Despite 125K Instagram followers, a friendship with Kanye, and a long resume littered with names like Hood By Air and
, Luka Sabbat is, at the end of the day, just a 17-year-old. And, like a typical teenager, he nearly forgot about our interview.
It's the week leading up to New York Fashion Week and after a few follow-up emails, suddenly, it was a few hours before we were supposed to meet, and I still hadn't heard back from him. Finally, an hour before, my phone buzzes. He's been caught up in castings and forgot about our interview, but he's down to take a break from looking at VFILES models and meet up for coffee, or in his case, a chocolate milk.
I ask him how he's established himself in fashion. "I don’t know. Am I even established? I don’t even know. I’ve never thought about it," says Sabbat, leaning forward. "Like, it’s weird. I just kinda do whatever I want. I guess I just got a name for myself from working and social media. That’s a weird question... Holy shit, that just blew my mind."
How did you build your brand and how did you use your persona to further yourself?So I used to be a fuccboi, alright, and I would just post mad Supreme shit, and with time I got into style and shit. And then...it’s weird, I didn’t mean to build a brand, it just kind of happened with time. And then I became really picky about what I posted. I don’t post every day and I was like, "Okay I gotta chill, I gotta make it more rare." And you know, hanging out with Virgil [Abloh] and a bunch of different people on the scene that "got me" followed me. Then follows started to matter, because your Instagram is just like being with people. I live in a world where everyone around me is also on social media, so it’s like I’m competing—not competing but, some people I compete with and some people I work with—but I was kind of forced to do that. I didn’t mean to do it. It kind of just happened naturally. Like, I never thought, "Okay, this is how I’m going to build my brand." I just kind of followed my instinct and did what I had to do.
I mean, I know your parents are pretty well-established—forgive that word—but how did you meet the people you know? How did you become friends with Virgil? I think it was through social media and mutual friends, and then from everybody else. It’s literally such a small world in fashion. You know one person and you hang out with them, and then you know another person, and from there on being friends with one person made me friends with another person, etc.. And then I was on all these people's Instagrams and then they found me through that. That’s how I linked up with so many people: Literally through DMs on Twitter and Instagram and through comment sections.
Really?Yeah, like those are the vibes. You kind of just have to catch the wave from the Internet. You know what I’m saying?
How do you do that and not be creepy about it, though? I feel like it’s so easy to come off the wrong way.You just gotta be smooth. If it’s girls, I just slide in DMs with a joke or sarcasm, or some corny shit. And when it’s a dude I’m like, “Yo, what’s good? Let’s link up and build.” Just kidding. I would never fucking say that. That was such—oh my god, that’s so bad... I hate when people say that. I’m like, "Yo, what's up," and then usually they reply. And it’s just like a conversation. I’m like, "Yo hit me up and whenever we’re in the same town." Like DJ Esco—we literally linked up through Twitter. I just DMed him like, "Yo, whenever you’re in the city hit me up, I’m the man about town if you ever need to go anywhere, etc.. If you ever need anything hit me up." And then he got to New York and he took me to this crazy-ass Future show, and that was lit. And that was through Twitter DMs.
I know that when Virgil introduced you to Kanye, he called you a "young creative." What exactly is a "young creative" to you?A young person that’s just like…a young creative! I like to create, I like to build, I like to make things happen, and stuff like that. I envision things and I try to make them happen. I work in the creative industry and that’s what a young creative is. I’m a young dude that has ideas, and then I come through with them most of the time.
Do you ever think about the balance between creativity and the balance between still being accessible and mainstream?Fuck no. Fuck no. If I have an idea, I’ll do it. Fuck the rest of it. An idea is an idea. I have many things that I’ve done that aren’t even out. If it’s for me I really don’t give a flying fuck. If it’s for a client, I have to go through them, but I still keep it very me. I mean that’s why they’re hiring me, right? They like what I do, so I’m gonna do what I do, regardless.
And do you ever find that people underestimate you because of your age?All the time. A lot of people think because I’m 17 that I’m just a young fuccboi that doesn’t do anything. People underestimate me all the time, but little do they know that I’m surrounded by some of the most creative people in the world right now. I’m one of the youngest people in the scene, surrounded with the people I am. I barely hang out with people my age, except for my best friends. The people I work with, like Virgil, definitely don’t underestimate me. Random people and people who don’t really know who I am, the moment I tell them I’m 17 they don’t want to take me seriously, but sometimes I have more to show for myself than people that are way older than me. You can underestimate me all you want, but what did you do? What do you do? What have you done? Who are you? I don’t let it bother me. If anything, it’s just another opportunity for me to prove my point that age has nothing to do with anything. I know creative-ass kids that are fucking 12 that are better than me at what I do.
You were saying earlier that you never expected to get into what you are doing. Did you have any other aspirations? What did you want to do when you grew up?Yeah, I wanted to be either an actor or work in the gaming industry and make video games and test games. I just wanted to make cool games and shit. And now I’m here, not making video games.
You should just make an app, everyone else is doing it.Nah, I’m talking like a video game. Like on a console. I’m talking something intricate with characters, plot twists, and actual game plays—something that’s more than just on your phone. I don’t play any games on my phone. The only video games I play are on Xbox.
