Born in Taiwan but raised in Australia, Tina Lee would return to Taiwan for college and later, work. Tina proceeded to New York where she pursued fashion design. It was in 2016 while in New York working as an associate fashion designer that she decided to start a business venture that was low cost and thus discovered blogging. She called it Of Leather and Lace after her favorite materials in fashion.
Of Leather and Lace
Initially, Of Leather and Lace covered fashion only. About 6 months in, Tina noticed that creators who traveled seemed to grow their audience faster. Of Leather and Lace pivoted to lifestyle and travel as well in addition to its original fashion focus.
It was not long before Tina realized that she needed to get onto and leverage the power of social media if she wanted her blog’s following and traffic to grow.
“In the beginning, I had all of these things like Twitter and Google Plus. But I realized Instagram was the best place for someone visual like me. Today, my Main channel is Instagram. I also have a TikTok page and a podcast. Those are like the main platforms I am on.”
She no longer updates the Of Leather and Lace blog due to time constraints.
“Doing one platform really well is very time-consuming. If I can repurpose any existing content onto a new platform and if that new platform can be longer term, like a five-year plan, those are the key things I look at. If I don’t have the time and if it won’t become a five-year thing, then I won’t pursue it.”
Of Leather and Lace’s audience is primarily women between 20 and 40-year-old who love feminine fashion and luxury travel. While her blog and pages draw traffic from around the world, there is a disproportionate number of Asian Americans and Asian Canadians. She keeps close tabs on the engagement rate of her content.
“Rather than continually mindlessly growing, I would prefer to try to keep engagement rate at a healthy level. We all know it fluctuates from month to month. So I don’t kill myself over the engagement rate but I do take a lot of care to put out content that I think my audience will engage the most with.”
When choosing the kind of collaborations to do, Tina prioritizes brands who appreciate her creativity and recognize the audience of the work she does.
“They come to me for the content itself and also tap into the female audience I have. Usually they allow for some creative freedom in terms of the content creation. That’s my main criteria. As long as it’s lifestyle that feels very in line with what I present normally which is feminine luxury lifestyle, then that works. Actually I have been very lucky. Probably every campaign that I have done, they have been very lenient on what I get to do. I can tell them, ‘This works best for our audience’ or ‘I have this creative idea’. Nine out of ten times, it was always ‘Yes, that’s good’.”
Memorable Campaigns for Tina Lee
Two campaigns have been the most memorable for Tina so far.
First, Adobe, the software company.
“The campaign was promoting Adobe Max, an annual Adobe event. It was also about encouraging other people to learn about creative editing, whether video or photo using Adobe software. It comprised multiple stories and two Instagram Reels. They also connect you with other creators. I went live with Brandon Woelfel, a very well-known photographer. Adobe is so amazing because they just allow you creative freedom to do what represents you the most creatively.”
Second, the Italian Tourism Board.
“Italy is like my favorite place to visit. My husband and I got married and had our wedding there. It was just after people started traveling again after COVID-19 pandemic when they had just opened. So the message was ‘I couch traveled safely to see the Best of Italy’. It showcased different cities in Italy. One of the deliverables was a reel. It went viral and had 3 million views. They were very happy with this. Actually, I’m already going to work with the tourism board again in December.”
Different KPIs were used to measure the success of the two campaigns.
“For the Italian Tourism Board, it was mostly overall impressions because the goal was brand awareness. For the Adobe Max event, it was overall engagement as well as click through rates for that.”
Tips for Upcoming Creators
It is not easy being a content creator.
“I think people think there is very little struggle because we rarely share the struggles online. It’s not easy.”
At the beginning, Tina did not know what to charge and how to negotiate pricing.
“I was charging very little because I was just happy to get a free product or do what I love and be recognized. But after 2 years, I realized it was important to negotiate your proper rates for a sustainable fulltime income.”
She cautions against giving full rights to images.
“I haven’t had any negative results from that yet but I do know some of my friends who have given, say, five-year whitelisting. And for one of them, every week I see her photo on sponsored content. And it’s used over and over again. That’s something I wished I knew at the beginning. Understand all of your terms. Know what whitelisting is and what usage rights include. Is it digital rights? Is it universal perpetual rights? Or is it just digital rights for one year?”
Creators need to understand where and how their content will be used.
“You’ll be able to negotiate better rates for yourself and not get taken advantage of.”
She considers Instagram and TikTok to be the most dynamic and innovative creator platforms at the moment.
“Instagram and TikTok are kind of going at the same pace but I would say TikTok has more innovation and Instagram has more marketing money.”
Growing your following is critical.
“There’s so much power in growing a following. It doesn’t matter if the goal is to work with brands or you want to sell your own product like clothing or bags. As long as you grow a loyal following, you can scale it. There are a lot of possibilities.”
Tina’s business currently has three main arms.
“First, there’s the content creation for brands. Second, there’s two courses I have where I teach other people on how to grow and monetize on social media. Third and very recently is the clothing line I created with INSPR.”
The two courses she runs teach people how to grow and monetize their social media following.
“There’s been a lot of students able to go full time with it or secure paid campaigns or make it a successful side hustle. I definitely feel like there’s more than enough space for everybody. I just Wish more people knew the possibilities of social media and gave it a try. Because there is not so much to lose and it could come out amazing. And if not, you at least learn something new. My mission is to spread that message so more people can give it a try and make it work for them. Because I’m very fortunate to have started a while ago and now it’s going very well. I never thought I could do this.”
She is of the view that with the power of social media, anyone can grow a following and do what they love for a living. As long as one is passionate about their niche and can represent it well, she believes they have a high chance of success.
Predictions and Future Plans
Tina projects that photo content will be steadily rendered obsolete by video.
“I think this is more of a long-term trend but I think all content will become video content because it’s much more engaging. Photos will become more a thing of the past. Even on Instagram, you can’t really grow without posting videos.”
She expects to continue to be an influencer and trainer over the coming years.
“I love the content creation process. So it doesn’t matter the product that I create or the platform I get into. I still just want to create content so I think that’s my ultimate goal. I think in the beginning there was a lot less of a mission. It was just figuring out your voice, trying to define your voice and learning how to create the content people engage with. By the second and third year, it started to become about educating and providing value for others so they would continue to follow you. I would say continuing on that path.”
Tina Lee is a full-time influencer. She is the founder of Of Leather and Lace, a fashion and travel blog. Of Leather and Lace includes a podcast as well as Instagram and TikTok pages. She has more than 500,000 Instagram followers and over 260,000 TikTok fans. Tina also runs a clothing line as well as influencer training courses. She lives in New York, NY.