Rachel Autenrieth, Lauren Athalia Photography, BECASA, Emily Raffield, Sara Aguilar, Stacy Alderson Makeup


Linen Scout Top by BECASA

Creating a Muse

The Power of the Influencer

By Jordan Staggs | Photography by Lauren Athalia | Styling by BECASA; Emily Raffield and Sara Aguilar | Makeup by Stacy Alderson

What does it take for someone to become a muse? That’s a question Emily Raffield has often pondered since starting her clothing and lifestyle brand, BECASA, which boasts two retail locations along the Gulf of Mexico and a robust online presence. It’s also the question that was top of mind for her as we discussed BECASA’s recent lifestyle shoot with social media influencer and model Rachel Autenrieth, with whom Raffield has worked on her collection’s campaign shoots for about four years now.

“I recognized Rachel had that ability to bring a campaign to life for us,” Raffield shares of the fashion-focused influencer with an audience of around 206,000 across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. “Whatever we create with her is usually a leading campaign. She has the look and the talent and puts off a subtle, relaxed vibe that is very BECASA. It’s the vibe we want our brand to exude, and that’s hard to find in a model. There have been only a few others over the years who genuinely match that.”

It’s that certain je ne sais quoi, Raffield says, that lends another layer of allure to the sphere of online influencers, who have been a rising force in brand marketing for the past several years now. Anyone can put on an article of clothing or use a particular product and share their thoughts on social media, but what makes a real influencer is harder to pinpoint. It requires charisma that cannot always be taught and cannot feel forced. When amassing the collection of influencers featured in this issue of VIE, we noticed an undercurrent of authenticity and confidence that ran through this socially savvy group. But what makes people flock to their Instagram, TikTok, or blog accounts?

“They’re showcasing a lifestyle people aspire to have,” says Raffield, who is an influence in her own right, though she’s reluctant to admit it. Her 2015 coffee-table book, Saints of Old Florida, showcases the Gulf Coast lifestyle that exists only along the “Forgotten Coast” surrounding her hometown of Apalachicola. The book sparked many readers to emulate that laidback, fishing-town mentality of slow living, authenticity (again, a key to any true influencer’s mission), family, and respect for the beautiful world around you. BECASA was born from that desire in 2018, first as an online storefront and later her first bricks-and-mortar boutique in Apalach’. She now has a second location in the 30Avenue lifestyle center at Inlet Beach. Raffield typically prefers to let others shine on camera when modeling her clothing. Still, she is undeniably the beating heart of the BECASA lifestyle, sharing her stories via the brand’s blog, social media channels, and email newsletters. She, like many influencers, is a talented storyteller. Her words, photographs, and products paint the complete picture of a beautiful lifestyle many others aspire to have.

As a business owner, her perspective on the “influencer craze” is a bit different. Nearly every brand, from the independently run small business to the largest corporation, now works with influencers—lifestyle ambassadors who are not necessarily celebrities but have amassed huge followings on social media or other online channels—to promote their wares. This promotion could be as simple as posting a photo wearing a piece of clothing and tagging the brand. It can also go as in-depth as hosting giveaways for the influencer’s audience, inviting them to exclusive events, having them tell their story and how it connects to the brand they are sharing, and more.

“We went through the blogger and print decade for promotions, and now these people have the mic,” Raffield says of the social media celebs, some of whom have millions of followers across various channels. Still, not every influencer collaboration helps grow a business. “The success rate can vary,” she continues. “You have to do your homework and find people to work with who share your love of something.” She likens finding the right influencers to connecting with your kin. “You all want to be able to hang out and have fun, to become friends; that’s what makes this process special.”

Like in many business and creative ventures, collaboration is key when working with influencers. A team of people comes together to style and shoot every BECASA campaign, and Raffield understands that every one of them brings something unique to the table and has influence in their own way. Photographer Lauren Athalia, she says, is a “master of light.” She has shot many BECASA campaigns for around four years, as well. “Lauren has a dynamic eye that’s rare. She guides each shoot with light, the pieces in each shot, the background, the motion, the mood,” Raffield expounds.

Sara Aguilar, part of the BECASA team, works heavily in styling each shoot. Stacy Alderson is the beauty guru behind the breezy, natural makeup looks that exude Gulf Coast glamour. This talented group of women converged to create a muse when working with Autenrieth.

“We can shoot for nine hours, and we try to capture things that make you feel a certain way.” Beyond just the models and clothing, this could mean a long boardwalk, a fence along the edge of a sand dune, or a palm leaf, for example. “People know that feeling. That’s what we’re sharing—the beach.”

The beach, in many ways, is the original influencer of the Gulf Coast. Millions have flocked to its white sands and emerald waters for centuries, seeking a specific way of life that can only be found along the shore. “The beach is so powerful because everyone can share it,” Raffield muses. “It’s connected to so many experiences at all ages for so many people; it’s part of some of their best memories. Living here, you experience it in a different way. It’s a divine thing.”

Working with an influencer like Autenrieth, who embodies what they promote every day, adds to the brand’s strong foundation.

