Denzel Bryan — a 23 year old New York creative with a presence that is both inspiring and kind. This FIT Alumni and first ever male model to appear on the cover of our very own Blush Magazine, has made his name one to be remembered in the fashion industry. With a 17.2K following on Instagram (@thedenzelb), and features in publications such as American Vogue, Vogue Paris, British GQ, W Magazine, and HypeBeast, his style and attitude proves to be nothing less of influential. I sat down to talk with Denzel on NYC’s High Line.
Do you consider yourself a fashion influencer? Why?
“I do consider myself a fashion influencer because through my social media presence and all the people I surround myself with, especially when it comes to fashion week or it comes to certain events…I get a lot of attention through social media. I’m no huge superstar but I do believe my creative output, what I put on, or how I style myself, makes an impression on certain people.”
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
“I went to FIT. Originally, I was studying Fashion Business Merchandising—and then I transitioned from that to Advertising and Marketing Communications. I graduated with an AMC degree.”
Were you involved in any clubs or organizations in school?
“I was involved in the Models and Stylists Association. I remember my friend Bruno created it, and I was one of the modeling coaches for a short period of time. That was the only club I was traditionally a part of. Other clubs like the Black Student Association, I would go to some meetings and help with certain events.”
I know you were involved with Blush Magazine. How did that come about?
“I was the first male model on the cover of Blush Magazine for the Winter 2014 Issue. That was so cool for me to have that opportunity and to have a tangible magazine cover. One of my friends, Collins Nai, was a photographer and then became the creative director. He reached out to me…and was like ‘Hey, we are shooting a winter issue and I would really like for you to be on the cover for it, you and another female model.’ So we did that, and we shot at Roosevelt Island. Then maybe a year after that, I styled one of his editorials. I was never officially a part of the [Blush] team, I was just really close with the photographer.”
How has your educational experience helped you get to where you are now?
“When I attended FIT, or just school in general, I always had the sense of ‘I don’t really need school.’ I’m more so into experience and learning through experience, but I think having the marketing and advertising degree helped me with writing. [My best friend Shaquille and I] have a blog together called The ComMENdable, which is basically our brand. A lot of the things that we output through The ComMENdable on our website, especially through writing, it’s always a dual effort but a lot of times I will do the writing and he will look over it. So, things like when to post something, the algorithm of Instagram, writing certain things and how to market it to a certain demographic, I think my educational experience at FIT helped me a lot with that. It took me a long time to really appreciate it and understand it, but ultimately looking back I think that I would have loved to pay school more attention. When I was going to FIT, I was agency signed for modeling so I was going to castings, and that was my focus. Now I feel that if I paid a little bit more attention and put in a little bit more effort, it could have taken me so much farther than my journey has now. [But] I am not complaining, because this is my personal journey and my personal timing.”
Is fashion blogging your profession now or just a hobby?
“As of now, fashion blogging and digital content creation, that’s a profession for me. Before, I would say it was a hobby but I always had an outlook of ‘It can take me somewhere.’ We live in a digital age, we live in a social media age, so you can actually make an income and sustain a livable lifestyle through fashion blogging. I just left my recent job. The same 40 hours I can put into a company working for someone else can be the same 40 hours I put into my own work, or just using Instagram as a tool to make money. I am in a position now where I am making money through Instagram, and I know if I put more time into it, I can make so much more. It’s a career, a legit career.”
What or who got you to start blogging?
“My best friend, Shaquille. Every time we would go somewhere as a duo we would always be coordinated, and people would come up to us asking us what we did, where we were from, and we never had one clean cut answer. I mean, still to this day we don’t have one clean cut answer ‘cause we do so much, but one day he literally texted me like, ‘Denzel, let’s start a blog.’ I was like, ’Let’s do it.’ We started a blog, and released it in the beginning of 2016, and have been taking it from there…. I’m very grateful for him. I always have ideas, but it’s hard for me to put it into fruition, that’s why I like the partnership that we have because we have each other to pick each other up. [The ComMENdable] is a door I went through that is opening up so many more doors that I can walk through and figure out what I want to do with myself. The blog is helping me realize that things are limitless, and things I thought I could never do before, I am capable of doing.”
