mean, H&M was my dream, but now that I’ve actually worked with them, I guess I would like to do something with someone else that I admire. Right now, I´m a big fan of Swedish designer Ann-Sofie Back. She’s a very cool chick.

Were you always interested in the fashion industry? I never actually had a plan to work in fashion, but I guess I’ve always been involved without knowing it. I mean, when I was a kid I dressed very different — I colored my hair green, I sewed old clothes in new ways, and so on. I started my blog four years ago, and since then I´ve been working for Sweden’s largest TV network and Sweden’s next largest daily newspaper. I run three different companies and now I´m working on my new fashion magazine under Sweden’s largest media house, Bonnier. I’ve also been working on some business for a while that will come up in the states this spring.

Besides your style, everyone wants to know about your beauty routine. Any tried-and-true secrets? Sleep, drink a lot of water, and be happy. I know we’ve all heard that before, but that’s really what it’s all about. Also always be clean and fresh, and don’t forget to take good care of your hands! They’ll get old very fast otherwise. After your face, your hands are what people always see first.

What are your top five fashion rules? 1. Invest in the perfect bag and perfect base wardrobe. 2. Don´t cheat with t-shirts. I’m a big fan of James Perse. 3. Accessorize yourself. I don’t buy accessories that often, but the ones I buy I carry every day. 4. Don´t buy clothes only because they look good on someone else. Before you buy something ask yourself, “Does this color and style really fit me?” 5. Build a good shoe collection. I typically dress very basic and minimalistic, so I like to change my shoes rather than my outfit. They always play an important role in my look.

What advice would you give to new fashion bloggers looking to make an impact? I’d say do your own thing and remember that what you put on the internet will stay on the internet. And although fashion blogging is a hobby, it’s also a job and takes a lot of work. Always keep your site updated with new content. The most popular blogs are big for a reason.

Are there any established fashion bloggers out there that you admire? I’m very impressed by the way that Bryanboy really lives for fashion 24 hours a day.

Betsey, Simply Being….Betsey At The NY Spring 2010 Fashion Week Collection

Crazy + Sexy + Cool = Betsey Johnson! These are the 3 words I would describe Betsey Johnson. Of all the shows I have attended for Fashion week, this was definitely the most crowded of all. I rushed through the lines hoping I wasn’t late. As I get close to the theatre, I see what is supposed to be 5 long lines of people waiting to get in. Except the lines, were all jumbled together with everyone anxious to get it. I assumed the people waiting in line where on the waiting list and don’t have seat numbers. Boy, was I wrong! The check-in attendants needed to wait for the crowd already checked in to get settled. Eventually, I made my way inside and got my seat on the fourth row. As I look around, I see tons of photographers on my left and in the middle of the runway interviewing Ciara, Kelly Osborne and a few other celebrities attending the show. The fashion show started with a big bang. I see girls riding skater boards on the runway, others dancing, and most of the models flirting and blowing kisses to the audience. image I also feel the American pride displayed by models in soldiers’ outfits and shoes with the flag colors saluting the audience. image It was very hard to pick a favorite outfit for the night but one that has really stood out in my mind is the fiery orange gown worn by an Asian model with long striped (orange and black) socks and long heels. The layered gown was short in the front and long in the back, and as the model sashed her way along the stage, this dress exhumed a sexy aura mixed with feistiness. image I simply fell in love with this dress as I’m sure any fashionably flirty woman would 😉 The show ended with Betsey being….well…Betsey. With Betsey, you must learn how to expect the unexpected. She rides a bike right through the runway, and then in the middle of the runway, she gets off the bike and dances her way through the end of the runway. She lays flat on the runway for at least a good five minutes as photographers snapped away. Dear Betsey, I can only imagine how long and hard you worked on this fashion show, so go on ahead! Claim that runway. If you want to take a longer nap, I’m with you!

Thompson Hotels Launches Inn-Sight Blog

Your friends and ours at Thompson Hotels (6 Columbus, 60 Thompson, Thompson LES, Gild Hall, Smyth, Hollywood Roosevelt, Thompson Beverly Hills, Hotel Sax, and Donovan House) have launched a new blog called Inn-Sight. Spinning off the Room100 concept of yore, Inn-Sight posts about fashion, art, culture, and of course travel, plus interviews and cool stuff happening in and around the various Thompsons. Plus, it’s overseen by our pal Steve Garbarino — check out his Editor’s Letter for the goods on what’s going down over there.

Varvatos & Cavalli Join the Blogosphere

Designers John Varvatos and Roberto Cavalli have started blogging — although, sadly, not together. The former, a notorious audiophile (who has enlisted everyone from Iggy Pop to Dave Navarro to star in his fashion ad campaigns), has, appropriately, launched a music blog. Called JVS’ Funhouse, the hodgepodge of coverage includes photos from backstage at Varvatos’ recent menswear runway show and images from Guns ‘N Roses’ performance at the Varvatos store this past Fashion Week. As it evolves, expect “a music centric blog highlighting the designer’s trips to concerts, festivals, parties and backstage jam sessions around the world,” says Antimusic. Also included: posts to Varvatos’ monthly show on SIRIUS XM’s Faction channel called Born In Detroit, an homage to the designer’s hometown.

Roberto Cavalli launched his own blog on March 15, with a revamped namesake site to follow at the end of the month. In the meantime, the Cavalli hopes to “put the Cavalli Maison in direct contact with its fans, with the chance to share its unique fashion and lifestyle concept” via celebrities in Cavalli photos and news and event updates. I for one am particularly intrigued by the ‘love‘ section on the site.

So far there’s only one post from Cavalli himself that reads, “this is my way to feel close to you, to talk with you, to listen and advise, to share with you my successes and sometimes my problems.” He adds:

I will show you that maybe I am as you dreamed but like all humans I have my weaknesses. I also have my dreams. We’ll talk about this wonderful world which our very mindsets are bringing low. We’ll talk about your problems, whether you are young, or old like me. How to combat violence and how to gain respect by respecting others. I will try to make you smile, not with fairy tales but with real stories of my life. A long life, full of emotions and adventures. I am here to prod you, to help and encourage you. Do not forget that I love you!