Influenced by Jefferson
Brandon Edelman ’18, MS’20, has gone from student to #Philebrity.
As 2023 approached, The Philadelphia Inquirer asked readers, “Which local icons had a 2022 that felt so distinctly Philly?”
Over the next few weeks, 79,000 votes poured in for celebrities, athletes, fans, and “wild cards.” TikTok influencer and alum Brandon Edelman ’18, MS ’20—or @bran__flakezz as he’s known online—was placed in the Wild Card category, head-to-head against other local icons like “Philadelphia’s Chicken Man” Alexander Tominsky, who ate 40 consecutive rotisserie chickens in front of a boisterous crowd at the abandoned pier by Walmart in South Philly. The competition was stiff, but Edelman notched the win with 48% of the wild card vote.
Take a glimpse through his TikTok, and it’s not hard to understand why. Edelman’s content encapsulates relatability, like his viral “Immunity Necklace” TikTok, where he humorously advocates for a safe word that grants you safety from judgment in gossip. His account has amassed millions of views and gained over 350,000 followers, including “Only Murders in the Building” star Selena Gomez, who even joined Edelman on a live stream.
The actual wild card in Edelman’s career trajectory is this: He never sought a career in social media or content creation. Born and raised in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Edelman had always been fascinated by fashion and pop culture. As a child, he preferred to play dress-up with dolls. Television shows that spotlighted New York’s early- to mid-2000s social and style scenes, series like “Gossip Girl” and “Sex and the City,” were his favorites. Early on, he had dreams about a career in fashion.
“I’ve always been like a big fish in a little pond,” he says.
However, Edelman didn’t dream of designing clothes. Instead, he was drawn to the behind-the-scenes: retail strategy, marketing, and buying. When it came time to consider colleges, he set out to find a school that offered a degree in fashion merchandising. That’s when he found Jefferson’s Fashion and Management major, a program ranked in the top 20 fashion schools by Business of Fashion. It was a seemingly perfect fit.
“I did a regular campus tour, then I went to Discover Fashion Day, and I met Carson Kressley, who was on the original ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,’” Edelman says. “I was like, this is already so cool that I don’t even go to this school yet, and there’s already such an amazing opportunity to meet a celebrity in the industry.”
Close enough to visit his family on the occasional weekend but far enough away that he could begin establishing his own identity, Edelman fell in love with Jefferson’s East Falls Campus.
“It was like a small undergraduate campus that was really pretty, had trees, and was close to the city but not exactly in the city,” he explains. “I was like, this is it. I feel like this is where I want to start my education.”
Describing his educational journey, Edelman laughs. “I was obsessed with Jefferson. I literally did everything that they had to offer.”
Edelman was hungry for opportunity and found it at Jefferson. By the time he returned for his master’s in fashion design management, he had turned his part-time job at Urban Outfitters into an internship at its corporate headquarters. He’d even spent a semester in Milan through Jefferson’s fashion design study abroad program.
“That’s one of the things that Jefferson really taught me,” Edelman says. “You don’t have to live in New York or even study a degree in New York to work in the fashion industry. Are there several fashion corporations there? Of course. But I think Philadelphia is slept on in so many areas but [not] in the fashion industry. I learned quickly that Philadelphia was a viable option if I wanted to pursue a degree and an education and a career in fashion.”
Shaped by the confidence created by his education, Edelman grew comfortable in front of the camera and began making videos on TikTok for his friends.
“Everything I learned from my fashion education has applied to social media,” he says.
Soon, his videos gained traction beyond his immediate circle, and that traction hasn’t slowed down since.
“The education I got was invaluable,” he says. “It’s been incredible and part of why I think I’ve had such success…If this dies down, I can easily go back into that industry because I have two great degrees from a reputable institution like Jefferson. And I was able to work in the industry…all because I had a great education.”
Edelman smiles when asked what a young Brandon would think about @bran__flakezz.
“I think he’d be shocked,” he laughs. “He’d be very pleasantly surprised seeing the bigger version of him accomplishing all of his dreams.”
And what could be more distinctly Philly than that?