To be Wild & Free
I’m frantically running to Blue Agave — chosen en lieu of the impending Fiesta celebration — in an attempt to curb my inevitable tardiness. I find Corina Alulquoy Brown, the woman behind the Wild & Free Jewelry blog and Instagram, nestled in a velvet booth, looking like the epitome of a bohemian dream. Her mermaid waves fall in a beautiful mess over a fairy tale dream of a white dress. She is casually adorned with exotic jewelry and strategically placed tattoos that seem to complete her. Ignoring my lateness she embraces me — as my purse tips over her glass of water, shattering it atop her foot. Of course this happens.
We clean up, and as expected from someone whose appearance exudes cool vibes, she is not upset. Two psychedelic colored margaritas serve as the perfect distraction, resetting the ambiance.
We begin what seems more like a conversation between new friends, than an interview, as she explains the essence of her brand. Everything from the message it promotes — one of pursuing your dreams, wanderlust, and being a good soul — to the magical photoshoots in which Corina stars, evokes peace of mind and inspiration. To put it simply, it’s uplifting. The reason for the authenticity is Corina herself. She lives and breathes the business, which she accurately refers to as “her baby.” Wild & Free Jewelry is more than a blog — it’s a lifestyle. An Instagram following of 125K proves it’s a popular one.
While blogging and Instagram have become legitimate business platforms for thousands of people, making them successful takes a certain je ne sais quoi. Wild & Free has just that, and so much more. Corina explains that the secret to her success is working from the moment she wakes up to when she goes to sleep, every day. She tends to partner with like-minded individuals, supporting a community of designers, fellow bloggers, photographers, and dreamers in an effort to make fashion about more than just clothes. I got to pick the brain of this free-spirited beauty, and get an inside look at what it means to be “Wild & Free.”
How did Wild & Free come to be?
CB: It actually started by accident. I began making jewelry and headdresses to use in photoshoots for my SBCC photography class, and a friend of mine told me about Etsy. Within about four days of opening my Etsy store I had sold something — and back then it was just leather necklaces with feathers. It honestly just took on a life of its own. I used to use a self-timer in my parents’ backyard to take the photos, and eventually brands started contacting me offering to send clothes to wear in the photos I was posting. This was before Instagram got big and people made a business from doing this, so it was bizarre to me. Then, I needed somewhere to put the photos I was taking, so I created the Wild & Free blog. After about two years it came to the point where I had to either commit to it full-time or let it go, because it was becoming my life — I chose to stick with it and see where it went.
That sounds like it was meant to be. It’s mind-blowing that you are essentially able to make a brand and a living by simply living your life and being you. You clearly have an eye for style — have you always been into fashion and jewelry?
CB: Yeah. I feel like I got into it because of my mom who always dressed really well. I remember when I was about 10, I went with her to the clothing store she worked at, and the manager let me dress a mannequin. I was super proud of it. Then, as I was admiring my work someone came in and bought the entire outfit from the mannequin. I couldn’t believe it. So” I’ve always been into fashion, especially vintage clothes and the history behind it. I’m obsessed with princesses & Disney, so I feel like I always want to wear crowns & gowns. I just love things that remind me of childhood, which I think is a lot of why I started Wild & Free — it reminded me of being creative and simply doing things because they make you happy.
How did you find designers to work with and feature?
CB: A lot of them seek me out, and if I feel like their style is in line with Wild & Free I will collaborate with them. But for Tulum (where I did a big one week shoot) I reached out to probably 60 brands, and I got about 30 to sponsor us, which was amazing.
Your online store has seen a lot of expansion from its humble beginnings of feather necklaces. What led you to move into clothing, shoes and handbags?
CB: Some customers actually asked me to make flower crowns for them for their weddings. Honestly, a lot of it has been clients asking me to make things for them. The clothing aspect started more from my own desire to make it, but I didn’t know how to reach a manufacturer, so I decided to buy vintage and reconstruct it and see where that takes me. I would like to do more clothes in the future.
Would you be interested in expanding and partnering with a manufacturer?
CB: I would, but I am very conscious about labor. I was an Anthropology major in school, so I know there are a lot of downsides to outsourcing. I try to keep things intimate and one-of-a-kind. I think that makes pieces more special, because you know what you have, no one else has.
I saw that Wild & Free made an appearance at Coachella this year — how do such festivals help your brand and business?
CB: This was the first year I got invited by a company and Pacsun, who sponsored me, is probably one of the best companies I’ve worked with. Even though they’re so big everyone was really nice and intimate, and very hands on. They really pushed to help get my name out there, like to Teen Vogue. I think Pacsun reached out to me because they saw that my followers are in large quintessential festival goers.
When I went there were a lot of people who recognized me, which is always weird for me, but I guess I should get used to it. The best part was running into my clients.
Your Instagram is filled with stunning images that exude enchantment. How do you find inspiration for your shoots and posts?
CB: For Wild & Free I channel a lot of memories from childhood — my parents were married by a Chumash chief, so I grew up with this really Native American culture, and everything they did when I was young was centered around being free and being happy.
What do you hope your followers are getting from your blog — what message or idea are you trying to spread?
CB: I hope it can teach people to think about fashion a little more deeply, than it is on the surface. I post clothes that speak to me and make me happy. I want the blog to reflect the idea of being happy with yourself. It’s about finding yourself in the world and finding your passion. I want to be bigger than the clothes I am wearing, which is hard because obviously it does not seem that way right off the bat, unless you read what I am writing on the blog or actually know me. I hope it can convey a deeper message than what fashion only appears to be at first glance.
What’s the next step for Wild & Free?
CB: I think the next step I hope to accomplish is getting a studio where I can have customers come in, and meet one on one, since I do a lot of custom orders. I’d love to have a more personal relationship with my customers. I finally have an intern, which has been amazing. I hope to travel more for the blog. I want to keep making everything myself — it keeps it more intimate.
For a first hand look at Corina’s adventures and movement toward a more conscious side of fashion, follow her @wildandfreejewelry, and check out her blog for uplifting posts, which give a glimpse into the soul of this gypsy-blogger.
Photography by: Clint Padilla
Article Published in the September issue of Santa Barbara Life & Style Magazine (September 2015)