What or who inspires you when it comes to fashion?
“Rihanna, of course. I think Rihanna is probably my forefront for most inspiration when it comes to fashion because she just has so many great and iconic fashion moments. She is so confident with herself that if she has insecurities, you could never tell. Rihanna can lose weight, Rihanna can be a size 0, Rihanna can be a size 6, Rihanna can be a size 10, and she’s so comfortable in what she wears. So, I always took pride in myself; being who I am no matter who I’m around, who I talk to, who I meet. I’m going to dress the way I want to dress, talk the way I want to talk, and you’re either going to accept it or you’re not going to accept it. Seeing her and how she’s escalated to becoming such a great figure, I’m like ‘I can be that as well.’ I’m also very very inspired by a lot of models…Gigi and Bella Hadid; more so Bella Hadid because she’s so fashion forward; Kendall Jenner…, Chanel Iman, Joan Smalls…, Lexi Boling, Binx Walton…. I have a close friend, Theresa Hayes. She inspires me so much because she’s also a person who’s so herself and doesn’t conform to what fashion wants a model to be…. When it comes to influencers, I’m very very inspired by my best friend, Shaquille, @princelifted [on Instagram]. He posts things sometimes and im like, ‘I need to step it up.’ Everyone expects us to be on the same level, so I can’t just post something on the sidewalk. I need to do something extra. The biggest of them all would probably be Gisele Bundchen. She is arguably the greatest model of all time…. She has so much humility about her…. Something that is very important to me is to be human and to be humble and to understand that the janitor, the CEO, Anna Wintour, or the intern at the front desk, they all deserve the same amount of respect…when you initially meet them, unless they give you a reason not to…. We all have the same bones and we all the same bloodstream. So, Gisele, I thank you for leading and paving the way.”
What are some of your current fashion obsessions?
“For me and my own closet, I’m really in a stage now where I love oversized clothing. I love oversized hoodies. I love pairing a skinny skinny pant with an oversized hoodie and a boot. I love oversized overcoats.You can have a sweatsuit on with sneakers and you’ll put on an oversized coat and it’s a look, and it transitions from day to night. Right now, I also really love my Helmut Lang boots…. I’m obsessed with my YSL black strap boots. I can wear [them] forever and ever and ever. I went to Paris and I just purchased some Dior chunky sneakers designed by Kris Van Assche in a gray color way that isn’t available in America yet — I’m obsessed with those. As far as in the industry, I am loving Raf Simons and Calvin Klein…. And I love fragrance. I think that if you have on a good fragrance, it really just elevates your outfit. Right now, the fragrances I love are Yves Saint Laurent Y, Dior Sauvage, and Chanel Bleu. Natural fragrances are starting to become a big thing for me as well.”
If you could only wear one brand for the rest of your life, which brand would it be?
“This is a hard one…. I think it would be Balenciaga…. From archive Balenciaga, to previous designers at Balenciaga, even Alexander Wang Balenciaga, to the now flourishing Balenciaga — if there is one brand where I love everything from shoes to boots to accessories to clothing, it would be Balenciaga — or Calvin Klein.”
What is one of your most memorable experiences as an influencer thus far?
“Street style during Fashion Week — it always makes me feel so good about myself — that I can be recognized for street style. There’s some publications that will know my name or know my best friends name because we’re always together, some publications don’t, they’ll just post us…[but] even if they don’t know your name, they see your face and they see your style, and that in itself is an influence. American Vogue actually had a moment when they posted me and my best friend on their Instagram and that is probably my most memorable experience. Out of all of the pictures they could have taken, they decided to take that one picture and actually post it…. And just memorable moments like going to a show or walking down the street, or even on Instagram, people DMing me or coming up to me…that makes me feel like I’m doing something right. I’ve worked with so many great brands… and yes, that’s a big deal… but that can all end at any point…. I always look at it as there was someone before me and there can be someone after me. So while I have this opportunity…, let me make sure it has an impact on someone.”
