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Kiran Branch interviews Reem Kanj, founder of fashion and lifestyle blog 'Five Five Fabulous' to discover how it all began...
One half the the sister act duo behind 'Five Five Fabulous', Reem Kanj splits her time between London and Dubai, capturing all things stylish, standout and delicious through the lens of her Canon. She's got an impeccable eye and her and sister Natalya's fashion kudos has led them to collaborate with brands such as Net-A-Porter, Hoss Intropia and Monica Vinader. Reem talks to us about her artistic leanings, love of 'the natural look' and wariness of pink eyeshadow.
Firstly, what made you decide to start your blog?
I actually started when I graduated, I needed to sink my teeth into something but had no idea that it would turn into my full-time job.
How did you decide upon a blog name?
It's so random, it was actually called 5'5 Girl in a 5'10 world because everyone in fashion is so tall! I decided that that was too long and confusing for a domain so I changed it to Five Five Fabulous.
What’s your favourite aspect of blogging and are there any downsides? Is there anything you particularly do or don’t like about working on the Internet?
I actually love the element of creativity that goes into it. I have a degree in surface textiles so I'm a very hands on person. I have a lot of fun playing around with my images and lately we've added still life, which has been a new task for me but lots of fun to shoot. I guess the downside to working on the internet is that it never has a day off. There's never a 'be right back' sign up so if you're as much of a workaholic as I am, you will probably find yourself working constantly.
How much of a techie are you?
I am definitely on my way to earning the title of 'techie' but I think that's thanks to my boyfriend. He's the brains behind the coding and design of our blog and he has taught me a lot. If you had asked me what SEO was four years ago I would have been like 'what's an es-ee-oh?'
How do you balance blogging with other interests or jobs? Do you ever go offline?
Blogging is my full-time job so it's my life, all my interests are what I blog about. If I go somewhere nice for dinner, I'll blog about it, if I come across a cool new website, I'll tweet about it and so on. The only time I ever go offline is when I'm in the shower or on the underground. Even at home, when I'm watching Breaking Bad or Modern Family it's through Netflix (which is online) so it's hard to think of times when I'm not logged on. (That's so bad come to think of it!)
How do you decide what to feature on your blog?
Well for the first three years we were only featuring news, and then last year Natalya, my sister, came on board and we decided to change the content to only what we personally experience, so it's all about what we're wearing, where we’re travelling and what we're eating.
Which beauty products and fashion brands make you part with cold hard cash?
3.1 Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang and Zara make me pay up quite often! I also love moisturising creams, however lately I've become slightly obsessed with Coconut Oil which is super cheap so I've not visited Kiehl's or Elizabeth Arden in a while!
Down to the nitty gritty, what’s in your make-up bag currently?
For my face I have MAC tinted moisturiser, £21.50 and Mineralize powder, £25. For the cheeks, I use Estée Lauder blush, £25, and bareMinerals highlighter, £19. For my eyes I normally just wear No.7 Stay Perfect mascara, £12.95 during the day, but at night I might add NARS Mykonos eye cream, £18 and I line my lashes with MAC's Cross Cultural shadow, £12.50.
What's your skincare regime? What products do you use?
I used to use so many things, I have very sensitive skin and so its very much trial and error with products, but at the moment I'm not using any branded products. I'll clean my face with Simple face wash, £3.59 and then using a cotton wool pad I'll dab rose water all over. After that I'll moisturise with coconut oil. I have to admit, I'm loving it and it's really helped clear my skin up and leave it super soft all day long. It's also great for taking off make-up.
Who are your top people in fashion, beauty, health and fitness? Who do you rely on in a crisis?
I love natural looking women. I love Caroline Issa's style and love her look - she never has too much make-up on and always looks beautiful. I'm currently training for a half marathon with Nike, and my trainer, Joslyn Thompson is unbelievable! She has a fantastic figure and again is a natural beauty. I'm always counting on her to send me session plans over email or give me tips on my nutrition if I know I'm not going to be seeing her for a while due to travelling.
What’s your personal favourite hair and beauty look?
A messy bun or braid, mascara, blush and a nude lip. Something super simple, definitely nothing with fake lashes or layers of foundation!
What’s your ultimate favourite beauty treatment?
A facial. I actually haven't been for one in so long but I'm checking myself into the Urban Retreat as soon as I'm back in London.
What are your top fashion, health and beauty tips and your biggest fashion/beauty bugbears?
For fashion, always carry your confidence with you, don't think too hard about what to wear and just stay true to your style.
When it comes to beauty, play around at home to see what works best for you. Personally, I think I only managed to get my make up regime down as of this past year, prior to that I was trying to figure out what suited my face - the trial and error process is important to see what works for you and what doesn't.
For health, it couldn't be easier than just doing it! I used to hate the gym and working out to me meant walking up the escalators on the underground as opposed to just standing, but now I'm in the gym 5 times a week and loving it. It's so important to build your strength and stay fit, even if you're not trying to lose weight.
When it comes to my beauty bugbears, I can't stand the fake stuff. I know some people prefer the done up look but I'm too laid back for that I think, I would find myself itching to take it all off after about ten minutes.
Can you tell us about any fashion or beauty blunders that you’ve experienced?
I once went to a press event for a new beauty product, they demonstrated a runway look using pink eyeshadow, I guess I was over excited, I tried the look and to cut a long story short it was not a good idea!
As you travel frequently, what are your fashion and beauty must-haves when you go away?
I can't have a handbag without Yu-be cream, £13.50 in it, it's so good for dry skin and lips. I also must have my Beauty Blender £16.00, it's the only way I can apply my tinted moisturiser and blend everything in.
Who is your favourite blogger/ vlogger?
I love Tanya Burr, I recently discovered her Youtube channel and she's so loveable.
What would be your advice to aspiring bloggers? Is there anything you’d do differently if you were to turn back time?
I would advise aspiring bloggers to be consistent and unique. If I could do anything differently, I probably would have launched the blog as it is now, a personal fashion and lifestyle blog, in saying that though, I have no regrets.
If you could invite anyone dead or alive to guest blog/vlog on your site who would it be?
I just asked Natalya to help me answer this question and she's come up with a great answer. We would ask Grace Kelly to do a 'Day in the Life' feature, including a glimpse into her beauty regime and closet.
What does the future hold for your blog? Are there any exciting developments in the pipeline?
We are always excited for what's to come, but at the moment everything is so tightly under wraps that we can't start talking about it yet. We are really excited to see how the blog will grow and develop as we do and love that we have fabulous readers to share that with!
Visit Five Five Fabulous here.
Tweet Reem at @ReemKanj
Check out Reem's Instagram here.
October 16th 2020