Rita Valente is a 23 year-old, Portuguese virtual stylist who has amassed tens of thousands of followers across her social media platforms. She is part of a new generation of fashion fans who are creating a name for themselves using Instagram and their own blogs. I chatted to Rita over Zoom to discuss how her blog came about, where she sees the fashion industry going in the future and the wardrobe staples everyone should own.
So, your blog, The European Closet started in 2014?
Yes exactly, my blog started in 2014 but I only started my Instagram account last year in April.
Was that a product of lockdown, how did that come about?
It’s actually a funny story. I started it because there were two people pretending to be me on Instagram. The first person was in late January last year and they created an account and followed my personal account which was named @theeuropeancloset, and they created an account called @theeurasioncloset, and they recreated everything from the type of clothes to the logo at the bottom. I talked to the person and I said it was not cool and asked them to change and they were really adamant that they didn’t want to change it, they thought they weren’t doing anything wrong. So I explained it, I said ‘People will think you’re me, and you’re not’ and they changed it. But then in April, the same thing happened again! Someone was posting my outfits and pretending to be me! On the bio of their Instagram, they even used my name! I thought, ‘What the hell?’ and I blocked and reported the account and I sent them a DM immediately, telling them to delete this, saying ‘You’re not me.’. They didn’t even reply to me, they deleted the account right away. So I created my own account. This is it.
Did you originally set out to end up on Instagram or did you always want to just concentrate on your blog and Pinterest?
I never thought I was going to create a virtual styling account on Instagram, because I did my outfits on a website, but it was shut down and I went to another website and I posted there and just pinned it on Pinterest and that was it. I never really thought I was going to post it on Instagram but then all of that happened and I’m actually really happy that it happened.
In such a short amount of time you’ve gained a really substantial following with dedicated engagement. Did you expect that to happen?
I thought I was going to get, not as big of a following as I have right now, but I thought some people would follow me because they would know me from Pinterest and from my old website before it was shut down, I had 10,000 followers and I thought there might be some people that will remember the name and might follow me but I never thought I would reach this many people in such a short amount of time.
Is there a particular social media platform you prefer using?
In terms of interacting with other people, I prefer Instagram because it’s a lot easier. I love Pinterest but it’s really hard to have interactions with people. On Instagram, it’s different, you post something, people will comment and will reply.
So talk me through what a regular day looks like in terms of social media for you.
I prepare all the outfits a month before. I take about two or three days at the end of each month and I just batch create all the content for the next month because I’m actually an English teacher, so I have other things to do other than being on social media. I take three, four days maximum, and I create all the outfits then I make the links to put on my blog. That takes such a long time. That’s the task that takes the longest. It’s not even the outfit creation itself, it’s the linking part and then I use an app called Planoly to schedule the posts and have a little reminder to manually post at 7:30pm every day. It just gives a little notification that says, ‘You have to post’, and I post the picture myself. That’s pretty much it, I don’t spend every day on social media, I mean I do, but not for a long time. I just go to post Insta-stories, I don’t spend every day creating an outfit for that specific day. I just create everything in one go.
Branding is very important, so what was the inspiration behind The European Closet and that name?
It was really random! I had a blog before ‘The European Closet’, for about two years and it was just my name and I didn’t really like it because my surname is kind of hard for other people who aren’t Portuguese like me to pronounce, so I changed it. Then I started thinking, and I was thought, ‘I like fashion, so I could use closet’, at first I thought wardrobe but wardrobe is a big word, so I decided on closet. Then I thought, ‘I’m from Portugal, which is in Europe, I’m European, what about The European Closet?’. That was my first idea for a name. I created a bunch of other names and I went to my school the next day and I gathered a bunch of friends of mine and I was like, choose a name from these, and they all chose The European Closet.
What trends would you like to see and what trends do you predict for 2021?
