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In the virtual world of 2022, 160,000 Instagram followers may not be enough to raise eyebrows. But it’s easy to forget that there are people behind such statistics. 160,000 followers mean 160,000 distinct people with lives, jobs and ambitions. And in the case of one particular creator, within his 160,000 followers, you can find many members of the Forbes Billionaire List.
Gstaad Guy has made a name for himself parodying the lives of the famous and mountainous, mocking the alpine culture of apres-ski, fine wines and snobbery. No wonder such content resonates and amuses the more affluent people out there on Instagram, probably because it feels quite close to home.
But this is not your typical Passion Economy creator or comedy account. On meeting Gstaad Guy, you would be surprised by not only his 6’6” height but also his calmness, which is at odds with the characters he’s created. He’s also living a double life'—as a full-time Apple white-collar employee.
“So… my bosses have no idea that I’m doing this. I think Covid and remote work has been a reason that it could happen,” GG explains over macchiatos in the extravagant neighborhood of Belgravia, London.
Let’s start at the beginning. If you or people around you ski in the Swiss alps and frequent Mykonos or Capri during the summer, chances are that you’ve heard of Gstaad Guy. With Instagram as the main channel, the account started with one overprivileged character, Constance, before branching out into another alter-ego, cousin Colton. Although they are both Bon vivants, their different backgrounds make them conflicting, yet complementary, characters.
GG (who declined to state his real name for this interview) says he first created Constance as a joke while Facetiming a friend who was in his Gstaad chalet, annoyed about a masseuse being late. “I impersonated him in a video and sent it over Whatsapp to his mom. She loved the video and forwarded it to every Whatsapp group chat with moms she was in."
"It took off over Whatsapp, especially in Gstaad, but then a page posted it on Instagram, and it went viral.” After coming home from a few weeks of vacation in Asia without an internet connection, he was stopped on the street by a stranger saying “I know you, you’re the Gstaad guy!” GG says he remembers being confused. “I was thinking, ‘'What? Yeah.. I’m the Gstaad guy!’ And that was the spark that lead to me setting up the account.”
Just over two years later, GG has made friends with the late Virgil Abloh through the account and his character Colton has voiced over one of Abloh’s last Off-White fashion runways. He has collaborated with some of the most exclusive brands in the world, started his own vlog channel (often featuring entertainer and podcaster Logan Paul or street artist Alec Monopoly, with audiences in the millions), and started working on a long form movie. It surely is an interesting example of how the Passion Economy has created a new career path.
Gustaf Lundberg Toresson: Your alter ego has developed over time into two antagonistic characters. In your own words, who are Constance and Colton?
Gstaad Guy: Constance is a pompous British aristocrat from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London. He splits his time between Gstaad in the winter, his boat in Monaco over the summer, and all over the place during the rest of the year. The second character, cousin Colton, is Constance’s doppelganger and a Gen-Z, TikTok-loving, crypto enthusiast counterpart from New York, who now lives in between his cousin Constance’s mansions and his own pad in Beverly Hills. The dynamic of these two characters is based on differences in their upbringing.
This dynamic is also carried on to the viewer, who shares similar views as Constance or Colton. Their Constance side pushes them to be more sophisticated and elegant, and the man their grandmother wants them to be. And the Colton side, the flashy, life-loving, TikToker whom they are trying to suppress.
Lundberg Toresson: But Constance came first. Where did the inspiration come from?
GG: I definitely got a lot of the inspiration to base the character on one of my best friends, and I just started to slowly turn up the dial on the absurdity. I wanted to make people laugh but also, give people from the society a reason to take themselves less seriously and hopefully realize how ridiculous some of the things they worry about and talk about really are. In the beginning, Constance was only relatable to a very select number of people. As the page progressed I introduced Colton, who is kind of like the anti-Constance, and that brought a completely different dimension to the page and allowed me to relate to a much younger audience.
Lundberg Toresson: There are many fancy ski resorts in the Alps. Why Gstaad?
GG: Gstaad is this beautiful Swiss town in the Alps, and happens to be a hideaway for the world's elite and the world's billionaires. You had to be either part of that world or be aware of that world to find anything funny about the account. So in the early days of Gstaad Guy there was an extremely high concentration of people from Gstaad who could relate to the jokes because they were very Gstaad focused. I was mentioning hotels, restaurants and the only nightclub in Gstaad and a passerby would have no idea what I'm talking about.
As the page progressed, I started to slowly move away from Gstaad specific jokes and started to move on to cities like Monaco, London, and Paris while keeping the elite lens.
Lundberg Toresson: Do you know who’s following the page?
GG: So Constance brought the Gstaad-esque billionaires but Colton attracted a whole different audience to the page, as he would talk about fashion and social media stars. That led to the page becoming relatable to the top 1% in the US, many who happened to be celebrities. It turned out to be an eclectic mix of influencers, designers, celebrities and while maintaining the billionaires and some leaders of states.
As I started posting more, the ceiling of people who could relate to Gstaad Guy humor would be raised. But the ceiling of people who would like to relate to Gstaad Guy humor and who are curious is much higher. So the audience slowly grew beyond the world of the top 1% and people started to follow because it's funny and because they were curious about the secret and often absurd lives of the world’s elite.
Recently, I was invited to Gstaad over New Years eve for some parties. While there is lot of wealth in this Alpine town, you are only allowed to build your chalet 2-3 stories. So there are these massive luxurious multi-story basements I was invited to visit. One of the most surreal moments was to find many of my “fans” in a trillion dollar-net worth basement room with just billionaires and me.
