Bryanboy is the internet's original fashion blogger, but he has staying power. Today he takes to TikTok for the platform's returning fashion month, presenting "Joy in Fashion & Expression."
Some 15 years ago, Bryanboy was writing up fashion shows (and other escapades) from his parents' house in Manilla, winning over fans with the kind of acerbic commentary that's often in short supply nowadays. Along with Tavi Gevinson and Chiara Ferragni, Bryanboy alchemized his talents to become one of the first genuine influencers of his kind — see Marc Jacobs' FW08 “BB Bag” that was named after him.
As social media heralded in a new mode of communicating, fashion bloggers were ascending – somewhat controversially – to the same prestige as “traditional” journalists. Twitter turned a whole generation into amateur critics, while those blessed with an eye for good lighting and angles scored follower numbers on Instagram. However, neither platform was particularly conducive to engaging style analysis. Bryanboy’s use of TikTok is different; it’s informative, providing insight into some of fashion's biggest names, but with an irreverent, accessible flourish that takes viewers behind the velvet rope.
Bryanboy's medium has evolved, but his silver tongue remains intact. We caught up with him in Stockholm ahead of his appearance later today.
How has the definition of luxury changed throughout your career?
Luxury is something that changes all the time for me. When I was growing up in the Philippines, we didn't have money. When I was 13 my idea of luxury was a Louis Vuitton Speedy bag; at 15 it was a Prada nylon backpack; when I was 18, it was a Chanel bag.
So it changes. When I was younger, I would define luxury as something material and unobtainable. But now that I'm a senior citizen, luxury is free time and being able to do things on my own terms. Freedom to travel is an even greater luxury. To answer your question succinctly, luxury is something that is inaccessible.
How have you maintained your ability to be critical in the face of sponsored content, gifting, and brand partnerships?
Did you see when I compared Prada to Desigual earlier?
My relationships with brands have been built over the years, so there's an element of trust. There's also an element of truth that comes from a place of respect. I'm not going to randomly say something negative. Sure, I can be sassy, but I deliver it in a humorous kind of manner.
I like to think of myself as a unicorn because only I out of very, very few people could get away with what I say online. I know my limitations; I know my boundaries. I'm not going to create lies for a brand, and I really appreciate that my relationships with them are so strong that they take it in jest. I'm very transparent and it's always been like this from the beginning. In a way, the brands know what to expect from me.
Do you miss fashion shows or have you adapted to the digital format?
I was at a fashion show yesterday! I saw Fendi. I was in Milan with Kim [Jones] because he's a good friend. I've known him for 16 years, so he really wanted me to see the Ready-to-Wear.
I was crying after landing at Milan Linate airport from Stockholm. I had tears, because I was like, "Holy shit, I finally got out of my cage in Sweden." It's almost like I'm going back to my old life.
I do miss shows, but I do like some of the digital things that we're seeing. Not everything, of course, but it's expected in a way. They have no choice but to go digital.
You adopted TikTok before the masses, what took you to that platform?
I was late actually. I was allergic to the idea at the beginning.
I'll be completely honest, I was like: "I don't want to join. It’s all 16-year-old kids dancing; I don't know how to dance; I don't have a six-pack; I'm 39 next month."
When the pandemic happened, all my projects got canceled, literally, and I had too much time on my hands. So I'm like, "What am I going to do? I'm here in Sweden. I have the app. So why not?”
All of a sudden it just changed.
It's a whole new universe out there. What I love about TikTok is that it reminded me of when I went blogging in 2004. It's a space where I can create and really express myself in so many different ways. It re-energized me to a certain extent because Instagram felt stale whereas TikTok reminded me of doing long-form writing. It equaled freedom, and it gave me a space where I can be creative. It's really a place where I can express myself in different ways.
What are some pitfalls social media apps should avoid to stay relevant in their pursuit of connecting to youth culture?
It's not about Instagram feeling stale but repetitive. With Twitter, it's text; Instagram, it's an image. It felt one-dimensional. TikTok is short-form video; it's very interactive and engaging. Every single video that you see on there, it's being served to you because it's based on what you liked before, based on things that you've never seen before.
They don't want to limit you in a bubble; Instagram or Facebook keep you inside one bubble or one niche. You're only going to see the things you like.
Anti-Asian racism has received increased coverage recently. When you see brands post-black squares to social media with hashtags about ending anti-Asian racism, do you find that to be an effective tool against racism or more about brand optics?
I don't think it's necessarily about brand optics, especially now. We live in a different generation. It's 2021. We're all pressured to have our voice heard and make a point, so I think the notion of us being performative is going out the window. There's an expectation.
There's a culture of people demanding and wanting more from the brands and the people they see online. At this point, we all have a sense of responsibility, and we all have to act like politicians. Gone are the days when we're going to be quiet about a certain issue.
Personally, I'm really proud of some brands, especially the likes of Nike. Nike would say something to support "Stop Asian Hate," whereas it takes some luxury brands so long — this despite the fact they use Asians as their ATM machines.
I've recently had meetings with my key executive friends in Milan. I told them about this. I spoke to Gucci. They're going to do something with Gucci Equilibrium; they're also going to donate and do something with a charity. They’re all planning things, not just posting a black square. So I can't wait to see the results of that.
How would you describe TikTok’s impact on fashion?
I feel TikTok forced the fashion industry to rethink the way it communicates digitally, making old communication methods obsolete — that stiff, artificial, soulless, polished veneer fashion brands used for decades no longer resonates with an entire generation. Authenticity, diversity, and emotionally-compelling human stories that are in tune with the times are key. If you fail to adapt to the platform, you’ll be left behind.
I really loved when kids attempted to knit Harry Styles’ JW Anderson cardigan. I thought that was really cool and touching. Imagine a whole new generation of kids running to their crafts store to buy yarn and knitting away.
How does one develop and maintain good taste?
Define good taste! Someone’s good taste is my bad taste — and someone’s bad taste is my good taste. Taste is truly personal. Taste is something one develops over time. It’s constantly changing. Taste is a result of someone’s ability to digest anything that they see and what they like and adapting it to fit themselves. This old idea of “good taste” is something I really don’t believe in because it forces people to standardize what they should like.
You're a face of the luxury fashion space, but have you also adopted sweats and slides during the pandemic as the majority have?
I mean, I wore Celine sweatpants! I'm very true to myself. Comfort is really not my thing. I'm more comfortable in a Chanel coat at home. The whole idea of being in a T-shirt and sweatpants is not my normal, but I'll do it for content.