“They don’t like FaceTime, YouTube, nothing here, bro!,” Professional BMX rider and YouTuber, Ryan Taylor tells me over Zoom while sitting in his car in the middle of what seems like a Dubai desert. Taylor has just moved to the Middle East to begin a new chapter in his life, a chapter that sees the 27-year-old steer away from the younger and less polished Ryan Taylor that first made his mark on the YouTube scene in 2015.
But life hasn’t always been sunshine and fast cars. With weekends and evenings after school consisting of bikes and shenanigans, it took mature decisions at an early age, along with a conscious choice to separate himself from the trouble around him to go on to build his legacy. Now, inspiring a generation to get out on their bikes and move with the same infectious, and unapologetic attitude, Ryan (with his 2.3 million YouTube subscribers), has has evolved into a business mogul, fashion pioneer and most importantly, a role model to a younger generation that looks to him for not only good content, but for belief that life can be made worth while, even without the academic credentials that society tends to deem a necessity.
Now, Ryan Taylor is starting a brand-new venture; collaborating with Manchester-based premium fashion brand, BODA SKINS. This new fashion launch has been curated through combining the BODA SKINS ethos of luxurious, slow fashion in a way that resonates with Ryan Taylor’s audience. Through referencing the ‘X’ across all of the pieces, it has been used as a symbol that embodies fearless energy, rebellious spirit and the non-conformity of Ryan Taylor.
We caught up with Ryan Taylor, in celebration of the new BODA SKINS x RYAN TAYLOR collection, to talk about all things growing up, music, fashion and much more
"I have plans to go back and help the community, whether that is working with younger kids, or building a skate park. I know that one day in the future I will give back to the place that effectively made me the man that I am today."
BODA SKINS: First of all Ryan, it seems like an eternity ago when we began our plans to create this collection. But, everything work and business aside, how are you?
RYAN TAYLOR: I’m good, my man. I feel like I am restarting a whole new journey; I’ve just moved to Dubai, I feel like my time in London was becoming, not stagnant, but stagnant. When I was living in London, everything didn’t feel the same; when I got awards, or when I achieved something, it just didn’t feel the same, so, I’ve had my time there and I’ve had my time in the rest of the UK, so I feel like I want to develop in different places all over the world. I want to bring a lot more value to a place than I have been doing. You know, in London, I am a part of the fastest-growing bike company in the world. The company has been doing well and now I’m in Dubai and I want to do my stuff here and I want to start doing bigger and better shit because I feel like it’s appreciated more in other places. So, I’m good, man, I’m just ready to progress to a whole new level. This year is going to be absolutely insane. I have some big, big, big things coming – I’m in a good place, man. I’m also a part of a new show called ‘Gassed Up’ on BBC 3, so we have that coming up which will be good, I wore my hat on one of the episodes! I’m not too sure when it will drop–it’s at some point this month–it’s going to be sick. We’ve just been commercialising the brand. Before Ryan’s brand was a bit reckless and the voice now has a much bigger reach so it’s time to take that platform and use it to inspire other people to do better things, which is what I have been doing for my whole career.
Talk to me about life growing up in Walsall. How has that place influenced you throughout your life, and what outlets did you have to create there?
You know, growing up in Walsall, it’s that typical story that you hear; there are not many opportunities growing up in a bad area. I’ve spoken about it a lot now, I feel like I’m done with speaking about how negative that area is. The people from that area are happy with the space that they’re from and where they live – I'm not. I want to evolve and become better and grow. I want to be remembered for many centuries to come for building a big legacy. I’m humbled, though, I’m glad it’s been the place that’s grown me and helped me become the person that I am today. I’ve just moved my parents out of the ends, so it’s a goal to get out of there. But, with that, I want to be able to use it to inspire kids and other people who have grown up in less fortunate areas, to show them that there are always opportunities to grow and become something special, even when you grow up in a place that looks like it doesn’t have any opportunity. That’s why I say that you should never be ashamed of where you come from, so I just want to make sure that I’m a person to look to for inspiration. You don’t always have to go down the academic route, you can have a skill set that can be applied to different things that can take you to places that you never would imagine. And that’s what life growing up for me in Walsall was like, it was a place that I could look at and use as my fuel to create and to grow. But, you know, that’s home for me and I have plans to go back and help the community, whether that is working with younger kids, or building a skate park. I know that one day in the future I will give back to the place that effectively made me the man that I am today.
Of course, your career has been built on your talents on the BMX. So, taking it back to the start, when did you first fall in love with the bike and how did it happen?
Yeah, being from the place that I’m from, we used to get up to the usual stuff. We would get bikes and just ride around the area. There was one bike that I acquired at a certain time and when I got that bike, a skate park had just opened so this skate park became the new hang-out spot. The transition came from the times of looking at what the people I was with were doing and deciding that I wanted to do the opposite and use that as a place I loved, rather than looking at it as a space that I could take from. But yeah, I just fell in love with doing the tricks, the crashes, the falls, the consistency and just becoming better on that bike. I knew that the limits were so high for a new sport that was BMX. I quickly went onto YouTube and started watching videos, I saw the competitions in America and stuff; during that time I didn’t think there was a big culture especially in the UK, but as soon as I looked deeper into it, I realised that it was massive. I just found a new home and started learning all of the flips and tricks, then started making videos on skateparks. Then after school I would go to the skatepark, stand the camera up, get back on the bike and do my tricks; then I would ride home, chop up the videos then put them out. This was before YouTube was a thing, Instagram wasn’t even a thing – I had MySpace during that time [laughs].