I know that you said that your end goal is to have your own fashion house, but do you kind of see yourself branching into any other mediums?Yeah, definitely. Right now I’m doing other things, like creative directing and styling—that’s different than design. One day, I will make a video game. I’m low-key working on a movie, like I’m trying to make this movie right now. Feature length and everything—an actual movie. The thing is, I have ideas, but it’s more than fashion. Like I said, whatever idea I have, no matter what field it’s in, I really want to make it. Period. It doesn’t matter if it’s fashion or not fashion. I know architects, I know moviemakers, I know script writers, I know mad people, so it’s just like, if I have an idea I can make it happen.
And did you write the script?No, we’re still trying to find the right script writer right now, because the movie is really intricate and insane. It’s going to be so sick. I’m trying to get it out by 2016.
That’s really ambitious. That’s a hustle.Yeah.
I know that you and Jaden Smith are working to blur gender lines.Jaden and I don’t care about gender roles, and that’s why we kinda do whatever we want. One of the times I met Jaden—like the third or fourth time; we’re neighbors, so we were hanging out in our neighborhood—I had acrylic nails and he fucking loved it. It doesn’t matter if I’m a boy or a girl—I wanted to get my nails done, so I did. He wears skirts and dresses and, if it’s too much or not, he’s just making a statement: Let people be whoever they want to be. Stop patronizing people for something you don’t understand. That’s so stupid. If you don’t like it, shut your mouth, and go in a corner and complain by yourself, but don’t go out of your way to make people feel bad for decisions that they made. I walked out of my house with my acrylic nails that I got done, on my own time, for my own reasons. Whoever doesn’t like them can just go fuck themselves.
It’s just interesting though, because as someone who’s on the Internet all day, there’s so much hatred on there, as much as there are so many cool, new creative things that are coming from it. There’s so much, I guess old ideals that are on it.Yeah, like Jaden said, "Who the hell created the rules of what boys can do and what girls can do?" And times have changed. It’s 2015, like, yo, everything’s different now. People should be more accepting of new things. People want to be so new, but still live through an old mindset. Live up to the times if you want. If you’re going to live with an old mindset, stick to that lifestyle, but don’t try to be new and patronize things that you don’t understand. If anything, try to understand it. I’m pretty androgynous in terms of I’ll wear whatever, ya know what I'm saying? I'll wear crop tops, I'll wear acrylics. Does that make me gay? No. I think it looks cool. So that’s it.
And working with Kanye and Virgil and all of these really amazing creative artists—I think it’s fair to call them artists.Oh, Of course, yeah.
Have they given you any advice that has really stuck and kept with you?Yeah. I’m tired of people asking me about that, because I feel like that’s all that people write about. But yeah, I mean, of course, they are geniuses. They gave me tips and just being around them and seeing the way they work and their work ethic and their ideas, it’s great. That’s some of the best learning I’ve ever done, ya know what I'm saying? I’ve learned a lot just being there.
Do you have a motto or a mindset that you approach your projects and your life with?Yeah: Do whatever you want. Don’t do it for other people. That’s it. If you think about it, every rock star and every great artist never did it all for the money or the approval of anybody. If you think about let’s say, the Ramones, or the Sex Pistols, or GG Allin, those people were poor most of the time and then got rich, but they never changed whoever they were. They never did anything to appeal to anybody else but themselves and their audience. That’s the mindset I approach things with. You kind of have to be selfish in a way and put yourself over others and make yourself and whoever follows you with your movement happy. That’s the shit, you know what I’m saying? Don’t be obsessed with an idea because everyone else is going to like it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with selling out, it’s just kinda I think its corny in a way. I get it, you need money, but be true to who you are. Don’t be a cornball for money. That’s dumb.
That’s like so many people, though, who are just doing shit with bigger names.Yeah, of course. That’s what social media did—everyone wants to be famous and everyone wants to be rich now because that’s all they see. That’s all the media feeds people. Look at what this rich person is doing. Look at what that famous person is doing. And everyone is like “I want to be like them,” and then they start doing things for everyone else but themselves.
Everybody wants to be a designer right now. Mad people are just printing a bum-ass T-shirts and saying they’re the designer, and collaborate with somebody that has a pretty big name and then they try to appeal to the masses—and it’s just stupid. It kind of ruined a lot. I could be a designer right now if I wanted to, but I don’t feel like the time is even right. I don’t even know how to build a garment with my own two hands. I have great ideas, but I don’t know everything I need to know about how to cut things and fit and seams and stuff like that. It doesn’t matter if being a designer in five years or six years is still cool. I’m not going to release my brand to be that guy. I’m going to release it because I want to make what I want to make.
What do you think that everyone should know about you, aside from just focusing on how you’re super-young and how you’ve worked with all of these great people? I just want people to know that I’m a regular teenager somewhat. I want to say something, but I feel like it’s fake obnoxious, but not really...like, I’m still a regular teenager. I just graduated high school. But I’m also elevated because I rose from that generation of Internet kids. And there’s a million of other kids trying to the same thing as me, or trying to be on the same level and stuff like that. And I came from that generation of DMing and being on the Internet, straight from that social-media era. I just happened to do it well enough for me to surpass the average. At the end of the day I’m still a teenager, but I don’t think anybody should underestimate me or anything because I’m about to come for mad people’s spots soon. And they’re going to have to deal with that. People either downgrade me, or put me on a pedestal that I don’t really want to be on sometimes, and they hold me way higher up than I actually am. But I just want to be treated as a human. I don’t want to be treated as an Internet celebrity or stuff like that. I just want to be a regular dude that does cool things.