Samantha and Caillianne Beckerman are having a twin moment. They have both arrived to Starbucks wearing the same pair of studded Chloé boots; Samantha's are navy suede and Caillianne's are light-blue leather. "They remind me of Elvis!" Caillianne exclaims. "I got them for 50-per-cent off because nobody else wanted a pair of baby-blue Elvis boots."
The boots may be bolder than what one typically sees at a Toronto coffee shop, but it's precisely their off-kilter style, which they document on their popular Beckerman Blog and Instagram account, that has made the effervescent 34-year-old twins Internet stars. In a sea of homogeneous fashion bloggers, the sisters' child-like optimism and kooky ensembles set them apart. Among other quirks, they decorate baggy jeans with Troll dolls, customize jackets with Jem and the Holograms patches and craft outfits for their pet Pomeranians.
Their unserious style has meant serious business, however. Samantha and Caillianne, who prefer to go by Sam and Cailli, have forged partnerships with major international brands, reported on the MuchMusic Video Awards red carpet and recently began a column in Flare magazine. Earlier this year, they appeared in an ad campaign for Yorkdale Shopping Centre. "The sisters' love of bold colours and patterns really speak to our shoppers," says Lucia Connor, the marketing director of Yorkdale. They also host events, such as a beach-themed block party at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto for H&M. In May, Chanel flew the twins to Dubai to review their 2015 cruise collection for the blog. In many ways, they are living the millennial dream, earning their keep through a multi-platform personal brand.
While the sisters won't disclose how much they make, they say their work is lucrative. They live together in a leafy north Toronto enclave close to mother Rana (from whom they inherited their love of fashion, as well as designer hand-me-downs) and dad Bob Beckerman (the CEO of Raybec Communications, a successful customer relations management company). Their sister, Chloe, is a textile designer at Juicy Couture in Los Angeles.
Samantha and Caillianne are no strangers to the fashion industry, either. They both studied design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. After graduating in 2004, their thesis collection was featured in Nylon magazine and sold at Loveless, a high-fashion concept store in Tokyo. Along with Chloe's help, they launched Beckerman, a clothing line that was picked up by Holt Renfrew and eventually carried at more than 200 stores worldwide. Then the recession hit and business faltered.
"It was just a really risky time to keep designing," says Caillianne. Samantha adds: "That year our visa was up. We'd been in New York for 10 years and we decided to move back to Toronto in February 2009. We started our blog a month later. It's almost like all the pieces were coming together."
Since focusing their efforts on wearing clothes rather than designing them, the Beckermans have racked up more than 140,000 followers on Instagram, the social network of choice for the fashion set. To put their influence in perspective, Tommy Ton, the Canadian street-style photographer whose shots appear on Style.com, has 116,000 followers. Jay Strut, a well-known Canadian fashion blogger, has 25,000.
Brands have taken notice. "The Beckermans have a natural affinity for fashion that is fearless and totally on trend," says Emily Scarlett, the PR manager of H&M Canada. "We love working with them because of their unique style spirit and their ability to see the fun in fashion wherever they go."
Society commentator Shinan Govani remembers throwing a glitzy party for the Beckerman fashion label in 2005. Even then, he says, the sisters had that can't-look-away, It-girl factor. "There was just something about them," Govani says.
According to Rana, her daughters' style is eclectic "because they went through many phases and trends [growing up]. They always loved clothes like Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, goth looks, vintage bell bottoms." Their wardrobes do make for entertaining viewing. Aside from the creative DIY pieces and Furby bags, there is vintage Prada and Gucci (courtesy of Rana), designer shoes, Lanvin pearls and outré purple-fringed leather jackets. Then there are the dogs.
The twins' teddy-bear-faced Pomeranians, Cubby and Marni, are regular fodder for the Beckermans. Often dressed as elaborately as their owners, the dogs were named two of the most fashionable pets in the industry by Harper's Bazaar alongside model Cara Delevingne's bunny, Cecil. For this year's Academy Awards, the twins created a doggy version of Bjork's infamous swan dress. A photo of Marni in the frock received more than 4,000 likes on Instagram.
The twins say being full-time fashion bloggers is not as glamorous as it looks. "Some days, we're just sitting in our PJs in front of the computer trying to get blog stuff up." Other days there are photo shoots, TV segments and hundreds of e-mails to plow through (Caillianne has more than 16,000 unread e-mails in her inbox). But, Samantha says, they're "doing everything we love. It's the best kind of job." The twins work every day.
Although much of the Beckermans' appeal is tied to their youthful enthusiasm (their blog is peppered with exclamation marks), the sisters aren't sure how aging will affect their brand or exactly what they'll be doing in five years. "I guess we'll have to talk about it!" says Samantha. For now, they're focused on growing their business while maintaining a sense of authenticity.
"We want to keep inspiring people," Caillianne says, "to keep [the blog] special and to keep it us."