In fashion circles, Drew Joiner is seemingly everywhere and nowhere at once. His reputation is rising fast, but you won't see him in front rows or rushing around backstage. Not yet, anyway. For the time being, his world is a very online one.
Central to the 25-year-old's brand is his weekly podcast, Beyond the Garment, which covers fashion, content creation, culture and why everyone is ‘so obsessed with aesthetics’. Elsewhere, Drew has created a whole universe of online content. He has 130,000 followers on Instagram and 160,000 subscribers on YouTube. Yet, with more than 250,000 followers and 7.2 million likes, TikTok is where he's most prolific.
‘Usually, the work I focus on is in the content realm,’ Drew says breezily from an apartment in New York City, which he's in the process of moving into from Denver, Colorado. Speaking shortly after the autumn/winter fashion weeks, he isn't run-down like almost everyone else in the industry. Instead, he's fresh-faced and well-rested; at 6ft 3, his big-nice-guy energy is still intact.
‘I don't watch many full fashion shows,’ he continues. ‘A lot of the time, I read about them through the filter of a writer afterward. There's never anything in particular where I'm like: oh, man, I wish I could have been there.’
Across social media, Drew dissects and discusses everything from those notorious Big Red Boots from Brooklyn-based collective MSCHF and underrated niche brands to why fast fashion has made our clothes worse over time. Obligatory fit videos take center stage, too, of course.
Unlike the vast majority of people he rubs shoulders with in the fashion-influencer sphere, Drew doesn't opt for high-end, high-price-point brands. His personal style is a kind of playful take on gorpcore: clashing patterns, mixed textiles, bright colors. (His current obsession is with salvaged denim, he explains.) His online persona is a more bohemian, hippy‑esque (very Colorado) departure from the deadly serious (very New York) and highly curated (very LA) fashionistas that people following the industry might expect to see on their grid.
In his video content, his laid-back personality shines through – a rarity in fashion. In one of his YouTube videos, Drew talks in his quintessentially soothing, ASMR-style podcast voice about how inner confidence helps our personal style. In another, he talks about the benefits of working with the clothes we have rather than buying more for the sake of it. Or, to put it more succinctly, he's a knowledgeable voice in fashion without being an asshole about it.
Online to IRL
Despite the very onlineness of Drew Joiner, his fame bleeds into the IRL world, too. ‘I definitely get recognized, which is a very special feeling,’ he says. ‘Especially in New York, but even back home in Denver. There's a sense of pride because Colorado isn't known as a fashion state or place, but it's growing.’
He continues: ‘In the Netherlands, once, someone literally came up to me and said: “Is this you?” They showed me their phone and it was literally my profile. Every city I've traveled to over the past 18 months, there's been an instance where a group or an individual has said: “Oh... you're Drew Joiner?’ So, yeah, that's kind of cool.’
Online fame and virality are nothing new. Drew's success, however, is notable in two ways. First, the fact that it happened so fast. Bored and stuck at home, like the rest of us in the middle of the pandemic, he only started regularly posting videos towards the end of 2020. His podcast came only a handful of months before. Back then, he was interning while studying at college and treated fashion as just a hobby.
‘I loved watching YouTube growing up and [was] so enamored by the YouTubers I watched as a teenager. I always had a bit of a desire to give it a shot,’ he says. But plenty of people have the same desire (YouTube has more than 51 million channels; that's a lot of content to compete with). But Drew's thoughtful, almost philosophical approach to fashion managed to resonate with people amid what he calls ‘the chaos’ of social media.
‘I had the confidence in myself to say: OK, I have some opinions on this. I'm not the best at camera, video and audio stuff. But, if I put the reps in, I'll be able to find a niche for myself and carve out a community.’
Saying he puts the reps in is an understatement. The second way his success as a creator is notable is the sheer amount of time, effort and planning he puts into his schedule, which has made him both prolific and regular in his posting – two of the biggest tenets to building social media stardom.
‘This puts bread on the table,’ he says of his frequent content creation. ‘It's definitely a full-time thing.’
A day in the life
What this looks like in practice is a day that always starts with a gym session. Before going into content creation, Drew wanted to be an athlete and was a Division I basketball player with the NCAA. Today, he still looks the part: his appearance is more healthy, handsome athlete than runway model.
After the gym, Drew dives straight into filming new videos every morning. From there comes editing, scripting, more filming. He drops a YouTube video every week; rarely does he skip one. For his short video content, the bar is higher: Drew aims to post three or four times a week, but more ‘if and when inspiration strikes’. He notes down ideas for those shorter videos – and his podcasts – throughout the day.
