IG Girl Gangs and full-time grammin’ with Maid in Melbourne

It’s a blustery Monday afternoon in the Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne city. Maid in Melbourne‘s Natalie Lawther sits fresh-faced and activewear-clad with an iced latte in hand. She’s ready to embark on a day of media events and errands.

This girl epitomises Melbourne, and knows a thing or two about how to flaunt it on a feed. Her keen eye for pretty things and platescapes has turned Maid in Melbourne (MIM) into a poetic ode to the city – one that has us amping up our wish-lists and brunch bookings.

We’re in awe of the clean aesthetic, realness, and effortless air of je ne sais quoi that defines the page. Beginning as a shared Instagram account between friends, MIM is now solely managed by 23-year-old Natalie and has surpassed a cool 20k following.

The rattle of ice in her empty tumbler is our cue to learn a little bit more about this budding ‘It’ girl, and what makes MIM unique.

Talk us through the creation of MIM. When did it all start?
One day at Uni, late 2015, I was with my two friends who were doing the same course as me and we always took food photos. We thought, let’s create an Instagram page just for us to share – and if only the three of us follow it, it doesn’t matter. That was the initial idea. I’ve always been into creating Tumblrs or Blogspots and have loved doing that sort of thing since Year Seven. It’s always been a hobby and interest of mine.

There were only really models and food people on Instagram. There wasn’t anyone doing ‘Melbourne’. Our grid was originally food in one column, then activity in another, and then the third was something that we owned. It was kind of like a complete mixture of everything in Melbourne. But then, after maybe a few months, one of the girls didn’t have enough time to be doing it. She was finishing off her degree and doing a lot of internships. By then, we only had about 500 followers.

It was mostly then me and my friend Eliza – who dropped out in early May this year. She had six months overseas last year and has a full-time grad job.

How did the name ‘Maid in Melbourne’ come about?
We were first thinking of stupid names because we didn’t think it would get big. I was obsessed with Cara Delevingne at the time, and she’d just got a tattoo that said ‘Made in England’ under her foot. I thought, let’s do ‘Made in Melbourne’, but that was taken. The person had around 6 followers – it wasn’t even an account. Then, I thought of the movie ‘Maid in Manhattan’, so we tried ‘Maid in Melbourne’ – and it worked.

Do you have any tactics when it comes to growing a following or do you let it happen organically?
In the past 2-3 months, I’ve gone from about 17k to 20k followers. 20k was something that I could never have dreamt of getting to. At the start, we realised that we had to have our own content. I think just being original is the biggest key. A lot of people do food, but they don’t incorporate other things. A lot of people that do incorporate other things are models. I almost feel like, the way I run my Instagram page is the way that models do it – just without me being in it, really. I’ve done a few photos of me lately, but aside from that, it’s got about 50% food and the other 50% is places I go to or things I buy.

How would you describe the MIM aesthetic?
I try to just make it bright and colourful-ish. Not too much colour. I prefer for the photos to look more ‘white’, with blue-ish tones rather than reddish tones. I don’t really like using any greens. Green, I think, just looks funny on a feed. A lot of people have a lot of monochrome, white and grey, but it can be limiting. For food, you can’t really do something like that.

Do you take the photos yourself?
Yes. It was always on my phone. But I’m friends with a photographer, and he told me to get a special lens that blurs everything in the background but has a focal point. The lens just makes everything look incredible without any editing.

Until I ran MIM by myself, because we all had different cameras and because there were multiple of us, you could tell differences between the photos. As a result, we just decided it was easier to use iPhones because we all had the same iPhone camera. Now, I’ve started using my (DSLR) camera, and you can see a quality difference.

We’ve noticed that you’ve collaborated with Georgia Maccan from Felix + Scott a lot lately. What’s the best part about growing a Girl Gang, and how did you guys meet?
We actually did meet through our IG accounts. Georgia’s from Sydney. Early May, she came to Melbourne to live. She had sent me a message once to say ‘Hey, I’m Georgia’. Then, I went to event at Arbory Eatery and said to her: “Do you want to come and have a cocktail with me and we can meet?”

She’d only been in Melbourne for a week and she was like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s do that!” So we ended up having a cocktail, and after that we did some shopping in the city together. Instantly we got along so well. The next day, she had an event and plus one’d me. Now I see her every few days. We just instantly became best mates.

We learn so much from each other. She does a lot more collaborations with fashion companies, so she taught me how to approach people and how to go about things. You don’t have anyone to teach you this stuff and you don’t want to mess up. It’s been good to have her to double check the protocol with everything. She’s the perfect plus one.

What were you doing before dedicating time to MIM?
I was doing a marketing job. I finished my Masters of Advanced Marketing in June. I’m all done! I went straight from school to my undergrad. All of that was about five and a half years of studying. After my undergrad, I wasn’t ready for a full-time job yet.

I was meant to be doing a ten-week internship (commencing December 2016) and I was there until August. I then needed time off to myself and thought it would be a good time to grow my page. A lot of events I used to not be able to attend because I had Uni. Now, I can say yes to what I really want to say yes to – rather than being disappointed by seeing everyone’s cool photos from an event.

Each week, I have Monday, Tuesday, Thursday dedicated to MIM. For example, a couple of Thursdays ago, I had a jam-packed day. I had a facial at 10am before meeting with a company to select some outfits for a shoot. Then, I went for a late lunch at oneish and then went to training. I was out from 10-6:30, running around all day. It’s good that I can do that now.

Bonus question round. What are your top three brunch spots in Melbourne?
My favourite would be Tinker Northcote. It’s so good. The staff are so nice and lovely, and the food is just incredible. The aesthetics are really good for a photo as well – it’s all concrete-y and that blends in with my aesthetic really well. I hate it when I go to a café and there’s a brown table. Also, My Other Brother in Camberwell is really good – they’re actually owned by the same people. And then, lastly, I’d say Prospect Espresso in Camberwell.

Interview and words: Genevieve Phelan | All images: @maidinmelbourne

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