The beautiful setting, shops, restaurants, architecture, and opportunities along the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast have also prompted many young people to move to the area to be online influencers. “It goes back to the aspirational lifestyle thing we talked about,” says Raffield. “People want to be here when they can’t be, so they’ll follow these influencers to get a dose of that when they’re at home.”

This phenomenon is fascinating to witness and influential in itself, as the new group of residents and their followers who visit, in turn, change the dynamics of a place.

Whether sharing all the area’s “secrets” or promoting it to the point that it could become overcrowded is a good or bad thing remains to be seen, and the BECASA owner recognizes that. “The sheer beauty of the 30-A area is so unique—that’s rare, and so is the rural nature of Apalachicola. It’s our job to share this place in a way that protects and honors it as a natural resource,” she says. “It’s important to respect that and give people information in a responsible way, both in preserving the area’s integrity and in how we influence our audience. I’m very aware of what I observe daily on social media and what it can do to your headspace. My goal is to preserve our authenticity in anything we do, especially digitally; we want to build a community that trusts us and to be aware of the impact we have on our followers.”

BECASA releases several collections of beach-inspired clothing and lifestyle products annually, undergoes big and small photo shoots, hosts trunk shows and book signings, and collaborates on special events such as dinners and retreats. Raffield says it’s crucial to her to showcase the beach in different ways and let the styling shine. Each piece and accessory is shown off in the best light while retaining the relaxed, comfortable, and stylish brand message she and her team have built these past five years.

Working with an influencer like Autenrieth, who embodies what they promote every day, adds to the brand’s strong foundation. “Rachel and BECASA is such a fun and creative partnership,” Raffield shares. “She helped us style, pose, and direct this shoot. That’s the magic of it; everyone gets creative input, and it adds another layer to what we’re doing. Then Rachel shares it with her community. It’s classic networking in a new form, but it’s still all about authentic connection and outreach.”

Visit ShopBECASA.com to shop now, read Emily Raffield’s journal, or see the events calendar. Follow @becasa and @emilyraffield on Instagram for more content.

Rachel Autenrieth, Lauren Athalia Photography, BECASA, Emily Raffield, Sara Aguilar, Stacy Alderson Makeup

Swimwear by Bahía María

Get to Know the Muse

Rachel Autenrieth | @RACHAUTENRIETH

Although she may be the muse for BECASA’s latest campaign and the Gulf Coast lifestyle it exudes, model and influencer Rachel Autenrieth is much more than that. As fellow (albeit fictional) influencer Daisy Jones said, “I am not a muse—I am the somebody.” VIE was thrilled to catch up with Autenrieth to learn more about how she got started on social media and how she balances online life while keeping it real.

VIE: How did you start using social media as a media platform as an influencer?

Rachel Autenrieth: I have always loved documenting my life and memories with my friends and family. I grew up basically directing my neighbors and siblings or whoever I could pressure into making videos with me (lol). I would sit on the MacBook laptop that I begged my dad for and would edit them. It’s always been a passion of mine, and I look at social media as a life scrapbook or a memory placeholder.

COVID-19 hit when I was in college. I moved into my sister’s house for a few months and then to the beach with my parents for a few months after graduating online. During this time, I started posting a ton of content to all platforms and realized I was gaining a loyal following. I realized this was something I could monetize while sharing things I love, and I feel very lucky and thankful for it.

VIE: What is your favorite part about your job, and what is your least favorite?

RA: My least favorite part is dealing with the negativity and hate. The longer I remain on the internet, the more I realize I will never please everyone. It’s taken some time to get that through my head. But my favorite part would be the sweet and supportive messages I get daily, which are very rewarding. I also love being my own boss, making my own schedule, and working with brands I have worn and loved for years. It feels very surreal.

VIE: What is a highlight moment you’ve experienced as an influencer?

RA: A highlight moment would be a message I received from a college gal that read along the lines of how her mother had just passed away, and my YouTube content was the only thing getting her through the day. I think it was a shocking moment for me because it made me feel like what I put out there is being watched by actual human beings and helping people in a positive way, and I really, really love that.

VIE: What words of wisdom would you give someone interested in becoming an influencer or starting a brand?

RA: Do it for yourself and no one else! I used to be so scared to put myself out there because I was nervous about what people would say or think. Everyone likes to make fun of you when you are trying to “make it,” but once you “make it,” everyone wants advice and tips. Be passionate about what you do, work hard, and be kind!

VIE: What are you currently watching, listening to, or reading?

RA: Currently binge-listening to Olivia Rodrigo’s and Zach Bryan’s new albums. I am not a big reader, but I just wrapped up watching Hijack on Apple TV+, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Definitely watch it if you like suspense/thrillers.

VIE: Besides your phone, what’s one thing you can’t leave home without?

RA: A good lip balm. I have a million all over the house and one in every purse I own!

VIE: What’s your top travel destination for fall?

RA: I would love to visit the mountains! I feel like it’s cozy and relaxing for fall.

VIE: What’s your favorite fall trend?

RA: Loving the ballet flats/loafers trend right now. Fall fashion is one of my favorites!

VIE: Thank you, Rachel!

— V —

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