The harsh economic times during the depths of South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown are what made a 45-year-old family man pick up his phone to start a fashion-influencing journey.
Troy Harry Lee, who goes by @joe_x_style on social media, says while running his guest houses and dog salon, he found his businesses taking a hit during the lockdown period.
Lee, who is also a retired fashion photographer, told Business Report: “My wife used to model. I had not shot anything in about two years. Business was terrible and at the time, owning guest houses was a scary business. That was when my wife suggested we start taking pictures for Instagram. We had nothing else to do. She was not going in to work. So that was where we started.”
Lee says he studied Homoeopathy after finishing school and admitted it was a ‘terrible career choice’.
“I have always been creative and very visual. I then worked in the film industry for five years in the camera department. I worked on big-budget films and commercials. I bought an art gallery in 2006, and it was very successful for a time, but that bombed in 2008 with the credit crunch. I ran the family business for a few years after that. I then became a fashion photographer. It was not really paying the bills as I have a family to support, which then led me to start my first guest house in 2016,” Lee said.
Having amassed 1.2 million followers on social media, Lee says it was the TikTok platform that saw him start to gain a greater audience.
Speaking about his favourite platform to post on, Lee told Business Report: “I have to give a shout-out to TikTok. It has changed the social media game completely. About two years ago, it was incredibly difficult to grow on social media, virtually impossible. Zuckerberg was doing to Instagram what he did to Facebook, completely destroying it with paid marketing. Your posts were not being seen, and it was turning into something where you had to pay just to get the slightest bit of exposure.
“TikTok came along, and they went back to organic growth. If you posted engaging content, your videos would get seen, and people were and still are blowing up. Now Instagram is playing catch up and completely copying TikTok's lead with Reels. It is fantastic for regular people that there is this competition in this social media space: you can go from a nobody to somebody in literally a month.”
This is how Lee began his fashion influencing on social media, where he gives advice to his followers on how to look good while being budget conscious.
On actually starting influencing, Lee says, “My wife was a model, and we started shooting outfit ideas. Then in 2021/22, Instagram announced they will be giving reels preference over photos, and we had a small following at the time. I decided to switch it up and just shoot videos. I thought I might as well post these videos on TikTok as well. After about a month of posting, not much happened. I did see my views go up slightly on Instagram, but then all of a sudden, one of my videos went absolutely mad on TikTok, and I completely blew up. It is an awesome feeling the first time you go viral.”
Lee advertises clothing brands on his platforms and says he will soon begin fashion consulting.
“I am a business man first. I have to pay the bills. I have a family, so this is not for me to get some attention. With this business, we worked it backwards. In the old days, 10 years ago and before, you would think of a business, going about setting up the business and spending money on stock or your building. This would be a massive outlay, and then you have to go out and get the customers with marketing and advertising, etc. The plan here was to get a following and an audience first by doing something we absolutely love and then see what our followers would be interested in and create the business that way.
“I blew up on social media literally this year, and my Instagram blew up properly in the last month. So currently, we are developing the business. It is called, "JX Connection", which is a collaboration between Joe X, myself, and Jen X, my wife. It's basically a fashion brand. We are starting with some clothing items, watches accessories, beautiful stuff. And we are starting fashion consulting by putting together an online platform.”
On getting his clothes for his videos, Lee says most of the clothes he uses is given to him.
On offering some advice on where to get clothing at a reasonable price, Lee told Business Report: “In South Africa, the best places for guys are Markhams, Zara, Cotton On, H&M, MR Price, you just need to shop around, see something you like and then keep your eyes open for it. I don't shop at the upmarket expensive stores. I'm not really into showing off my designer anything, just not my vibe.”
Lee also shared why it is important on wearing the right clothes. He said: “You are your own brand. Whether you like it or not, people judge you from the second they see you, whether it's going for a job interview or looking for the woman of your dreams. People have opinions and judgements about you in a matter of seconds. Having a good visual presence is extremely important and not just clothes, personal grooming and hygiene. Studies have shown that dressing well makes you feel better, and feeling better makes you act better. So you should not dress how you feel but rather how you want to feel.”
He also says consumers should be mindful on what they splurge their money on.
He concludes: “It depends where you are in life. I think buy what you can afford and look for good quality. The one thing I do recommend spending a little more money on is getting a few good pairs of shoes. A wristwatch doesn't have to be expensive. It must just be good quality and look expensive.”