Gstaad Guy, the man who turned a lifestyle parody into a luxury brand
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I arrive for my meeting with @GstaadGuy at Mayfair private member’s club Oswald’s not sure if I’ll be interviewing the social media influencer himself or whether he’ll be in character as one of his two parody personas. Constance is a forty-something bastion of old-world money and manners; he dresses head-to-toe in the poster brand for quiet luxury, Loro Piana, and lives in the Swiss resort town of Gstaad. His foil is his younger cousin Colton, a hype- and fashion-loving Gen Zer who loves the logoed glitz of Louis Vuitton and sports the latest Audemars Piguet x Spider-Man collaboration.
Both characters are used to shamelessly poke fun at the lifestyles of the ultra-wealthy. But brands and billionaires love them: while the Instagram account, created in 2019, has just over 400,000 followers (tiny compared with the million-plus that’s typical of mega influencers); according to Forbes, that figure comprises an enviable concentration of the very individuals it mocks.
Gstaad Guy arrives at the club, all six foot seven of him, dressed in Loro Piana blue from jacket to loafers. Floppy haired and with a boyish face, he is “himself” — and disarmingly polite. Frustratingly, the prerequisite for our interview is that I keep his real identity a secret. “I see only a downside to sharing my real name,” he says, “there’s more of this story I want to tell. I also like the question mark of, ‘Is this guy really just a useless nepotist who inherited hundreds of millions of euros, and just lives off his parents’ throne?’ Those rumours work for me.”
While the character Constance flits between English, French and a sprinkling of Italian (“It’s very Swiss,” he tells me), and the California- and New York-based Colton has an American twang (“Cipriani in New York is full of Coltons”), Gstaad Guy himself speaks in a lilted British-international accent. I’m half-expecting him to break into Constance’s snobby catchphrases (“à la poubelle” for anything that isn’t just so — such as saying expresso instead of espresso) or Colton’s slang-heavy chat, but no. He has a sharp intelligence that feels unexpectedly serious. “I am in a unique bucket where I’m an influencer through fiction,” he says. “There’s a massive void there. Fictional narratives are some of the most successful when it comes to books, movies, TV shows and music — but when it comes to social media and influence [in the luxury world] it’s uncharted territory.”
Fiction aside, what he will share about himself is that he was born, raised and is currently living in London. He went to business school in the States. And he’s closer in age to Colton than Constance. Privilege is manifest: his favourite gilet is a Loro Piana one he inherited from his grandfather; he grew up skiing in Courchevel (not Gstaad). He also has a CV that’s pure Gen Z: an early job at a social-network start-up, two years at Apple, then the crypto exchange Coinbase . . . and now a full-time influencer. The digitally savvy might have clocked him five years ago in the videos of social-media stars such as Logan Paul and members of the Hadid family, when Gstaad Guy was more entourage than main act. “I had tried to be a social-media personality for a long time,” he admits. But in the end, it was a viral video parodying the ultra-first-world problems of a wealthy friend from Gstaad that launched @GstaadGuy.
Now his formula of comedy and satire that “documents and dials up the absurdity in the world of the elite” has, as he says, become big business — he makes around five times more than when working in tech, he says — mainly from endorsements, collaborations and appearances. Loro Piana and Audemars Piguet officially dress his characters. He has a sunglasses collaboration with Swedish brand Chimi; a rosé wine, Palais Constance; and this autumn he launches a charm jewellery brand called Poubel (yes, really) — with prices starting at around £450.
As Colton, he also emceed at Virgil Abloh’s Off-White’s AW21 show, and credits the late designer with inspiring him to quit tech and focus on the account. “Virgil loved that conversation between the two worlds — the old money versus the new, the tradition versus the hype,” he recalls.
Achim Berg, senior partner at consultancy firm McKinsey, says that luxury today is powered by precisely this. “Those brands that can manage the stretch are the most successful,” says Berg. “How do you cater to both? That is the art.”
Gstaad Guy dos & don’ts (according to Constance)
À La Poubelle
• People who don’t stand up to say hello
• Pronouncing espresso with an “x”
• Being flashy, loud and a show-off
• Dancing on tables at summer beach clubs
• An off-grid Instagram-free summer vacation
• Loro Piana’s Gift Of Kings, head to toe
• Having ROMO, never FOMO: the Relief of Missing Out
• An understated Sunday lunch with friends & family at LPM or Cipriani
• Self-expression through whispers, never screams
Gstaad Guy’s power lies in his balance of mockery and storytelling: he cites Sacha Baron Cohen as an inspiration. According to market-research firm GWI, Instagram is increasingly moving away from personal sharing to entertainment, with social videos estimated to generate 1,200 per cent more shares than text and image combined. And while parody accounts are not uncommon on the platform, its use in the luxury space is still relatively rare.
“Gstaad Guy does things very seriously while never taking himself too seriously,” says Olivia Crouan, chief brand officer at Audemars Piguet. Partnering with him is less about selling a specific product, more about reinforcing a certain lifestyle and values. He might send up an obsession with craftsmanship, she says, but that’s just a different way to emphasise a value that’s important to the brand.
The bedrock of Gstaad Guy’s humour is “if you know, you know”. The first potential barrier to entry, after all, is the very pronunciation of Gstaad. “This audience is very well aware of the game that’s happening [around them] — meaning that they have to [wear] certain brands, have to attend certain events, have to be in certain locations at certain times of the year,” says Nicolas Budzynski, chief executive of LPM Restaurant and Bar, which has nine locations worldwide including Miami and London. The latter serves Palais Constance rosé and has created Gstaad Guy cocktails that “immediately” attracted a younger clientele.
His fictional insider knowledge is also being called on in real life. “My most recurring direct message [on social media] is, ‘Hi, I am in city X, where should I go?’” says Gstaad Guy. “People really look at my characters to learn.” He says this matter-of-factly, adding that trust in Constance and Colton, and the Gstaad Guy community, has grown organically. “Although they are fake people, they are very authentic to their values and characters. It’s either excellent or it’s à la poubelle . . . ”