Over 54K people follow him on instagram, readers listen (it’s said that whatever he endorses sells), and the brands that he writes about – he mostly only does if he likes their products, he swears – treat him as a collaborator and a vvip. Through all this, he has never once revealed his face TO the PUBLIC. Female was the first magazine to rope him in as a contributor back in 2010. as good friends do, we wanted to help him kick off his blog’s 10th anniversary with a challenge: be the guest creative director for our first accessories issue of the year, and show a different side to his craft. He said, game on. But first, we grilled him on how became this #influential.
Bagaholicboy (real name: Alvin Cher, insider nickname and what we call him throughout this 42-page section: BB) is not your average blogger. On his birthday, he receives enough bouquets from brands and friends to qualify as a mini celebrity (don’t kill us for saying that BB – it’s true). He gets invited to the most exclusive industry events and press trips alongside the local media (note: He doesn’t attend all of them – a packed schedule means he has to be selective). More recently, he had to hire his first full-time staff to assist with his workload. Did we add that he’s an ambassador of the hyper luxe, discreet chic Belgian leather goods house Delvaux?
BB would flat out dismiss his success – he even forbade us to use the word (“It’s not like I’m curing cancer,” he says.) But that’s how much of a big deal he’s become. And all without posting a single OOTD.
The evolution of this sharp-witted, irreverent and publicity-shy 42-year-old
in a business ruled by image-conscious millennials ought to be a case study. BB is no influencer – don’t call him one; it makes him flinch. In fact, his career (which he gave up a creative director post at a small publishing house in 2011 for) predates the term. Yet, like them, he thrives on his following.
He declines to reveal his blog’s readership, only going so far as to say that clients would get more eyeballs than they would with some local online magazines. On Instagram (@bagaholicboy), his reach pales in comparison to Yoyo Cao’s (214K), but beats the New York Times T Magazine’s chief fashion correspondent Alexander Fury’s (38.1K). And when it comes to where it counts most these days – engagement – he’s an A-lister.
Every post – distinguished by his “rustic, high contrast, real” photographs (think bags strewn artfully on roads and cement floors) and humorous, wisecrack captions – chalks up 800 “Likes” and 50 comments on average, he estimates. The comments section always reads like a lively forum for Shopaholics Anonymous – declarations of lust, queries on prices and stockists – with BB replying to as many as possible, even if it’s only with an emoji to express solidarity. “Without readers, you have nothing,” he says of the camaraderie.
Naturally, with that has come the – ka-ching – brand partnerships. While he again keeps mum on figures, the nature of his projects is a good reflection of his clout in the luxury circle. Most influencers hawk OOTDs and videos of themselves brandishing said product; he recently came up with a slick online game dubbed V Mine in collaboration with Louis Vuitton for Valentine’s Day. If the social media scene was secondary school, the biggest fashion influencers would be in the top humanities class and BB would be in GEP (Gifted Education Programme).
He insists that he stays in the game because he ultimately enjoys the blogging process, but there’s no doubt that Bagaholicboy.com has gone from hobby to a fully fledged business. Over the years, it’s grown to include sections on jewellery and grooming (“To grow eyeballs,” he admits) and even has a back-end team on retainer to ensure that it runs smoothly. When he first started out, his maxim was that he only featured brands and products that he genuinely loved. These days, he confesses that this happens only 95 per cent of the time: “I have to be realistic. Love alone won’t pay the bills.”
But that love remains his biggest draw. At a time when bloggers and social media stars can command up to thousands of dollars for a single post, 95 per cent of honest-to-goodness content is commendable. “He keeps us up to
date with trends, and his reviews are so on point,” says
I-Ping Soong, a Hong Kong-based solicitor and long-time fan. “He has a common man’s view, and knows what readers want to see and know about.”
And going by his posts, what they want is friendly education. Every entry is a mix of modest opinion and unadulterated facts: official names, dimensions, updated prices, history. Yes, he Googles for them, but he also hits stores and chases down brand PRs for the material. “My readers need to be able to make an informed decision before putting down good money for a bag,” he explains.
He also never pledges exclusivity to brands, and makes this clear to them. The likes of Chanel, Gucci and Louis Vuitton turn up frequently on Bagaholicboy.com, and while he does work with them, he mostly – you guessed it – really loves what they do. “Where a bag comes from doesn’t matter as long as I like it at that moment,” he says.
“Bagaholicboy is the only voice in Singapore that’s able to give a journalistic POV online when it comes to fashion, bags and trends,” says the local communications manager of a French luxury house who’s requested for anonymity. “He steers away from OOTDs that are typical of fashion influencers and bloggers today, focusing squarely on the product.”
And that’s his other distinct draw. It is never about him. It’s by no coincidence that he hardly uses the words “I” or “me” on Instagram. When he does, it’s with an endearingly earnest glee. Take the caption for a picture of a vintage bag store in Japan shared last December: “One of the reasons I love Osaka so much? There is so much luxury vintage shopping to do at prices much, much lower as compared to Tokyo. Anybody wants anything?” Personal without being self-indulgent, and insightful.
If he baulks at being labelled an influencer, would he like to be called a journalist? “It’s too big a title for me,” he says. “I’d like to think that what I do is all based on common sense – what’s right, and what’s wrong.”
Disclaimer: As guest creative director of this Accessories Issue, BB got to look through the entire section, including this story, before it went to print. He tried to make us change a few things (for one, remove the word “success” in the second paragraph).
We said that would be going against our journalistic ethics and practices. He furrowed his brows and tightened his lips. And then he said: “Okay.”
This story first appeared on Female’s April 2017 issue.