kristen leaman
From left: (On Kristen) Blazer, H&M. Jeans, iBlues. Blouse; shoes, Kristen’s own. (On Isabel) Dress, H&M. Cuff; earrings, Hermès. (On Savina) Top, Max Mara. Dungarees; necklace; bracelets; rings, Savina’s own. (On Christabel) T-shirt (with belt); skirt, H&M. Earrings, Loewe. Booties, Michael Michael Kors. Bracelet; rings, Christabel’s own

After moving to Singapore from Melbourne in 2013, Kristen Leaman soon founded Indie Collaborates, the city’s first creative and talent management agency for the social media and online influencer industry. At that point, it wasn’t really much of an industry at all. Today, the business boasts about 20 highly bankable local influencers with diverse aesthetics and USPs, including Isabel Tan (@prettyfrowns), Savina Chai (@savinachaiyj) and Christabel Chua (@bellywellyjelly). You could call Leaman the digital power broker, connecting the right client to the right talent. Think: The time she helped Chua leverage on her passion for beauty into partnerships with Guerlain and Benefit Cosmetics.

What were some of the challenges you faced upon entering the influencer industry?

Initially, I had a lot of meetings where people were more fascinated with finding out what I was doing in Singapore and where I’m from (I’m Australian), as opposed to finding out which influencers they should be collaborating with and why. Brands were hesitant and explained that their budgets were tied up with traditional media. I faced a lot of rejection in the early days, but I didn’t let that deter me. I knew influencer marketing was going to stick around and I knew it was going to grow. Eventually, brands couldn’t ignore it and they started factoring influencer marketing in with their strategies.

Has endorsing whatever brand that comes along become a norm today?

I personally feel that in 2017, an influencer can work for luxury brands and work for more commercial brands, as long as they stay true to their own style and are genuinely interested in the brands or products they choose to work with. This is where social media has turned traditional norms upside down, and I love it. I feel it is a thing of the past to be purely categorised as “luxury” and therefore you can only be seen working with “luxe” labels. This is just not the reality for most people.

How has influencer marketing evolved?

Influencer marketing has become much more targeted and localised. Brands are becoming more strategic with who they are choosing to align themselves with. They have discovered it is not always about large audiences, it is about whether their audience is the right fit and if the influencer is aligned with their brand and their beliefs. It can be incredibly disruptive to the more traditional methods; especially when brands have strict guidelines, campaign messages and KPIs to be hit. But if they research their influencers and see a good fit, they need to trust that he or she will integrate the message into something that also feels natural to them.

By Gerald Tan and Dana Koh
Photographed by Gan
Styled by Windy Aulia
Hair and Makeup: Manisa Tan/PaletteInc using La Biosthetique and Urban Decay, Grego using Shu Uemura, Leny/PaletteInc using La Biosthetique
Assistant stylist: Gracia Phang
Fashion intern: Abielle Yeo