Philippine blogger stirs a fashion revolution

Philippine blogger Bryan Yambao went from reading his mother's magazines to the front rows of the world's top catwalks at warp speed, as the Internet demolishes the exclusive barriers of high fashion.

Supermodel-thin and fond of wearing colourful hats, fur-collared cardigans and handbags, the 24-year-old is now an industry heavyweight who hangs out with the likes of supermodel Naomi Campbell and designer Marc Jacobs.

"If you ask me, all of my dreams have already come true. What else can you ask for," Yambao said in a speech at an independent fashion bloggers' conference in New York late last year.

Yambao's vehicle for fashion stardom is his online journal at www.bryanboy.com, which delivers fresh, irreverent, and witty critiques of the world's newest trends on expensive clothing and accessories.

The site attracts more than 200,000 unique visitor hits a day, while nearly 52,000 people follow his Twitter stream, giving the jet-setting former web designer from Manila awesome powers to thrash or promote a product.

The blog is also studded with money-spinning ads that would be the envy of fashion magazines that have only a small fraction of his readership.

Recent posts told of his labours to buy Prada's red men's wingtips ("It's the shoe of the season, no doubt") and how Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher stole the thunder from fashion figures at a Sao Paulo show.

"I've heard several rumours that they were paid about half a million dollars to be here. Celebrities. They always f-- up the whole experience," Yambao ranted.

Drawing heavily on the Paris Hilton playbook, the blog is also as much a homage to the author as style, with photos of him in outrageous, gender-bending outfits.

"Shower me with attention and inflate my ego. Email photos of your love and I'll add you to my ever-growing collection. Be creative! Be spontaneous!" he wrote.

The biggest fashion labels indeed do work super hard to inflate his ego, as evidenced by one of his latest posts for the current fashion week in Paris.

"I'm trying to enjoy the calm before my set of shows," he wrote.

"My invites are starting to pour in. So far I'm confirmed at Isabel Marant, Mugler, Balmain, AF Vandevorst, Gareth Pugh, Rochas, Damir Doma, Chanel, etc. Can't wait to receive more of my invitations!"

The traditional media also love him.

"Bringing androgyny and attitude to the blogosphere since 2004, Bryanboy's reflections on fashion never fail to entertain," Elle magazine wrote, in an excerpt posted in his blog.

"With his sharp wit and cheeky style choices, Manila-based blogger Bryanboy is on the brink of international stardom," Teen Vogue wrote.

Yambao's extraordinary online career began with him blogging about his foreign travels in 2004.

But he had always been drawn to fashion, even as a 10-year-old studying at a strict Manila Catholic school.

"I would steal my mum's magazines and read them at school," Yambao said in his New York speech last year. Yambao initially agreed to be interviewed by AFP but then did not reply to e-mailed questions.

From a puny readership of his friends and family, the blog took off in 2007 after his posts caught the eye of Jacobs, the influential American creative director of French design house Louis Vuitton.

"I discovered this sort of satirical little film that Bryanboy had done of me, and I was really amused by it. I started to look at the blog and I thought, this guy is so into fashion," Jacobs said in a clip posted on Yambao's site.

Jacobs named an ostrich leather tote bag, BB, on his own 2008 fall collection, in the Filipino blogger's honour.

"Love your passion for fashion," the designer gushes in a post on Yambao's site. "After all, where would designers be without enthusiasm like yours?"

In 2009 Dolce and Gabbana put Yambao and other top bloggers on the front row at the Milan fashion week, beside traditional industry arbiters such as Vogue's Anna Wintour and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune.

Menkes, the doyenne of the fashion press, said bloggers had democratised an industry that had long been used to having everything dictated from the top down by the fashion houses.

"And then along comes Twitter and all of a sudden somebody walks out of a, say, Louis Vuitton show and says, 'That show sucked. I hated it,'" she said in an interview posted online from last year's Berlin's fashion trade show.

"But that can go viral and other people can answer... and suddenly you're faced with three million people saying negative things. It's pretty terrifying for these brand managers."

Yambao, who had had his Facebook account fill up with a maximum 5,000 friends a long time ago, appears to revel in the irony of a Third-World blogger dictating to the rich what to wear.

"It did happen to me, you know, somebody from the boonies, in the Philippines," he said in his New York speech.

One of Yambao's friends from the Philippines, fashion reporter and blogger Ingrid Go-Chua, said his spectacular career in breaking through one of the world's most exclusive industries was an inspiration across Asia.

"A lot of Asian people look up to him. He's like a beacon of a person. In the Third World, you never thought that dreams would come true but he made them come true. He's put the Philippines on the map," she told AFP.

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