AWAKE NY’s Angelo Baque on Empowerment Through Collaboration
This story originally appeared in i-D’s Out Of The Blue publish, no. 366, Winter 2021. Special thanks to Tiffany & Co. Order your copy here.
Nothing is more important to Angelo Baque than the community. One of streetwear’s most holistic voices and inspirational storytellers, in a career spanning nearly twenty years – through Supreme and his own brand Awake NY – Angelo has consistently pushed streetwear out of his way. comfort zone and in more dynamic places.
A consistently progressive voice, he always strives to increase representation, work with more diverse photographers, image makers and creators, and ensure that more people like him find their way into the world. industry.
The latest iteration of this lifelong mission came to fruition during the Covid lockdowns, with its new project with Asics, called the Asics Collective. Working with Tremaine Emory, Spanto of BornxRaised, photographer Renell Medrano and Jess Gonsalves of Procell,
working on designs for the shoe brand, but also grounding it in ideas around representation and ideology and how collaboration can be more than superficial, but giving back.
Angelo wears all AWAKE NY clothes. Sunglasses and bracelet specific to the model.
How are you Angelo? Are you in New York at the moment?
Yes I am here, and everything is fine, thank you. How’s London?
He’s starting to feel winter here. It’s getting dark early now – the clocks have just moved back.
These Jack the Ripper, the medieval vibes of London.
Yes exactly. But it’s pretty cold in here right now. Were you in New York City during the entire lockdown this year and last year?
Rather. I spent some time in Los Angeles this year, from January to June. I was going a little crazy in my New York apartment so I sublet in West Hollywood and stayed there for six months. Thinking back to those first months of confinement in New York, they were pretty brutal.
You’ve been a born and raised New Yorker forever, aren’t you?
From this position, has the confinement changed your relationship with the city at all? Especially since Awake is such a New York brand, it’s so intrinsic to what you do and your creativity.
A positive Covid outcome for me at the start of it all was the weather, just being able to sit alone and think and be at home. At the beginning it was great. I caught up with every TV show. But then you start banging your head against the wall, talking to yourself, you hate your kitchen. You are ready to break up with yourself. The romance was over. But after a few months, I really started to come to myself, to sit down with my resources. There was no office, no assistants, no interns. It was actually really nice to start looking inside me for creativity, inspiration and design ideas.
But also where I live, which is Jackson Heights, Queens, was pretty much the epicenter of Covid in New York during this time, and I wanted to be of service to my neighborhood, I wanted to help and give back. So we started working with this organization called NICE, which stands for New Immigrant Community Empowerment. They work directly with the undocumented community as, unfortunately, they were hit the hardest during the closures as they could not ask for any federal or government help. So I started to deliver groceries to them and help them. I had a car, I had my health, I had a mask and gloves and I just started helping. We gave them money because they functioned almost like a stimulus program for the undocumented community, supporting families in the neighborhood. I guess the common thread that connects all of these experiences, really, is time, and having time to think and help my fellow human beings.
âI think we need to challenge companies on the intention behind collaborations. Why are we working with this person? How can we give back and empower the community? “
The community too? I think it’s a common experience right? How that isolation turned into a feeling of oneness. There was a lot of lamentation for the loss of the social ties that keep a city alive, whether New York or London, which it is, but then we discovered new connections and new ways of supporting each other.
Yes exactly. It really gave meaning to a word like community. Businesses really like to hang on to that word ‘community’ right now, but they don’t really understand what it means because community for me isn’t just downtown and the people who work in the arts. and fashion, but it’s also really local, in JacksonHeights.
I also wanted to ask a question about this other community, the Asics community that you just launched.
And this was also born during Covid, from my thinking about how I can empower the people around me and also challenge myself. I wanted to work on a passionate project, something for me that was creative but also outside of what I do with Awake, something that kind of keeps me alert. Everyone is a friend there, although Tremaine Emory and Spanto who I have known for a long time, and Jess Gonsalves and Renell Medrano are new friends. But the common thread that unites us, again, is this idea of ââcommunity, we have the same ideology, we stay true to our roots, we talk about representation – and I really want to emphasize the female representation of Renell Medrano. and Jess Gonsalves. One of my main goals since leaving Supreme over five years ago was to break the boys’ club with streetwear, first by working with Shaniqwa Jarvis, and now I want to do the same with this platform for Renell and Jess.
There is a fairly transdisciplinary element, all of these people come from different creative universes. I’m interested in how this will work in practice, and in theory as well. Especially with someone like Renell, who is a photographer.
I think that, simply, with Renell, it is that she makes beautiful images. She has a great style, a great collection of sneakers. She is inspiring. She is originally from New York. It is obvious. I think she’s going to design an amazing shoe, because when you have an eye – and I’m a bit of a bipartisan because my education and teaching is in photography – it transcends all aspects of life.
What do you want to achieve with this? What would success look like?
Success would be like change. How companies, especially shoe companies, look at what coworkers look like because at this point collaborations don’t really mean anything anymore. Every day you jump on Hypebeast and there are fifty new collaborations dropping out. Nothing is surprising anymore.
I think we need to challenge companies on the intention behind collaborations. Why are we working with this person? How can we give back to the community? How can we empower the community? How do we create inspiration through this, because for me it’s success. It’s not about selling thousands of sneakers, it’s about getting a DM from a South American kid who says thank you. I see you doing it and because of that it’s going to be easier for me to convince my parents to let me go to art school or to pursue design or fashion. I see you doing it and I believe I can do it. When I had this kind of DM. I’m cool. My job is done. Secretly, this was what I wanted and looked for when I was growing up, because I didn’t see anyone in the New York fashion world who looked like me. For me, it was always about inspiring this next wave of creations to come.
Do you feel optimistic about this? This change is underway.
I am optimistic about this because I see the change happening. I see that the ideologies that we have been defending with Awake for the past five years are now an integral part of streetwear. And I see more female participation and female acceptance in streetwear, it’s becoming the norm. Brands are changing. They no longer just sexually objectify girls, for example, but treat them with respect, treat them like the muse. It’s not just a scantily clad girl in a picture anymore, she’s the one taking the picture now. I mean, my biggest muse has always been my big sister. For me, growing up, there was no one cooler than her.
With thanks to Tiffany & Co.
Lucka NgÃ´ Photography