Bryanboy: How Fashion’s Original Influencer Became a TikTok Star | The Business Of Blogging, People, BoF Professional
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Last month, Bryanboy robbed Prada. But fashion’s original influencer is making no apologies for it.
“Today was the worst,” says Bryanboy with a healthy dose of irony, beginning a TikTok post documenting the act. “Can you imagine? I almost went to jail for theft?” After falling in love with a “major pair of earrings” from Prada’s online-only Spring/Summer 2021 show, he hatched a plan during Milan fashion week last month to unleash his “inner kleptomaniac.”
The next day, Bryanboy, whose real name is Bryan Grey Yambao, went to the Italian label’s showroom to see the collection in person. Once he spotted the earrings, he snatched them from the display, quickly slid them into his Issey Miyake coat pocket, and suspiciously fled the premises while trying not to look, well, suspicious.
But you won’t find Yambao in criminal court any time soon. That’s because the high-end heist was a work of fiction, staged for his popular TikTok account, which he started in April to combat boredom and seize a fast-emerging opportunity while quarantining in Stockholm, Sweden, where he lives. “Corona made me do it,” says Yambao. Six and a half months later, he has surpassed 1.1 million TikTok followers, roughly double the 585,000 followers he has amassed on Instagram.
On TikTok, whenever you post something fashion related, there has to be storytelling, there has to be a narrative.
Yambao thinks the highly-curated aesthetic of people looking perfect on Instagram has gone stale, especially during the pandemic. “What I love about TikTok is that it makes fashion alive again. It makes fashion exciting again,” he says. “[Instagram] is very static, very one dimensional; whereas on TikTok, whenever you post something fashion related, there has to be storytelling, there has to be a narrative.”
Yambao’s fashion influencer peers are expanding their presence on TikTok too, but many rely on posting what they wear to glamorous events or exotic locations. Never mind that these activities, now standard fashion influencer fare on Instagram, have been hit by social distancing measures. They also translate poorly on a platform which favours authentic, fun, and low production video content. Some have turned to more personal at home videos featuring their cooking skills or dancing to the latest dance memes like WAP from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion in hopes of ending up on #FYP, TikTok’s For You Page, the platform’s hit-making holy grail.
Yambao’s TikToks, by contrast, are more often short-form skits more akin to Absolutely Fabulous, the hit British show depicting the fictional lives of fashion-obsessed train wrecks Edina (Monsoon) and Patsy (Stone). “Bryan never really had an outlet for his true comedic voice,” says Peter Knell, Yambao’s former agent at IMG, who now runs his own advisory firm, Knell. “He always wanted someplace to put it. I don’t know if he ever really had a place to put it until now.”
In many of his TikTok videos, Yambao, 38, lampoons his own public persona: a sassy, flamboyant, candid and globe-trotting gay