New York-based Bryan Grey-Yambao is certainly better known as BryanBoy. The jet-setting, fur coat and shorts-wearing, Louis Vuitton-loving (Nicolas Ghesquire for Louis Vuitton, that is, as of late) 33-year old has been blogging about fashion for ten years now. To put that in context, as Jenna Sauers wrote in the Observer in 2008, "That’s longer than the Sartorialist (which Scott Schuman started in 2005), longer than Garance Doré (2006), longer than Susie Lau (2006), and longer than Rumi Neely and Tavi Gevinson (2008)." So, what does ten years for one of fashion's most famous bloggers look like?
Depending on what you read, BryanBoy, 33, is either one of the most significant forces in furthering fashion in the digital era or one of a handful of antagonists in the story of the end of what we formerly knew as fashion journalism. Regardless of which camp with which you identify (we certainly know where Suzy Menkes falls in light of her 2013 article entitled, "The Circus of Fashion"), Yambao's influence is rather undeniable and his contributions are anything but insignificant. As one of the industry's first prominent personal style and fashion bloggers, he is one of the pioneers of fashion's flourishing on the web, in addition to or as opposed to in traditional paper publications. Also important is his contribution to the development and promotion of alternate ways of advertising and viewing fashion, namely in the digital realm (think: gaining instant-exposure for brands from a large fashion-savvy audience; as BuzzFeed writes, "They also give brands something print fashion magazines can’t: a direct view into how fans react to their products."). In addition, he helped "set the standards for designer 'gifting' and disclosure of same in the fashion blogosphere, an arena where it is currently considered acceptable for a blogger to take international airfare, accommodation, designer goods and sometimes even celebrity-style appearance fees from the major brands they cover."
Since launching his site in 2004 from his parent’s home in Manila, Bryan was one of the first to leverage the expansive audience on the internet to "forge a dedicated outlet for personal fashion expression and has been credited with pioneering the candid tone of voice employed by style bloggers, along with self-styled ‘editorial’ photoshoots," says Business of Fashion. His site, which is part of the NowManifest network (a curated blog portal connecting audiences to the most prominent voices in the fashion blogosphere, such as Anna Dello Russo, Rumi Neely, and Elin Kling's sites), garners international attention and reportedly draws in over 4 million page views per month - an impressive feat in itself. But more about that in a moment.
Some pin BryanBoy's rise to blogger fame to Marc Jacobs' naming his 2008 BB bag after Yambao; others say his 2009 invitation to sit front row at Dolce & Gabbana was the solidifying factor in his already very promising career. Still others consistently identify that 2010 photo of him sitting amongst the likes of the most traditional fashion forces (think: Suzy Menkes, Michael Roberts, Sally Singer, Anna Wintour, and Hamish Bowles) at the aforementioned show in Milan (pictured below) as proof of the Bryan's ascension into the ranks of a full blown industry insider.
Bloggers have gotten nothing if not flack for well, ... blogging; particularly those of the jet-setting, gifted-clothing-wearing, personal style type. They turn industry norms (and the traditional fashion show seating assignments) on their heads, but what is less frequently discussed is that very little of this comes without the necessary groundwork. Yes, we have all heard about the privileged backgrounds of some of the most successful personal style bloggers, but should that necessarily exclude them from enjoying the brands they've built. I'm not so sure. Back to Bryan: he is a worthy mention in terms of actually putting in work and maintaining an impressive knowledge of the workings of the industry as a whole, as well as its individual components.
The entrepreneur (a term that seems a bit more appropriate) is knowledgeable. In case you thought that Alexander Wang was the originator of those shopping bag-as-a-purse type bags he showed for Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2014, BryanBoy knows off of the top of his head that Chanel, in fact, showed them first, in 2008. Such knowledge comes from constant research. "I read every single word of every single magazine," he said a few years ago. Moreover, while most sites (especially those that are on the same level as bryanboy.com) have an array of helping hands, Bryan does it all himself. He shoots, writes and edits all of his own content (without a full time assistant or intern). As for the photos, he says he has friends help him out, but otherwise, "everything is really organic, and I don't plan shoots. It's not like I have a full-time photographer! I've actually considered hiring one, but then it would be so contrived." When he is not traveling, which takes up a fair share of his time, he blogs on his FiDi windowsill, not unlike Carrie Bradshaw.