Your YouTube audience has grown exponentially over the years – the platform is where you have found the vast majority of your cult-like following. So, how did you get into video making and vlogging?
Back then, I never really understood the YouTube space. I would literally go on the website and type in ‘BMX’ because I knew that would come up. I would then see guys riding their bikes, but these videos would be different; it would be a two-minute song and there would be no talking or communication with the camera at all. It was literally a cinematically, well-filmed video. Then, when I started getting into making videos myself; my first one was in 2011 or something. Then I don’t think it was until 2015 where I uploaded an actual YouTube video. All of the other videos that I made were literally cut, cut, cut, cut; not me talking to the camera, no style of vlogging at all – I didn’t know that then. But, I then started making those vlog-type videos and I showed my personality and showed the experience which led to people following the journey and now we’re here!
Asides from BMX and fashion, what other passions do you have that other people may not know about?
I love music. It’s something that I listen to every day; I have been in the studio myself, I’m currently sitting on some music – that’s coming this year. But, in terms of the artists that I’m connecting with, we have a lot of things in common; whether it’s an incredible story, a crazy stunt, a deep track, we all have a lot of things in common – we all have a creative connection. But, I also love building brands, and I love creating. A lot of the stuff that you might see me doing I don’t really talk about it. I love connecting artists with other artists which is A&R’ing, creative concepts with artists; whether that’s helping with Instagram content or just how they look. I working with artists on everything, I love creating brands, I love music, and I love making money as well so, I like everything - I can do it all.
Through hearing the music you listen to, and working closely with the likes of Pa Salieu and Burna Boy, how has Black music and culture influenced you both creatively and as a person?
Coming from Walsall, I grew up with Jamaicans and I grew up with Africans so, for me, it’s normal. That’s the culture that I have spent the most time around. When I was a kid, I loved 50 Cent, Jay-Z, but I think my way of life now, and the people I spend the most time with, is down to how I grew up. When I moved to London, I definitely connected with it even more.
When did you originally find your love for fashion?
So, when I was 18 I created a brand of my own. I had around 30,000 followers and I thought, wow if I can sell a t-shirt to every one of these followers, then that's a lot of money! So, I made some designs and then I went with some local boys and filled mum’s living room with all of the boxes and put my shit online and I thought it was just going to sell itself. I think I sold one in two days and I was like “shit!” I was thinking why doesn’t anyone want to buy it? What am I doing wrong? So then, as soon as I hit that survival instinct of knowing that I spent all of this money on the stock, I needed to make it work, I then came to understand that you have to do certain things to make it look cool. I mean, for me, back then it was TN caps, TN trainers, tracky, I was a proper little chav! [laughs] So, coming into this stuff, when you know the skate, BMX style and era, it’s about understanding different elements and different clothing that people would wear. But, I think it has just naturally evolved over my career with where I was and what I’ve been doing; I’ve been travelling across the world and I’ve seen so much different aspects of what was and wasn’t cool, so, yeah, I’ve definitely gone through my phases. But, I’d say my love for fashion came when I was around 17 or 18 years old – I had my first brand, ‘Status’, I might bring that one back one day! [laughs]
For you, what makes the BODA SKINS x RYAN TAYLOR collection so special?
You know, BODA SKINS is a massive brand. These guys live by quality over quantity, and that’s something that I like and live by as well. So these pieces we have created, we have spent so much time on making sure they’re right; the cut, the fit, the weight, you know, the feel. When you receive the product from the bag, it’s that customer experience. I want people to understand why I’m telling them to buy it. When you receive the product, you will see that time and effort has been put into it. This is the stuff that I wear all of the time – I’ve had the samples, I’ve been wearing the samples; I’ve worn them out, I’ve got new ones. This is the stuff that I wear all of the time. That’s organic. This isn’t a collab that we’ve rushed to get out the door, this is a collab we’ve been working on for over a year now I think. So for sure, this collaboration collection is something that I’m so proud of and want to share with the world.
Finally, how would you like to be remembered?
I feel like the brand that I’m building, it’s very much about living life and not taking no for an answer. Always striving to be better and striving for greatness, there’s never a limit on being better. Whether you think of something as something that you can do or can’t do, you need to remove that mindset; if you want something bad enough, you will do whatever it takes to get it. So, you know, I want to be known as that guy that never took no for an answer. As I said, if you want to do something that bad, you can go and do it - life is to be lived. As Henna [Ryan’s manager] did, she came to Dubai and she went skydiving [laughs], you can do whatever you want to do in life! I don’t know, I’m just a madman, bro. I want to do whatever I want, whenever I want to do it; I want to be known as the guy that never took no for an answer and there’s no limit to whatever you want to do in life – you can always do bigger, and better things, and even when it’s bad, it’s not that bad because it can get worse, you know what I mean?
You can purchase the BODA SKINS x Ryan Taylor collection on BODASKINS.com now.