How much time goes into the photos you post? Who takes them?
“If I’m posting for a brand, I like to shoot it [and post it] right away. If I’m posting something for my blog, that sometimes takes time, but it never really takes me a long period of time to get something done. Generally, it won’t take me longer than a day to have all the logistics set up. I don’t like to make people wait, and I don’t like to wait for anything, so I like to get things done and do it the way it should be done…. You really have to look at the details of any photo. You have to look at what’s in the background, what’s beside you, what’s the aesthetic of the photo. What emotion do you want to evoke? How do you want people to feel? How do you want people to see you? I’m like, ‘Let’s get this done.’ …[Shaquille] takes a lot of my pictures because he knows my angles so well…. I have a friend named Breeze…he takes a lot of my photos…especially for my birthday. And also this photographer and one of my good friends, Aren. He goes by @wishmd [on Instagram].”
What is your top Instagram tip?
“Make sure timing is right…knowing when to archive a photo and when to keep a photo up, knowing how long to keep a photo, especially if you want your Instagram to be curated a certain way…. Also, make sure your Instagram makes sense. When it comes to editing, there is nothing wrong with using different filters, but you have to make sure when someone goes on your Instagram page it makes sense visually before they actually click on a post. [In addition], don’t be afraid to use hashtags, don’t be afraid to interact with your followers…. You can have a certain presence on social media but it’s also important to know that you’re still human, and people like to connect with humans.”
What is your favorite photo you have ever posted?
“[It’s] from this modeling shoot I [did] maybe four years ago. It was shot [by a] photographer called Tarrice Love. He’s based in Brooklyn. It’s basically me in a black blazer and there’s a stocking cap over my head but the stocking cap is ripped on my face…. The way my bone structure is pictured…, the way my eyes connect with the camera, it’s just such a striking photo. I think out of any pictures I have ever posted, regardless if it was street style or just modeling or with friends, that specific photo from 4 years go has to be my favorite of all time. It hasn’t [received] the biggest engagement, but I just think it is such a striking and timeless picture.”
Greatest satisfaction of being a fashion blogger?
“Getting free products, that’s really satisfying. I was an influencer for Urban Outfitters for a year from the summer of 2017 to Spring Summer of 2018. They would send me clothes every month and I would shoot with them and everything…. I didn’t have to shop for a year, basically…. And knowing that being myself is taking me to a place where I can earn money, and I can have attention, and have an influence on other people, and work with multi-million dollar brands, that is satisfying to me…. [Also], It’s satisfying for me to know that I have control in what I’m doing and where I can go…. I can turn a brand away. Maybe doing something for a brand for free can help me in the long run but how am I going to pay my phone bill, how am I going to pay my rent, how am I going to pay my light bill? I have to think about those things…. If you’re a bread baker and you know you bake good bread, then know your worth and be confident in the bread that you’re baking.”
Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
“In five years, I will be 28. I hope to be in a place where I can be financially fluid, and I can really take care of my family. My family is so supportive…in everything I do and all of my habits. They don’t ask me for anything. I contribute to my family because I’m capable, but if I was dirt broke tomorrow I know they would be there for me and they wouldn’t ask me of anything…. Also, just be in a position where I’m more prominent in the fashion industry when it comes to creative direction, when it comes to working with different brands, or creatively directing brands, or writing for magazines. I would love love love, ultimately, to be a creative director for a magazine like French Vogue or French Elle or Elle UK or British Cosmopolitan, brands like that…. more so not even brands pinpointed on menswear but just so universal to go through eyes across the globe, whether it’s male or female or transgender. I just want to be in a position where I can truly, truly help people…. If you have the means to help people and you’re not doing it, then what kind of life are you really living? I feel like our purpose in life is to get to a place where we are self-sufficient enough to help others…whether it’s tying a person’s shoes or buying a person a pair a shoes.”