The requisite level of knowledge that a handful of the biggest bloggers (Bryan and Susie Lau come to mind immediately) have is certainly part of why industry-recognition for bloggers has evolved. Beginning in 2010, bloggers “who have covered fashion in a significant or knowledgeable way in the past year” became eligible to vote for the annual Council of Fashion Designers of America Award winners. Of BryanBoy's inclusion, Colin McDowell, a well-known BOF contributor, wrote on his personal site: "Tavi and Bryanboy are both up there with the cream of the industry who have in the past been chosen with great care as people with expertise in the field, people whose judgement is trusted as being based on wide-ranging experience of the fashion world. People who know." Retailers, like Holt Renfrew, have welcomed them, saying: "Bloggers are knowledgeable and influential contributors to the modern media landscape. Their opinions and visuals are relevant, creative and thought-provoking, providing a constant source of inspiration." Designers are also enamored with bloggers. In 2009, Stefano Pilati, then still in his tenure at YSL, said of BryanBoy and co., "I would like to sit with them and ask them where they come from. Because it’s very easy to judge from your bed. At the same time, I’m fascinated."
I think it is safe to say that Bryan, who Grazia labeled "possibly the most famous fashion blogger in the world" in 2012, has not succeeded simply as a result of his impressive understanding of the fashion industry. He has mastered his personal voice, the tone of his site; The Observer calls it a "rare quality of appearing to offer total, unvarnished honesty." Teen Vogue noted its "unique point of view." Bryan shed light on his approach to fashion blogging, telling The Coveteur not too long ago, “Fashion should be fun, spontaneous and frivolous." He said his writing style is "very targeted to a young audience."
And while that audience is a crucial element of his success, his ability to maintain it and really speak to his followers is maybe the most telling part. Many brands do not know how to connect with such a large number of people and sustain those relationships. Of his process, Bryan says: "These days you really have to do something unique. Number one, you have to provide context for everything you do. Anyone can take a good picture but what does it convey? What’s the message? Also entertain your readers; take them to a different place."
Another one of his strengths is his ability to evolve. As you may know, his site started as a travel blog; hence, his first-ever blog post ten years ago, which he describes as a post dedicated to "whining about excess baggage." Of his launch, he says: "I started my blog in my bedroom in the Philippines after I went to Russia for a month, and I thought I would create a diary." He elaborates, saying: "I started my site because I wanted to interact with people around the world." And that is exactly what he has done.
His presence has since grown to extend beyond the web and beyond the front row. In 2012, he joined the cast of judges for the 19th cycle of America's Next Top Model. The following year, he collaborated with Adrienne Landau for a unisex collection of colorful fur accessories. As of this fall, he debuted his latest project, BryanBoy Goes to College," with Teen Vogue and Conde Nast, in which he goes to college campuses around the U.S. in search of the latest in fashion and style. These are just three of his other projects.
As for the abundance of personal style bloggers, who want to make it big like him and his famous pals, BryanBoy says it isn't as easy as it looks. He told Teen Vogue: "I think it's important to have a voice because so many people out there really just say, 'OK, I want to be a fashion blogger, so I'm just going to post pictures of me wearing clothes.' It has to go beyond that. And then of course, a lot of bloggers only want to sit in the front row and get gifts. It really doesn't work like that! The most successful bloggers turn their blog into a business. It's a full-time job, but a lot of bloggers are blinded by the glamour aspect of it. In reality, it's like icing on the cake."
And in case that's not enough, he dispels yet another misconception for us; this one about his wardrobe. Bryan told Fashionista recently that not everything is gifted. Instead, one of his biggest expenses, in addition to travel, is tied to most of the clothes you see him sporting on his website. He says: "A huge chunk of my personal income without doubt goes to clothes. I believe in spending my own money on clothes and accessories that I love because it's the only way to show authenticity and passion in what I do. Designers are dressing a lot of bloggers -- yes, I'm one of them sometimes. But in the end, you have to return [the clothes]. A smart reader can tell who's wearing clothes that aren't theirs because they shoot them once and you'll never see them wear it again."
This sentiment goes against a large percentage of what we read in terms of the lives of bloggers, making it ever-the-more refreshing that such a successful blogger is doing things on his own terms. Moreover, he says, "How can you develop your own sense of style or identity when you are not wearing clothes that are really yours?"
Here's to 10 more years, BryanBoy!