Discover more from BURN AFTER READING
028 - DIARY OF AN ARCHIVE QUEEN
Velvet Coke shares what it’s like to be Instagram royalty
Archive accounts: we can’t get enough of them. What started as personal moodboards for various cultural interests have become an unstoppable force: powerful purveyors of art, design and fashion and an invaluable tool for brands, with millions of followers to boot. They’ve kept Instagram alive during TikTok’s rise, and have become more respected as social media royalty than your average influencer.
We all flock to these accounts for the rich variety of inspiration: obscure references to geek out to or cultural memories that connect us all. But we stay, in part, for the personalities of the often-anonymous admins running them. Who are they? How do they have so much knowledge? What does the life of a world famous archiver look like? Well, we’ve hit the jackpot. This week, archive queen Velvet Coke is letting us take a peek into her world.
How it started…
Being a trendsetter isn't easy, but somebody has to do it! Whether I'm in the mood to share iconic archive catwalk looks, obscure pop culture references, talk astrology or digitally style current it girls, my followers eagerly await a new post on my personal digital archive @velvetcoke.
It all started one summer afternoon in 2016. I simply needed a place where I could save all of my inspo and thoughts that I normally keep on my phone. Instagram was my platform of choice, and people started digging my vibe. 1.8 million followers later and it goes without saying that I had no idea so many would join…
…how it’s going
Yes, there’s a lot of toxicity on social media, but Instagram has allowed creative individuals such as myself to share our ideas and visions to literally anybody in the world. I still feel that online curators are underappreciated, but as of late I have been getting more and more job offers when it comes to promotion, styling consultations or writing. For me, that 'anybody in the world' includes your favourite designer, top celebrity stylist or internet darling. Next thing I know, I’m DMing the creative director of a high fashion brand to work on their next campaign, writing a column for i-D France, or collaborating with Interview Magazine.
As curators of cultural memories and thoughts, archive accounts like mine are an invaluable resource for brands and creative directors. And it’s not easy: researching archive content takes time and skill. I've spent hours consulting for brands regarding decades old fashion references or coming up with a new must-have item. One post can launch the hottest new trend for the season or popularize an already existing viral moment – such as Y2K wardrobe last summer. There is also the bittersweet nostalgia that’s addictive all of us. The amount of people who tell me 'you made my day with this clip!' feels so rewarding and reminds me why I work on this every single day.
It makes sense platforms like mine are constantly growing and providing an abundance of ideas. We've evolved a lot. At first it was just the same few photos of a cheeky Winona Ryder in 1991 or Jennifer Lopez foreshadowing modern loungewear in 1999. Now I’m experimenting with new content that provides people with the same inspiration, nostalgia, entertainment and fashion education (see my compilations of all time best music videos or mockups of this generation's icons wearing the archive pieces I am dying to see them in).
Ups and downs
The downside to being an archiver is getting your ideas stolen and cheaply imitated. As our popularity grows, many want to enjoy the spotlight thinking it's easy, but not everybody wants to put in the work.
As inconvenient as that is, I firmly believe real talent can always be recognized and appreciated by those who were meant to recognize it. That is one thing I have learnt while working on this account is that hard work does pay off. Another really cool thing is – anything can inspire you to create art. One of my mutuals and a big name in the industry (who shall remain unnamed) told me how some of their biggest accomplishments were inspired by the least expected (such as a teacup Phoebe Buffay was holding in one episode of Friends!)
There is a lot of talk about the work aspect of this, but this hobby-turned business is first and foremost my passion. Even though I am Gen Z, I grew up watching The Nanny and admiring Alexander McQueen in magazines, which started this love affair. Whether I have 100 or 100,000,000 people liking my posts, my feelings remain the same: archiving will always have a special place in my heart! Our whole community is filled with young visionaries who are so wonderful and supportive. Casually advising celebs on next their next hairstyle or makeup is a fun regular occurrence, but the best part is having a place where so many people feel free to be themselves, and a community that is so welcoming.
There is definitely way more to come and it is fun to try and imagine what the future holds. I feel like a lot of onlookers are still not ready or do not completely understand this shtick. But the way we're working and accumulating an audience, Instagram archive accounts can be the modern equivalent of magazines. The people behind them, such as myself, have a lot to offer as stylists (and walking encyclopaedias). I’d love to see more opportunities for us, any way to put our creative force to good use. One thing I do know: we're here to stay.
With all that said, thank god for archive accounts. We can’t sign off without shouting out some of more MØRNING’s favourites from elsewhere in the archivesphere: @asianfashionarchive, @ihategum, @massivearchive, @mignonettetakespictures and @suffering.meat to name just a few.
Who have we missed? Let us know comments please and thank you!
‘Til next time ❤️🔥
Thanks for reading! Subscribe to get Burn After Reading in your inbox every fortnight <3
Words: Velvet Coke
Editor: Letty Cole