For now, at least, he is a one-man band. He's a self-taught video editor with a back catalog of 200 YouTube videos at this point, among them straight-up fit reviews such as ‘Balaclavas + Jewelry Pick Up’ as well as more reflective subjects such as ‘How fashion is a form of soft power’, ‘The rules of status and how they influence fashion’ and ‘How Japan saved American style’. In the future, if his platform continues to grow at the exponential rate he's seen so far, he wants to bring on staff to help him. ‘If I'm not filming the video, I'm editing the video. If I'm not editing the video, I'm scripting the video. It's just constant. You can look at it like a hamster wheel: there's a constant churning going on.’
Drew continues: ‘I knew if I could, at the very beginning, make three YouTube videos a week, then I'd be that much further ahead than everyone else who's at maybe 10,000 or 40,000 subscribers making one a week. That means I can catch up to the level of production and the level of being able to have confidence to speak on camera and all the small technical aspects that come with making videos. A lot of people think it's just: oh, I have an idea.’
It's fair to say that good timing has also played a role in Drew's rapid rise. TikTok, in particular, has exploded in popularity since the pandemic, at the exact time he started creating content, revolutionizing how audiences see and disseminate new ideas in fashion.
‘Social media has 100% changed the landscape for how consumers communicate with fashion,’ says Drew, who began using TikTok in 2021, when the platform had experienced a growth spurt of 40% on the previous year, increasing its users to 656 million. ‘Before social media, you had niche communities, niche products. It would be a small percentage of the population. Now things are kind of really thrown in your face.’
The content creator debate
The rise of content creators and online influencers has caused its fair share of drama in the fashion industry, as well as wider culture. A recent argument over traditional reviewers complaining about preferential seating at fashion shows for online influencers (and the subsequent backlash over the institutional privilege embedded within this complaint) is one of many recent examples.
As part of Gen Z, Drew can see both sides of the coin. He dissects it with the same kind of level-headed attention to detail that he uses to discuss fashion in his videos. Although he recognizes the virality of fashion in our online era can have ‘unsavory’ moments, he thinks it's positive that the democratization of style, via social media, is beginning to dismantle the gatekeeping inherent in the traditionally exclusive fashion industry.
‘We're a generation of people for whom the internet has almost tangible reality outside of reality,’ Drew says. ‘I always try to take a very nuanced, very careful approach when it comes to criticizing anything in particular that people are interested in. It's something I've been exploring a lot in my videos: how an item begins to build status, the people who are associated with that item, the moment that that item begins to shift from what a particular person in that group originally thought it was, the tension within that…
‘That's kind of what happens on TikTok a lot of times, and it happens in real time – you can see it happening,’ he says. ‘That's where a lot of discourse, maybe outrage or [a] kind of conversation happens. It's more fascinating than it is good or bad. It's going to happen. It just is.’
Fascinating, yes, but for a career that lives and dies on the whims of such platforms, does he worry about their shelf life? Nobody posts on Facebook any more. Instagram stories feel oddly exposing, and even curated anti-aesthetic photo dumps seem somehow embarrassing. The internet is constantly joking about how we've reached ‘peak podcast’, and TikTok is even introducing screen-time limits for under 18s.
Drew, however, remains unmoved by the ever-accelerating cycle of social media fame. ‘I wouldn't use the word “worry”,’ he says. ‘It's not a point of concern, more a point of emphasis. You need to be wide but also focus on depth. How many platforms are you on? How much value can you bring?’
It's hard not to feel convinced by Drew's confidence in the sustainability and longevity of his career, even as it rests on the fickleness of the internet. After all, he grew up online; he knows the limits of this universe more than most content creators that are years senior to him. As a Zoomer, too, he's come of age in an era of constant economic uncertainty, climate uncertainty, lockdowns and looming recession.
If tomorrow isn't promised, then, why not throw everything you have at what you're passionate about? ‘I still consider myself to be a pretty young person, and still figuring out how I want my imprint to be on the world,’ he says.
And while that imprint might not live forever online, he's OK with that. It might take the path of working for a brand or working more closely in marketing. ‘Every individual – no matter what their job – in the back of their minds knows if the house of cards comes crashing down, they have to know their next move. Sometimes, you have to just humble yourself a little bit. I hope I can do this for as long as possible. Once I get to 30, we'll re-evaluate where we are and go from there.’
A version of this article was first published in Courier issue 50. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.