Mary Seng never thought she’d quit her day job to be a full-time style blogger. But less than two years after launching her blog, Happily Grey, the former Vanderbilt nurse has turned in her scrubs. After all, she couldn’t have worn those to New York Fashion Week, which she attended for the first time last month.
“When I found out I could make an income from this, I became more strategic,” Seng says. “I loved nursing, but I was a little bored. I’ve always wanted to do something in fashion, and I wanted a creative outlet.”
Seng, 26, launched Happily Grey in the summer of 2012, just before moving from Houston to Nashville with her husband, an oral surgery resident at Vanderbilt. Seng admits she had no idea what she was getting into, but she figured it out quickly. Today, Happily Grey has tens of thousands of followers across various social media platforms, from Instagram to Pinterest. And once the blog started drawing upwards of 5,000 visitors a day, major brands started getting in touch to collaborate. Her blog is sleek and uncomplicated, like her personal style, which she describes as “unplanned.” She says the looks she assembles are a reflection of her mood, which is continually influenced by living in Nashville, a city that she loves for its casual nature yet artistic flair. (The city is also a constant accessory in her photos.)
Unlike more in-your-face style bloggers, Seng is charmingly demure. And even though she’s willowy, blond and beautiful, there’s a girl-next-door quality about her. In the photos, taken by John Hillin, she’s often wearing sunglasses or shyly turning her face away from the camera, allowing the clothing and accessories to take center stage. The essence of Happily Grey lies in the sweet spot between relatable and aspirational. That, coupled with Seng’s palpable authenticity, translates into sales.
After working with RewardStyle, a Dallas-based affiliate aggregator that facilitated $150 million in sales of apparel, home goods and cosmetics last year, Seng has established and nurtured collaborations with French Connection, Kate Spade, Nordstrom and Trina Turk. She draws her income from a combination of commissions, which come via trackable links in her posts, and flat fees.
As one of the most influential style blogs in the city — Seng says she doesn’t know of any other Nashville-based style bloggers who attended New York Fashion Week this year — Happily Grey is also providing a new lens for outsiders. For those who previously thought “Nashville style” could be reduced to either rhinestone cowgirl, Swan Ball debutante or plaid-clad hipster, Seng beautifully shows there’s a lot more in between.
“When people think of Happily Grey,” she says, “I think they think of Nashville.”