Lundberg Toresson: Aside from being the Gstaad Guy, you have a full-time job at Apple? Do people at work know about Gstaad Guy?
GG: Well, actually just a few, and they’ve been very supportive. I’ve tried to keep it a secret for a long time. Covid has definitely helped with that since we’ve all worked from home. But I’ve noticed during larger team calls that some would reach out to me afterward asking “Oh my God. I can't believe you actually work here. Is that really you?” It's kicked off some great friendships with people around the world.
I've been only remote since joining the company and haven't been in the office. So that's actually been great to maintain discretion because there isn't as much of the usual office gossip that would happen otherwise.
Lundberg Toresson: How do you think this would be received at Apple?
GG: Haha. I’m not sure. I guess I’ll see once this is published..
A man interrupts the conversation and wants to shake GG’s hand. He explains that he owns a tequila brand while handing over 3 luxurious bottles. “This happens all the time. But this one is a bit ironic, because I don’t even drink.”
Lundberg Toresson: What has come out of this, business-wise?
GG: I have worked with some of the world’s top luxury brands like Loro Piana, which is part of LVMH. In my opinion, they have some of the best products in the world. Every product collaboration I’ve worked on with Loro Piana has sold out in a matter of hours. Our brands are just so perfectly aligned, and Loro Piana has become a part of my character Constance’s identity.
Loro Piana launched over 600 pairs of the limited edition Open Knitted Walk to be exclusively marketed on the Gstaad Guy account. It was the fastest selling Loro Piana product in history and entirely sold out in a matter of hours. And a few months later, we did it all again with a different variation of the shoe: the Loro Piana Summer Knitted Walks. If I was selling more typical influencer promotions, such as teeth whitening kits or herbal teas, I would not have been able to get the sales I did. It’s in the product and brand fit of Gstaad Guy and Loro Piana that is so strong.
I have also created a drink together with Don Julio and one of the best French restaurants in the world, LPM Restaurant and Bar in London’s Mayfair neighborhood. There are two Gstaad Guy drinks on the menu, the Constance and the Colton. But good luck trying this, they’re nearly always sold out too.
And of course, my own merch on GstaadGuy.com, and a skincare and hair products in collaboration with The Organic Pharmacy sold at The Alpina Hotel in Gstaad.
Lundberg Toresson: You’ve also worked with Off White and mentioned the late Virgil Abloh as an inspiration. What was it about him that inspired you?
GG: Virgil has always been a huge inspiration to me. Mostly because of his ability to create and design at the highest level. But also because he was able to do all that, and be active in so many different worlds and fields at the same time. He managed to navigate a very corporate environment while maintaining his identity. He could be designing a huge collection and negotiating with executives one day, killing it on social media the next day and DJing in a club the next night.
It's kind of like the New day's renaissance man. That is something that has always been a dream of mine to live that Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, I guess “double life” and Virgil Abloh proved this to be possible in the real world.
While I was a huge fan of his, he organically actually became a fan of mine. One day I was just sitting in my friend's place and noticed that Virgil Abloh started following me, and I freaked out. I had been a fan of Virgil’s for years. I approached him to pitch a startup idea nearly eight years ago at Matsuhisa in Los Angeles, and I even attended his talk at Harvard four years ago. All of a sudden he was becoming a fan of mine, and eventually we became good friends—thanks to my Instagram account. After two years of being connected on Instagram, Virgil asked me to voice over his last Off White fashion show live in Paris in character, as Colton.
Cousin Colton voicing the Off-White fashion show
Lundberg Toresson: What is your favorite piece of content from the Gstaad Guy?
GG: It was a song written and performed by Constance called “Commercial Flight.” based on Glory Gainers’ “I Will Survive,” which I performed on my first-ever visit to Gstaad one year after creating the Gstaad Guy page. I had never been to Gstaad prior to this performance.
Lundberg Toresson: What has the support been like from your friends and family?
GG: It has gone both ways, really. I have had close friends tell me to stop and focus on my career despite telling them my vision for the page. My family told me that the first video was excellent, but I should stop. This was early on. But once things started to pick up, they understood my vision. Apart from my vision for the Gstaad Guy, I felt I could risk it all because I have a whole other side to my life that I was spending most of my time on. My career at Apple. And I believe that since the page is based on characters and not me as a person, I have less downside if things would go south.
Lundberg Toresson: What's your message to young people out there who might be inspired by this?
GG: You can always do more. if you think you don't have time, you do. There are a ton of resources out there to save time, so put yourself out there. We live in a digital age where you can work smart and save a lot of time doing busy work and spend more time doing good work. Also, get friends who are ambitious and motivate you. It brings you peace of mind to share the highs and the lows with those around you.
Lundberg Toresson: That must have helped to dare to go “out there”. You have had a very interesting journey so far. And now, what’s next? What’s in the pipeline for Constance, Colton, and you?
GG: My dream for the page is to continue making people laugh and take themselves less seriously. If I can keep doing that at a high level, that's definitely the driver. And if I can continue to also achieve financial success through the page, it is a plus. Also, just having fun and being creative keeps me alive and young.
Also, in a strange way, the lessons learned from my life as Gstaad Guy have helped me with my job at Apple - and vice versa. I'm learning lessons on both sides that are helping me grow and see no reason why I would stop with either.
Sasha Baron Cohen is a big inspiration to me, and the way I think of my page is that the skits on Instagram so far are the modern version of Sasha’s early TV skits as Ali G and Borat before making his more mainstream feature films. So yes, a full-blown Gstaad Guy feature film is the goal and it’s coming soon.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.