Simi OA is a fifth-year senior from Lagos, Nigeria gracing Penn State with an unbeatable sense of style. Busy with her double major in psychology and business, Simi found spare time to create a blog sharing her passion for fashion with other college students. Although the site was started for fun, “House of Àrà” has gained feature on popular fashion websites like CollegeFashionista, Fashion Bomb Daily and The Style Hub. The site, containing fashion tips, inspirational quotes and beautiful photography, has gained steady traffic since its launch in March. Valley sat down with Simi to discuss the success of her blog and her keen eye for style.
Valley: When did you begin the blog?
Simi: I started off on Blogspot.com, but the problem with (Blogspot) is that it limits how much you can do and how you can design the blog. So, I started with that and was using my phone to take pictures. You know, it was just horrible! After a while I’m like, “I really do want to do this,” and I invested the money to have someone design my website and got someone to take my pictures so they look decent. I launched this website in March of this year, so it’s pretty new.
V: What inspired you to make the blog about fashion?
S: I’ve always been into fashion. I actually come from a very conservative family, so that propelled me more. Finally when I left home I’m like, “Yes! I can finally wear all these things I always wanted.” With blogging, it was mostly my friends telling me I could do it. Most fashion blogs are about people in the “real world” and we don’t really have a lot of fashion blogs about college students. I know there are some like CollegeFashionista, but with that I still felt like there was something missing, you know? It shouldn’t always be just plaids and jeans and sweaters. Regardless of the fact it’s college, we can still be fashionable.
V: Where does the name House of Àrà come from?
S: In my native language, Àrà means “something different, something new.” I chose the name because I feel it illustrates the unique perspective I bring to fashion and styling.
V: What all does the website include?
S: The collection page is pretty much one picture from all blogs, so it’s more like an archive. Then there’s the contact page where you can send me an email, then the about me page that has where I’m from, my goals, and the gist of the blog. There’s also basic fashion advice and fashion rules that I live by, and that’s pretty much it.
V: Are you the only contributor to the website?
S: Yes, I am the only contributor but my photographers have of course contributed, too.
V: Do you know how many visitors the site usually gets?
S: I have (Google Analytics) statistics, and last time I checked I had about 600,000 views accumulated from when I started in March.
V: So, you have been featured on other popular websites. How does it feel that what you’ve done has been noticed by other successful sites?
S: It’s always amazing when that happens. Sometimes you don’t even know and then suddenly, I have all these likes and new people following me. I’m like, “where are all these people coming from?” and someone tells me I got featured (on a site). It’s always nice because the fashion blogging world is very, very competitive. I feel like I have a different perspective being a college student and being able to translate that.
V: One of your quotes on the site is “you are what you wear.” Why do you stand by that statement?
S: Usually with fashion, there are people who are really into fashion like I am or there are people who are not really into fashion. And usually I feel like people who are not into fashion are like, “I can’t be worried about what I’m wearing, I can’t be this, and I can’t be that.” But at the end of the day, even when you aren’t worried about what you’re wearing, it says something. No matter what you do, no matter if you’re the most fashionable person or you’re not fashionable, when people see you, what you’re wearing instantly translates into something about you. You’re making a statement every time you walk into a room and every time people see you. Unfortunately, people who don’t really get to know you instantly just take that and translate it to what you are. So if people are going to be making big decisions about you based on what you wear, you could put a little effort into it.
V: On the website, there’s something called “The Àrà Exercise.” How did you come up with that and why do you think it’s important for women to know their bodies?
S: It was something I just came up with randomly. There are a million things that go into (fashion), wear this and this, but ultimately the basic foundation with fashion is your body and what looks good on you. No one is perfect. We all have things that we’re insecure about, and it’s just nice to know your strong points and know your weak points and know how to work around it. For example, I always say “I don’t have long legs and I’m small.” Everyone likes to wear (certain clothes) that I feel like my body isn’t best for. It’s only right you know your body. If there are things you want to change, that’s fine. If there’s nothing you can do about it, well, go shopping and enjoy your life!
V: What do you advise girls to do about things they see as imperfections on their body?
S: If it bothers you that much that you feel like life is not complete without it, go ahead and do things to improve it. But honestly, regardless of how many surgeries you have and all that, if you’re not right inside you’re just going to keep doing more and more and it will never fix it. But if you feel like you need this one thing to be where you need to be then by all means, go ahead. I’m not judging.
V: Where do you see the website going? Where would you like to see it?
S: When I started off, I really didn’t think anything serious of it because I plan to go into law school and my mother’s not going to have it. But the more I get into it and the more opportunities I see that could come from it, I’m actually open to it. It’s something I could make a career of depending what happens. Right now, I just want to expand more and have more following. Then, I would like to go into some designing. I’m from Nigeria, and I’ve always wanted to do a program with upcoming designers back home and design collections together and sell them, and that would go to a nonprofit organization that we sponsor. Something like that. We’ll see what happens down the road. Hey, you never know.
V: Out of curiosity, what brought you to Penn State from Nigeria?
S: It was so random. When I wrote my SAT’s, we write the four schools we want and send the results. Everyone I knew was talking about Penn State. Although, later, I found out they were talking about (University of Pennsylvania), not Penn State. So I’m like, “Oh, okay if you all want to go there we will just all go there,” and well, I’m here. Turns out everyone is at UPenn, not Penn State. But, you know, it’s all good. I don’t like it when it’s cold, but I like winter fashion so I’m happy.
Photo source: houseofara.com