Debuted at Dover Street Market in 2018, AwakeNY’s history, on the surface, may appear short lived. However, to understand the brand, you have to know the mastermind behind the garments. Enter, Angelo Baque.
According to Awake’s website, the brand started in 2012. A line of hoodies and tees eventually came to fruition 6 years later, where Baque used New York’s Dover Street space to invigorate the racial diversity of Queens, his home town. In the installation, the brand founder was accompanied by the John Benitez Salsa Band; kids were transported back to the creative peaks of 80s and 90s NYC, and cued desperately to meet the former Supreme Creative Director.
Even before his time at James Jebbia’s notorious label, Angelo Baque had been a prominent figure in the world of streetwear. Stints at Stüssy, and even Nom De Guerre, probably the most influential street brand you have never heard of, made him a centripetal figure in the subculture’s rapid 21st century development. It is clear from interviews with the creative that this was never the end goal.
The intricacies in Awake’s designs hark back to the rich landscapes Baque was surrounded by in his neighbourhood. The green and silver Asics, undoubtedly one of the most sought after debut collaborations last year, were made with Queens’ Corona Park in mind, as the designer explained to The New Order Mag.
“When you buy into Awake, you’re also buying into being socially aware, socially active” elicited the Puerto Rico American to GQ. You cannot discount the word's political and social relevance. Baque is unwilling to close himself off from art, music and other forms of culture. He is as much of a fan of Playboi Carti as Wu Tang. This has helped the brand to broaden season on season, giving nods to youth culture, whilst educating kids on social issues that may have otherwise past them by. Their “protect people, not borders” campaign raised $26,225 for two charities who fight for equality and better treatment of all migrants across the US-Mexican border.
As well as collaborating with charities, the label has delivered some of the most surprising and diverse capsule collections of the past two years. From Detroit work-wear titans Carhartt, to Nigeria’s best loved skater collective Motherlan, the list is lengthy despite Awake’s short-lived existence. This accentuates the respect Baque has effortlessly formulated for himself over the years, but equally illustrates the mutual respect Awake has with globalised streetwear entities, as well as labels on the rise. Simply, the brand puts a new lease of life into whoever they collate with.
Their realms don't just lie in the world of streetwear. Angelo Baque and Sergio Zambon collaborated together on a Moncler capsule in the letter end of February. Reworked gilets, tees and crews all contributed to a coveted collection of New York influenced Italian luxury items. The look-book’s casting was one of the most demographically and sexually diverse from a brand tied to the culture of skate/streetwear. Having such a unique background makes this so natural for Baque, when other casters and designers may find it difficult to do so.
Tied to Awake's DNA, is the Baque Creative. The agency works closely with Nike SW and Converse, whilst helping making the intrinsically New York brand stay prosperous. Founded in 2017, the company's Press has allowed Angelo to build a platform where his lifelong artistic collaborators can create and release art, when cultural environments may have previously prevented them from doing so. Half of the Awake/Baque Creative office is filled with books for his young generation of employees to indulge in. The designer is looking into expanding the press, and making a sustainable space where New York natives can come and consume texts freely as a form of productive inspiration.
Brining social studies to the Miami Design District, the company has also allowed Baque to educate kids on art and design through the power of printed t-shirts. Virgil Abloh was just one of may “Masters” drafted in for the three day event, as well as photographers like Renell Medrano. If there is any brand putting faith in the next generation of creatives, designers and artists, its AwakeNY.
In a world where social media is continuously blurring culture, and making it challenging to be unique, Awake and Angelo Baque are constantly looking to promote individuality and self-love. Their graphics persistently harness a youthful energy, and formulate garments that so naturally go in any outfit, whether inspired by skatewear, luxury or musical subcultures. The team have managed to do this whilst globalising the unparalleled culture of Queens, and separating themselves from the division of Dover Street Darlings that find it hard to break from the walls of Rei Kawakubo's art space.
We should all give thanks to Angelo Baque's obsession with the letter A. Before Awake, he owned a brand called 'Absurd'. His odd fascination with the character has fuelled a lot of the artistic direction that manufactures his naturally creative prowess. If he didn't scribble the word in its exclusive font all those years ago, then we would have never seen his 6 panel caps formulate in 2013, and we definitely wouldn't be experiencing the vast range of lookbooks, collections and collaborations almost a decade on.