The Files
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File No. 5: Frances Estrada, Fashion Blogger and PhD Student

It was another Saturday working the dressing room at Zara. Among the masses of women desperate to try their latest finds, she appeared with a blue Cèline handbag that I had never seen in person before. “I love your bag”, I said, to which she responded with such a smile and a ‘Thank you’ unequal of the people who usually wear this kind of stuff.

From that moment, I could see why people would think that Frances Estrada, the blogger behind The Pecking Order, was just another girl that loved fashion and wore fancy clothes. I have been guilty of making such assumptions in the past. But, it wasn’t until I worked with her a few months ago that I realized how stupid such suppositions can be.

She arrived at the studio, suitcases in hand, alongside her friend and designer Jean Cintrón. Her hair was in a ponytail and her makeup was fully done. Once I started talking to her, I saw that girl who smiled at me for complimenting her bag years before. ‘Why did I think she would be just another fashion girl?’, I though to myself. In addition, she made the revelation that she was getting her PhD at Touro College of Pharmacy. She shared her vision of how the fashion industry in Puerto Rico could be and I immediately saw an ally; someone who loved fashion and didn’t see it just for the glamour. I had been looking for that kind of person for too long in my life.

Since then, I have gotten the chance of getting to know this Aries who drinks coffee with three sugars and adores Olivier Rousteing. She was raised in my hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico to pharmacist parents and has a sister named Valerie, who lives with her in New York. Not to mention, her adorable French bulldog Emma.

In spite of the criticism she often faces, she remains true to herself and believes that her project can make a real impact in someone else’s life. It’s safe to say that the cover had nothing to do with the book. So, when I had the chance to see her in New York, I knew that a badass like her merited a file of her own.

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BF: Why did you decide to launch a blog?

It’s a long story. It wasn’t even intentional. I also wanted to study fashion. I went to California and applied at FIDM. As part of the application, I had to submit a portfolio and I didn’t know how to draw or anything like that. I also hadn’t collaborated with anyone at that point. The only thing I could do was take pictures of myself wearing the outfits I styled and posting them online. I got accepted. But, I also got accepted in pharmacy in New York, so I declined the offer from FIDM because my family is in pharmacy and it’s something I had always wanted. I started getting calls to collaborate, so I went with it.

BF: A lot of people that read your blog don’t know that you study pharmacy. Why do you choose to keep it hidden?

When I tell people I study pharmacy, they get surprised. I am really passionate about it but what I like the most is fashion. I try to focus on style and let my profession aside.

BF: How do you see your role as digital influencer, especially within Puerto Rico’s fashion industry?

Honestly, that term is kind of strong for me. I don’t consider myself as an influencer, but as a helper. I have my followers on Snapchat who write to me and I send them back my tips just like any other friend would.

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BF: What do you want to do inside Puerto Rico’s fashion industry?

Of course, my fanbase is mostly from Puerto Rico. I’m here to study so that’s what I focus on while in New York. I take advantage of it, though, and attend major events like Fashion Week. My goal here has always been to represent the Puerto Rican woman. I’ve never considered myself a New Yorker. Yes, I do want to go back once I finish my PhD. I feel that Puerto Rico has a great potential in fashion and we are not exploding it enough. I want to search for local talent that people have not seen. I also want to create a fashion event that elevates Puerto Rican fashion internationally.

BF: There’s a lot of people who think that being in fashion means you are not to be taken seriously. Have you faced this kind of backlash?

Yes, many times. People have this idea that because you like fashion you are not smart. No one believes me that I study pharmacy. There is a huge stereotype that we need to break and that is part of what I want to represent. You can like fashion and be smart.

BF: What moment from your childhood do you consider to be a premonition of your life now?

In terms of fashion, I always used to grab my mother’s lipstick and put it on. I played with blush as eyeshadow and walked around my parent’s pharmacy. I asked my mother to buy me heels. My mom also like me but more conservative. My sister and I are super different, though.

BF: How do you think your birthplace influenced who you are? 

People never believe I am as humble as I am. I was raised in Caguas in my parent’s pharmacy around people with very humble roots. Those are my people. Of course, I wasn’t surrounded by fashion in that environment but it really shaped my personality. Once I turned 15, I had a laptop and I could research the international fashion industry. It has been more of a virtual learning process.

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BF: How have you integrated yourself inside the fashion bloggers in New York? 

I have a much deeper relationship with bloggers from the Dominican Republic. I started getting to know through Helen Blandino and she introduced me to the rest of them. When they come to New York, it’s incredible to see the relationship they have with each other. As of now, I am the only Puerto Rican that has explored that scene. It’s been a really cool experience and we help each other a lot. They’ve been excellent to me.

BF: You were not trained in communications. How did you gain so much knowledge of social media?

I didn’t know anything when I started and I didn’t understand what I was exposing myself to. I have to give credit to Sandrysabel from Heel Condoms. She’s an entrepreneur and has so much knowledge of business. She was the first one that reached out to support what I was doing. We went to dinner and she gave me so many tips. That’s how I started getting to know the digital world. On the way I’ve met other people who have helped me like my friend Jean [Cintrón] who has showed me how to build up an Instagram page. The Pecking Order is not just me. It’s been a bunch of people who have helped me.

BF: How do you see The Pecking Order in 5 years?

Honestly, I can’t imagine. I just want to make an impact on young girls so they can grow themselves too. I want more bloggers and more people to love fashion. I want them to make content and to do it well. That’s why I take the time to help others. The most important thing is to do it well.

BF: What does ‘badass’ mean to you?

I’ve always envisioned it as female. A woman who is fearless and takes risks. She does whatever she wants and she does it well.

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