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Meet: 12:04’s Olga Montserrat

The El Cerrito resident talks about juggling a fulltime job and style blog, how she adds personality to office basics, and her favorite places around the East Bay.



All photos by Nick Smith

 

The first time we clicked over to the Olga Montserrat’s blog, 12:04, we knew we had found a girl after our own hearts. Chic staples with impeccable fit? Check. Classics that can go from the office to the weekend? Check. Runway inspiration, magazine-worthy snaps, and an emphasis on affordable pieces that look twice as pricy? Check, check, and check. We caught up with the El Cerrito resident and her fiancé, Nick Smith (who we can thank for the blog’s photographs), to talk timeless brands, adding personality to office attire, and their East Bay haunts. twelveofour.blogspot.com.

 

How did 12:04 come about?
Fashion has always been one of my biggest interests. I was always on top of what was happening on the runways—even resort and cruise! When the blog started, it was more of a lookbook for me. This was before Pinterest. I would post images I found inspiring and do some playful looks. We were dating, and started to showcase my personal style. It was really casual, and grew from there.

How has the response been?
I get personal emails from readers, which is amazing. A compliment is always great; I’m always really flattered. I’m getting more and more people contacting me. It’s super humbling to have it resonate, and I am so grateful. It actually got me my current job.

All photos by Nick SmithHow would you describe your style?
My style has always been very buttoned up. I’m a fan of the button-up blouse, so I have to think of how to infuse personality into slacks and shirts. It’s a personal challenge. I add a print, or lipstick, or fun earrings. You’ve got to be willing to experiment. It’s a real blessing to work in an atmosphere where I have the opportunity to express myself. I just switched jobs, and my new workplace is fairly casual. So I do it for me. I dress for myself.

Any staples?
I’m a big fan of the heel, but I work in the city, so I’ve gotten really good at commuter flats. I’m also into accessories, experimental proportions, and playing with texture. I look for slacks that look like suiting, or in herringbone or tweed. I tend to focus on the classics, but I’m big on finding what works for you. Your personal style becomes your branding. It’s about finding a way to express yourself.

Favorite brands?
Cuyana. It’s a start up, and its team travels around the world to find high quality materials for its accessories. It makes an amazing, super premium leather tote. I appreciate companies making fashion accessible. I’m also a fan of modern urban, like T by Alexander Wang and Carven, with its boxy button-ups and cut outs. Vince is always so focused and edited, and Theory excels at making the body seem so sleek. It’s bringing back the trouser. I am always impressed by companies and designers who have kept the brand the same by being super super consistent. I also like finding unexpected pieces at Target. Labels don’t and shouldn’t matter. I like to mix high and low. Zara does that really well.

Any style advice?
Fit is so important for me. People get obsessed by the sizes on the tags, and it drives me nuts. I think it’s silly. If I can speak about it in a casual way on the blog, that’s great. It’s all about working proportions and finding your personal style. Certain proportions don’t always work out on me, like peplums. I also have to think about materials and textures more than I initially thought. I love Rag and Bone jeans, but they’re very thin. It also sounds weird, but I think about balancing out the shoes. Sometimes a really narrow shoe doesn’t work if you have hips.

What’s it like working with your significant other?
Olga: He balances me out and keeps me grounded. He reminds me to look at quality. Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you are saving. As far as the blog, he always directs where the photos should be shot. Since we’re in the East Bay, we have so many great places to choose from.
Nick: I say, “Tell me what you’re going to wear, and I’ll let you know where we should shoot.” She has this great ability to find pieces that didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Any tips for dressing well without blowing a budget?
A lot of things in my closet were handed down. My watch is from over 30 years ago. But I shop on sale, and I’ve made some big purchases. I just make sure my investments aren’t overly trendy. I want them to be timeless.

How did you decide to live in El Cerrito?
He was living in Oakland and I was living in the city. When we moved in together, we wanted a middle point. I went to [UC] Berkeley and really liked the East Bay. We looked at El Cerrito, which was quiet, and I liked it. We’ve been here four years. We set our roots down here.

Favorite local places?
The El Cerrito theater is one of my favorite places, and Elevation 66 next door is great. We also like the Marin Headlands, and sandwiches at Genova.

How do you see the world of fashion blogging evolving?
For a while now, it always seems to be the same circle of bloggers making it work as a living. It’s hard for people with daytime jobs. I would love to go to New York Fashion Week, and to see backstage, but how do you make that relatable? A lot of that content can be very much the same, and you need to start thinking about how you can make it different.

What’s next for the blog?
I want to give a more personal and real view of what fashion is, and keep it very grounded in my intense love of fashion.