He may be in Lapland, but I'm a little disappointed that Bryanboy is facetiming me in a basic grey poloneck.
After all, this is a man who posts videos of himself prowling in the snow like a leopard, dressed in a canary yellow jacket and matching frilly shorts, wide-brimmed hat and thigh-high boots.
Few people would pack Chanel, Moncler, Prada and JW Anderson for such a freezing-cold trip. But then few people make as much money per post as Bryanboy, the Filipino influencer extraordinaire with a combined social media presence of more than two million followers, who only has to pull on a Saint Laurent snow boot to generate thousands in earned media value for the brand.
Given that an influencer with his follower count can earn six figures per brand-ambassadorship gig, and up to £25,000 (NZ$46,938) for a single sponsored post, even this estimate is conservative. So, no: in Bryanboy's world a Decathlon snowsuit wouldn't really cut it.
On this occasion, however, he is not being paid — he is merely on holiday. "Nobody paid us," he says, flipping his phone round to show me the idyllic snowy view beyond his luxury log cabin. "We thought, OK, let's go up north and spend a week here. No one's shooting winter content. Give them snow!"
For those who have not heard of the 38-year-old social media sensation, here's a layman's guide.
You know when your teenage daughter puts on her favourite bikini and spends an inordinate amount of time taking selfies by the pool? Bryanboy is that person, times a million. Or 1.1 million, to be precise, since that's the number of TikTok followers he has amassed since joining the platform in April.
But anyone feeling despondent at the three "likes" amassed by the desultory dance routine they posted on TikTok over lockdown in a desperate bid to spend quality time with their kids should be aware that, when it comes to making a digital impact, he has form.
Bryanboy (real name Bryan Grey Yambao) was one of the original fashion bloggers who appeared in the early Noughties, and one of the first to be invited to sit front row at fashion shows. He started his blog, Bryanboy, in 2004 while working as a freelance web developer in his native Manila.
Funny, opinionated and outspoken, he was a breath of fresh air in an industry ruled by frosty fashion editors whose opinions tended to toe the party line. His colourful clothes always ensured he was a favourite with the street-style photographers at a time when personality increasingly began to count.
And while the old guard may initially have been sniffy about upstart bloggers sitting next to them on the front row, Bryanboy's charm won them round — not least Anna Wintour, who, after sitting next to him at a show, included him in a feature about bloggers making an impact in American Vogue's Power issue in 2010.
Now, 10 years later, he has gone from blogger to influencer to industry expert: he consults for Gucci, Dior, Valentino, Michael Kors and the like. But while the Bryanboy I speak to is softer and less sassy than the one I first met a decade ago at the shows, he hasn't lost his trademark wit; in fact it's this same approach that has led to his roaring success on TikTok, a platform that rewards satire and personality.
In an interview with GQ in March, he wrote off the app, dismissing it by suggesting, "It's for young people." What changed? "Quarantine. Corona made me do it. Literally every single job I had from March until the end of the year was cancelled. Events, appearances, activations, everything. So I thought, 'OK, why not join TikTok? I'll make videos at home!' "
A video titled "What it's like to ride the bus for the first time", in which he throws an Hermès blanket over his seat and drinks Cartier champagne through a straw, has been viewed 20.4 million times.
Like all outspoken people he has had his spats — most recently on Twitter, when he tweeted that "H&M is for poor people" (now deleted) in the context of a debate about high fashion and high street. "Anyone who can afford a £1,000 Celine bra top is not going to shop at H&M, but people took it out of context and called me classist. I don't see it as classist, saying that a certain brand falls under a certain income bracket. I'm poor compared to Jeff Bezos," he says today.
He admits the way he earns his living is "kind of absurd" and sometimes makes him feel guilty. "It's not an 8-to-5 job. I travelled for more than 300 days last year, sacrificed my personal life, didn't see my husband, my family. There are a lot of sleepless nights, but then you make more than … " he trails off. "It's insane. It's definitely more than someone makes in a year." He pauses. "Times ten."
Unfiltered though he may be, it is worth noting that Bryanboy was calling out racial prejudice and lack of BAME representation in the fashion industry long before the Black Lives Matter movement started getting attention; earlier this year he slammed Paris fashion writers for covering Kanye West's Yeezy show at a moment when West had been outspoken in his support for Donald Trump.
Still, Bryanboy confesses it took him some time to find his own voice — especially on TikTok. "I'm 38 years old," he says, matter-of-factly. "I don't have abs. I can't dance. I don't know how to lip sync. English is my second language. Even if you say something that triggers someone, at the end of the day you need to stop them from scrolling and choose your account. You only have about two seconds to capture their attention."
Bryanboy moved to Stockholm in 2017. "My husband is Swedish. I met him 11 years ago and we've been married for five years. We did long distance for a long time. He didn't want to move to New York, so I moved here." Despite most of his life being an open book, he declines to reveal his husband's identity. "I always keep him out of it. He's not even online. Not Facebook, not Instagram."
His family aren't in the game either; his father is the retired owner of a fertiliser company, while his two younger sisters and younger brother work "in corporate". They all still live in Manila.
As Bryanboy knows, in the fickle world of social media it pays to think ahead. "Of course social media will always be part of my identity. But do I really want to be photographed online when I'm 48?"
For now, though, he's happy in Lapland, posing up a storm in a Chanel poncho. "I really do feel that I belong in the wilderness," he tells his 589,000 Instagram followers. "If one day I disappear all of a sudden y'all can find me in an igloo somewhere. I need to think about my retirement plan!"
The post garners 5,844 likes. It probably buys him a new log cabin too.
Written by: Laura Craik
© The Times of London