- Taiki Takahashi and Noah Lee say their love of fashion lies in their upbringing as they both grew up with mums who love the industry
- The Instagram stars say it hurts when the public eye attacks their private life, but add that the way society looks at gay couples is improving
They strut their stuff during fashion week, are DJs and are always willing to strike a pose in the latest eye-catching trends for Japan's oshare snappu street photographers, but you don't have to scratch the surface too hard to discover that Taiki Takahashi and Noah Lee are far more down-to-earth than their public personae might suggest.
In many ways, the duo are almost humble about their rise to influencer fame, honest about their ambitions to help others and fiercely protective of their relationship.
Given that they come from countries that still have a tendency to look askance at same-sex relationships, perhaps that honesty about their love for one another is one of their biggest achievements to date.
Back in Japan after attending the recent men's shows in Milan in Italy and Paris in France, Takahashi and Lee say they still cannot quite grasp their "arrival" on the fashion scene.
"I don't exactly remember when I first got into fashion, but my mum was a huge fan," 32-year-old Takahashi, who is from Sapporo in northern Japan and graduated from the law faculty of Tokyo's Senshu University, tells the Post. "Most importantly, I loved watching runway shows," he adds, identifying Daisuke Ueda as the "legendary" model that he looked up to when he was starting out.
Now, he says takes more of his cues from the people around him.
"I work as a professional model and DJ, and I was invited to more parties as my popularity grew. I realised that I had become an influencer without even noticing it," he says.
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Takahashi says his philosophy is simple: "I mainly work hard to make people that I love happy. Success is not something that I am extremely fond of; I just work hard. But throw me a garbage bag and I'll make that into a fashion statement."
Lee, who was born in the Itaewon district of Seoul, South Korea, can similarly trace his fascination with fashion to his upbringing.
"It was probably my mum who got me interested," he says. "I was fascinated by clothes, fashion and accessories. Come to think of it, it was my passion all along."
Lee finished a course in beauty care before joining the military to complete his mandatory two years of national service. He then moved to Germany for two years.
"Everybody that is involved in this field is my inspiration," says Lee, now 29. "I like seeing things through my own perspective, and I am drawn to people who are unique by being themselves."
The pair were introduced to each other by a mutual friend in the summer of 2015, and they quickly realised the possibilities that existed for the two of them.
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あ、あれ 『にゃー 』って感じ Thank you @tommyhilfiger #tommyhilfiger
A post shared by Taiki (@taiki_jp) on Jan 8, 2020 at 4:25am PST
Despite their fame, Lee is quick to play down their achievements.
"I don't consider myself to be a success, yet, at least," he says. "This is not a competition for me in any sort of way. My life has been evolving around it and I have become who I am through working in this field.
"I was lucky to learn my professionalism from growing up in Korea and Germany," he adds. "My work ethics are extremely important and I value that attribute very highly."
When asked the best part of his job, his answer is swift: "The fabulous experience of it all. I get to wear fantastic designs."
Takahashi and Lee have around 60,000 followers on Instagram, and they want to further their social media presence to other platforms to expand their fan base.
For Takahashi, there was one moment in particular that underlines how he and Lee are truly part of the fashion world and accepted for who they are.
"I have been more than grateful to have been invited to so many amazing social events, but if I had to choose one, I would choose the runway show that was hosted by GQ Japan," he says. "I walked the runway with Noah and that was monumental."
In spite of their fame, Lee admits their private life being so constantly exposed to public scrutiny has its own difficulties. "It does hurt me when the public eye attacks me where I am most vulnerable."
Still, both also believe that society is changing for the better in that regard.
"I am not one who says 'I have done this and that,' and I'm still a growing model who has many dreams," Lee says. "But I can honestly say that the way people look at a gay couple today is not what it used to be. It should not even be discussed any more; everybody is equal. That is just how it should be from this point on."
The duo say they have more that they want to achieve, such as acting as mentors to people who are passionate about their industry. That particular dream is likely to take the shape of an agency they have been working to set up to provide others with their own "launch platform".
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