Haute On The Ranch: A Q&A With {western fashion icon} THE West Desperado!

Posted on February 10 2019

We could probably write a small book on the reasons that we LOVE, LOVE working with Shaley Ham of West Desperado, but that's likely not why you've landed here on our blog -- so we'll spare you, this time... ;) Before you get to the good stuff, though, we just want to say a big ole' THANK YOU to Shaley for the friendship and content that has come out of working with her the past few years, and for jumping on this crazy Q&A train without hesitation -- we couldn't think of a better person to kick off this Q&A series with. We hope you enjoy this fun, inside look at 10 questions with THE West Desperado!

What is your favorite thing about being an influencer?

There are several benefits to being considered an influencer. For me, the thing that I enjoy most is the people I get to connect with! I have made some of my best friends through my page that I would have otherwise never crossed paths with.

My second favorite thing that I enjoy about being an influencer is the ability to have a job that let’s my imagination thrive! While working full time in the corporate world, it’s so nice to have a balance of getting to use both the left and right side of my brain. Styling outfits is a creative process for me and I consider myself lucky that it is something I get paid to do.

How many outfits do you typically put together for each shoot? 

Figuring out the amount of outfits I style per shoot has certainly evolved over the years. When I first started hosting photo shoots, I was a little out of control with the number of outfits I would squeeze into a two hour photo shoot. At one point, I styled a total of 15 outfits that I rushed to get photographed! I have learned a lot since then, however, and now I know the ideal amount of outfits per photo shoot that allows me to be both creative with my styling and my poses. The lucky number these days is 4-6 outfits per shoot. I will still allow a full two (or more) hours for a shoot of this size. It has helped myself and my photographers feel less rushed and able to get the perfect shots!

What drives your love of the western lifestyle and fashion? 

Although it might not be apparent through what I post, I actually come from a rodeo family! I grew up riding horses and always having them around. Most of my childhood memories involve traveling to rodeos all over the Pacific Northwest, cheering on my mom as she chased those cans. I love riding horses leisurely, and even though I don’t rodeo myself, rodeos are my favorite events to attend throughout the year. Spending so much time traveling to professional rodeos, whether with my mom or my bareback-riding boyfriend, I have developed a love for dressing up for each one & letting the western way of life influence my style.

What’s your go-to accessory to wear on a casual night out?

It is safe to say that the one accessory I rarely leave the house without is one of my felt cowboy hats, regardless of the time of year. I don’t get to wear hats to my full time office job, so anytime I get to leave the house for any other reason, there is a hat on top of my head!

What’s your favorite go-to outfit?

Occasions typically dictate my outfits, and I find I’m always doing something different. But if you ask my boyfriend or family member, they will tell you I can most likely be found wearing a pair of denim bell bottoms, a graphic tee, some kind of layering piece over that (sweater, duster, denim jacket), booties, and a hat. I will wear this outfit to go study at Starbucks for a few hours, to go grocery shopping, or on a date night.

Will you share the life-changing moment that inspire you to get where you are today?

I would say that the most life-changing thing for me can’t be described in one specific moment, but rather a general period of time in my life that really impacted where I am today. After I graduated from college in spring of 2015, I moved back home (back to the country) before I started my new job in a City I’ve only visited twice. It was in this time that I fell back in love with the western lifestyle and realized it was something I wanted to be involved in one way or another. (Back story: I had a couple years of my adolescent life that all I wanted was to be a city girl and work a corporate job and never desired to move back out into the country). Before I had to move a way to start my job, I was able to get into hunting and fishing and get back to riding horses and traveling to rodeos. Within a few months, the last thing I wanted was to move back to a concrete jungle and work in an office all day. But degree and massive student loans in hand, it was off to the city I went. I started searching for outlets that connected me with the western way of life, even if that meant a 10 hour round trip drive home for a weekend to go horseback riding. Eventually, I started discovering western pages and businesses on Instagram and thought how amazing it was that I could be so connected with that world while still living my normal city life. Not too long after moving to the city was when West Desperado was born! I would post flat lays of outfits I would wear to rodeos that were close enough to travel to, or share things from other western pages that inspired me.

Long story short, without that time in my life of “returning to my roots” and rebuilding my love for the western lifestyle, it’s safe to say that West Desperado would not exist today!

Who or what inspires your fashion style and why?

Growing up I always had a passion for all types of fashion. In middle school I carried around a notebook with my own clothing sketches because I wanted to be a designer; in high school my room was covered in clippings from magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan because I wanted to be a model; my favorite movies and shows as a teenager were Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, and The Devil Wears Prada because I couldn’t get enough of their trendy outfits. So looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint one specific thing that is the root of what inspires my style. I feel that I draw inspiration from all across the board, not just in the western realm, which allows my looks to stand out from what you typically think of when you hear “western fashion.” People that I look towards most for fashion advice these days includes Blake Lively, Caitlyn Warakomski (@caitlynwarakomski), Ralph Lauren, Katey Jade (@misskatyjade).

If you woke up tomorrow and gained any ability or quality, what would it be?

No doubt in my mind, I would want the ability to sing in tune! I serenade my boyfriend in the car all the time, but I’m sure he would appreciate it if I could hit a correct note every once in a while. I’ve always been jealous of people that can sing well!

What makes you different from all the other western fashion influencers today?

I love this question, because being different and doing things that set myself apart from the pack are what I strive for. There are a few things that have worked in my favor over the years that have truly helped me stand out from other influencers, and the top two are:

  1. I run my page and my collaborations as a business. When it comes to collaborations, people have invested their money and invaluable time into creating a mutually-beneficial end product, so it is important to lay out what is expected from all parties involved. I have heard a number of businesses say how they sent products to someone, all to never see any posts or receive and pictures from it. In my eyes, that is stealing. Contracts are awesome tools to use in order to understand what is expected from everyone. Ultimately, if you are wanting to seriously become an influencer or blogger, treating every collaboration like a business transaction is what will help you succeed in the long run.
  2. I am constantly researching ways to be more creative in the content that I put out on my page! I follow a number of full-time influencers, professional photographers, artists, and boutiques to become inspired with what I can create. I love experimenting with new poses, working with photographers that are willing to try different angles, or challenging myself with styling a piece of clothing that I would not typically wear. This creative process is never ending, but I definitely think that it has started to pay off for me recently with defining my own identity within this industry.

How do you get inspiration for your outfits?

The inspiration process for styling outfits is something that I genuinely enjoy, as long as my mood is right. I typically start by knowing a statement item or two that I am wanting to style—I will base the rest of my outfit off of these key pieces. I will look at saved Instagram images or my Pinterest fashion boards to get fun ideas to style something in a way I’ve never done before. A lot of times, I will create a collage on my phone with some of the top images I find and use that as a mood board to style a look. Sometimes, if I have photos of the actual clothing items I know I want to wear, I will create a virtual outfit on my phone, then physically try the outfit on once I get home. Inspiration can come from a number of things, but I have found that artwork, editorial high-fashion looks, and old school western photos serve my outfit imagination the best!

So.... with that, we hope you enjoyed this Q&A with West Desperado! If you've got ideas for other influencers or western fashion insiders that you'd like for us to feature in future blogs, drop their names in the comments below. 

Til next time, 

S7s Team 

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