I think brown is going to be the colour of the year, for all seasons! I think it’s going to be the main colour, even though some may disagree, I love brown! I think the chunky boot, they’re going to continue to be a big trend, especially in Spring. Sweater vests are really big right now too and I think they’re going to be in, even though they’re sweaters or jumpers as you guys call them, I think they are kind of light because they don’t have any sleeves so I think they’re going to be really good for Spring as you can wear a light shirt underneath and you’re good to go. I think trench coats are a staple but I think this year, they’re going to be huge. Even thought they’re a very classic and timeless piece, at times you don’t really see people wearing them. I love trench coats, by the way. I think they’re going to be very big this year, I’m hoping.
On the other end of the spectrum, what trends would you like to see left in 2020?
Ripped jeans! I don’t think they’re as big as they used to be but I hate them. I wish they were gone. I don’t really like the bodycon dresses either, I’m not really a fan. I like the ones that are longer that go below the knee occasionally. The ones that are short with little straps, those dresses are ones that I hate but I think we’re getting to a point in fashion where people are just wearing what they like and not just following trends. I think people are starting to think, ‘I’m just going to wear what I want’ and not what’s in style, because you make your own style. If you want to wear something, wear it, don’t care what people think, it’s your choice.
Was there a significant moment that you fell in love with fashion or were you always drawn to clothes?
I’ve always been drawn to clothes. I started picking out my own clothes when I was one year old. My mum would put out my clothes saying ‘This is what you’re going to wear’ and I would say ‘No, I’m not!’. My mum has a big influence on me in terms of fashion because she always made sure I was always really well dressed, she always bought me the hat, the dress, the tights that would all be matching! Everything would be co-ordinated. So I think my mum is the biggest influence on my fashion.
Do you have a style icon who’s wardrobe you’d love to raid?
I really like Jennie from BLACKPINK and Hailey Bieber. I really like a French model on Instagram called Jodie, she has flawless style! I would raid her wardrobe as I think her wardrobe is the closest to my dream wardrobe!
Going from your dream wardrobe to your actual wardrobe, what are some staples in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?
Black jeans! I wear black jeans pretty much every day. A white shirt is a staple for everyone’s wardrobe, you can wear a white shirt casually and formally, to pretty much anywhere. A good coat, it doesn’t matter the colour as long as it’s a good coat that’s warm that you feel good in. Not clothing related, but I think a good pair of earrings can also make an outfit.
Is there a particular brand that you love?
I love Zara! Zara is my favourite. I think Zara is really good for coats and jeans.
In terms of your online presence and your Instagram, what are your aspirations for 2021?
I really want to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram, just so that I can have the swipe-up feature! That is my ultimate goal for 2021 as it would be a lot easier to link outfits! I still get messages, eight months on, from people asking how they can shop the outfit when it’s always in my bio! I would also like to start doing Q&A’s, at least once a week to be able to help people style certain pieces.
And what about for the fashion community as a whole?
I would like to see more diversity. I think it’s a pretty well known problem in the industry. I would also like to see more plus-size models and influencers as well as influencers of other ethnicities. I would love to see that as I don’t see that right now. I know there are a lot of micro-influencers who meet that criteria but they should be a lot bigger and they’re not and I think that’s a big problem.
Lastly, is there any advice you would give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps and become as successful as you are?
I think consistency is really what made me become as big as I am now. I wouldn’t say post every day, but at least a few times a week if you want to be successful on Instagram or just any platform, because if you’re not seen, you’re not remembered. Also, use and abuse hashtags! They helped me a lot, I get a ton of new followers from hashtags. Some people will say hashtags are lame - no they’re not! They help you! If someone is looking on that hashtag and see your post and like it, they’ll go on your account and follow you! Don’t just post and leave, interact with other people. Take a few minutes to just find out about other people, comment, like and share and not only will that help others but it will help you as they might help you in return.
To follow Rita and become inspired, check out the links below:
Photo credits: Rita Valente and The European Closet