Angelo Baque, one of streetwear’s most beloved creatives, is no stranger to compelling, authentic storytelling.
Prior to launching his popular Awake NY imprint, the product of Queens, New York, had a 10-plus year stretch as brand director of Supreme, where he learned lessons that inform how he works today.
“What I learned during all those years at Supreme is you don’t dumb down the story and you don’t dumb down the product because who you’re selling to, in your mind, is young,” Baque told FN. “When I start thinking about the creative process, whether it’s design or marketing of storytelling, there’s a huge chunk of honesty. Is this really me? Is this really Awake? Is this what we’re really about?”
He also employs this mindset beyond his efforts with Awake NY.
Last month, Asics announced Baque had put together a group of creatives across multiple industries dubbed The Asics Collective. This group will tell stories close to them through their own individual sneaker collaboration.
In addition to Baque, the group consists of Denim Tears founder Tremaine Emory, BornXRaised founder Spanto, Procell co-founder Jess Gonsalves and photographer Renell Medrano.
“There are things I love to do for Awake and there are things I love to do on my own. That’s how the Angelo Baque project [with Asics] came along. People on the outside don’t really understand that you can be your own creative apart from your brand,” Baque told FN. “This was, in a way, putting a challenge toward Tremaine and Spanto to see what they would come up with. The reason I chose Jess is because a lot of people only know her as Brian Procell’s partner and are not really seeing her genius. I’ve known Jess for 20 years, I’ve seen her trajectory and struggles and her solidifying herself in streetwear and getting respect. And with Renell, I just love her photographs. She’s super talented, she has great style — and it’s a great f**king shoe.”
While the stories he tells are compelling, they are also intentionally sincere and honest — especially when it comes to narratives of the Big Apple.
“Being a New Yorker, I feel like there’s a need for representation right now, not just as a person of color, but being a native New Yorker,” Baque said. “I always say that we are the only New York brand. There’s people who have moved to New York and start brands and put New York after their brand name or use it as an address, but they’re not from here, they didn’t grow up here.”
He continued, “When I look at our Instagram page, I see me. It might literally not be me, but I see me and I feel like that’s what people gravitate toward. It’s the same feeling I had when I listened to [Wu-Tang Clan] ‘Enter the 36 Chambers’ or [Nas] ‘Illmatic’ or [Nirvana] ‘Nevermind’ or [The Smashing Pumpkins] ‘Siamese Dream,’ these albums that influenced me as a kid, or when I went to my first live hip-hop show to see Jeru the Damaja and The Roots. My goal is to evoke emotion when you look at Awake products, projects and images. I want to evoke a feeling.”
He also approaches storytelling concerning his Ecuadorian heritage with sincerity and honesty.
Baque’s aforementioned Asics Gel-Kayano 14 collaboration, dubbed “Rebirth of Cool,” is dressed in the colors of the Ecuadorian flag, employed to evoke a feeling of pride for his parents’ homeland.
“I can’t even tell you how many DMs I got from kids, not just Ecuadorian kids but just kids from South America, saying, ‘thank you.’ I don’t give a s**t if we would have sold three pairs of those shoes, those DMs meant more to me than any amount of shoes sold,” Baque said. “I think that creates this inspiration and aspiration for people, and they believe they can do this too.”
He continued, “I didn’t see anybody doing what I was doing when I was a kid. There were the Willie Escos in the mid-’90s, and there was this guy named Eli who had a brand called Elements of Style that was really f**king cool, but there weren’t a lot of people that look like me doing what I’m doing today.”
After leaving Supreme, Baque focused all of his attention on Awake NY in 2016, and admitted the opportunities to collaborate were sparse.
“Asics really gave us a look when nobody was really to reach out and give us an opportunity, so I have a soft spot for Asics. They literally had our backs before any hype. I don’t even think we 50,000 followers [on Instagram] at the time,” Baque said. “I wouldn’t be doing this collective with any other footwear brand. It’s a very personal project. Everyone that I brought to the table is a friend.”
Knowing what the Asics opportunity did for him personally and professionally, Baque wants to see the greater footwear and fashion industries to do the same for others who share a similar heritage.
“We deserve the respect of corporate people going out and educating themselves about our culture the same way they educate themselves about other cultures. We have buying power. But there’s really no leadership, there’s no one at the top of the [streetwear] pyramid [of Hispanic or Latin descent] in corporate America,” Baque said. “The opportunities start with things like this with Asics and conversations like the one that we’re having right now.”