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TRUE VINTAGE: A CONVERSATION WITH DENNY BALMACEDA

In today’s landscape, the word “influencer” is often a loaded term. We usually think of it in relation to social media - algorithms, feeds, filters, followers, engagement.

No doubt, that notion unlocks a vast world of discovery and awareness for everything from brands to sociopolitical commentary.

But when we sat down with Denny Balmaceda, he shed light on how his view of influence is much more personal than that. He’s a rare type of person that learned to become extremely comfortable in his own skin while still managing to stay grounded and humble.

For Denny, influence is telling his authentic story, even if it means being vulnerable for others to see. It’s the capacity to have a genuine impact at the very core of character, development, and behavior.

It’s being honest with himself as well as transparent with everyone he encounters.

It’s the driving force behind his authentic personality and sense of style.

It’s taking what the world gives him and making the best of it - with humor and class - no matter the twists and turns.

 

Let's Bring it Back

Denny’s journey started in the Philippines. He was born to humble beginnings, being adopted by his aunt when his father was unable to care for him.  To this day, he has never met his birth mother.

Both big and small things in life were turned upside down when he first arrived from the Philippines. The language, the food, and the culture all felt different.

“My adopted family has always embraced me and shown love. But even still, sometimes it would feel like something was missing, having never met my mother. I never wanted to step on anyone’s toes - and I didn’t want to show my personality that much.”

But over time, Denny would learn to mesh his humble roots with cool and confident expression through fashion.

“I would skate to school every day, I wanted to save money by doing that instead of taking the bus.” He worked whatever jobs he could find (pizza delivery, admin work) to help pay the bills at home. And if he ever had a little bit left over, he would use it to help fund his passion for art and creativity.

And his keen eye for vintage and timeless style started off at the thrift shop. “Thrifting is a beautiful thing to me. Each piece of clothing comes with a past and a story. And that story continues when the pieces are worn by someone else.”

The thrift shop was the ideal place for him to experiment by fusing different elements - punk, hip hop, vintage looks, and more.

“Even if it didn’t make sense at the time, I knew I liked the different components - there were so many rules about what was meant to go together but while thrifting I learned not to be afraid to break them. Every piece I wore had real meaning.”

And finding expression through fashion also helped Denny become more comfortable in his own skin. He became fully authentic in who he is, with a sense of humor that’s both refreshing and welcoming.

“Since I was often so reserved at home, I tended to balance that out by being more expressive at school and with my friends. It made me so happy to make people laugh because it was doing a small part in helping them feel good.”

And he continues to carry that sense of humor, today, making us laugh and feel at ease as he walked us through how his style has evolved.

Authentic in his own domain, he joked, “look, I’m 5’7’’ and you won’t find any 6-pack here, that’s for sure.” But what we did find was a person willing to be honest and transparent. He’s willing to let others interact with his true self. He’s willing to be a voice that expresses and welcomes “the outsiders.”

 

Blazing the Trail

Denny was always a bit ahead of the curve. Before social media really even existed, he was an early adopter of digital cameras to capture and record his looks.  And when Facebook was a place for nothing more than text status updates, he was one of the first to really experiment with photo albums on the platform.

“A lot of people gave me a hard time about it. Why do you need to post all of these pictures of yourself?” But for Denny, it wasn’t about self-promotion. He genuinely wanted to capture a stylebook of his different outfits so he could go back to them, remember the pieces and stories that each of them told, so that he could continue to innovate.

And he would do just that. Blending vintage looks with modern twists. Finding inspirations in new brands but still paying attention to his heritage and background in thrifting.

“Like many people, I went through a lot of struggle growing up and had to pull things together to get by...that was the same for my fashion.”

We were continuously fascinated throughout our conversation with Denny. There’s something about him that has made him stand out in this “influencer” world. We could feel it throughout the conversation. And by the end, it became abundantly clear.

“My only goal with being an influencer is to help influence people to be themselves,” he told us. That, for us, is a message we’re proud to stand by. And Denny is the definition of true vintage through and through.

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