We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience.
For a complete overview of all cookies used, please see our privacy policy.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Streetwear Brand "Awake NY"

Home  /  The PRES&S  /  
Why You Need to Pay Attention to Streetwear Brand "Awake NY"

ngelo Baque’s streetwear brand, Awake NY, is one of the hottest labels out there right now. The decade-old brand is known for its bold graphic designs and references to New York City’s dynamic multicultural urban-scape. Awake NY’s wearable clothing and accessories often sport the brand’s signature logo, a stylized version of the Big Apple’s iconic “I Love NY” slogan.

The label’s designs have gained a huge following among fashion enthusiasts and streetwear fans for its unique blending of street style and high-end fashion. For a great lesson on brand building, we’re taking a deep dive on how Awake NY stays fresh, but remains true to its roots and core values.

Baque’s Background

Let’s back up for a minute and focus on Baque, founder of Awake NY, Angelo Baque Studios and Baque Creative, whose clients include Supreme and Nike. From an early age, the native New Yorker was passionate about photography, fashion and the arts.

Baque interned for both The Source Magazine, shooting photos at hip-hop shows, and Fader Magazine. He also worked at the Stüssy store on Wooster Street under James Jebbia, and at Nom De Guerre with Will Whitney. While at NDG, Baque showcased pieces from Absurd, his precursor line to Awake NY. One of the most popular tees he released was a bold graphic print of basketball player, Patrick Ewing, next to the Twin Towers, a design must-have for every New Yorker.

Then he made a big move, becoming brand director for streetwear label Supreme in 2006 and helping the skate label become a household name over the next 10 years. Baque started up Awake NY as a “side project” while at Supreme to bring his personal creative visions to life.

In 2016, he released his first global collection for Awake NY. The first item available was a multicolored, six-panel hat, with the words “Awake” and “NY,” that quickly sold out. A unique aspect to this release: Baque sent all proceeds from the hat to help pay legal fees for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe cause. This marked the beginning of Awake NY as a socially aware streetwear brand that released on-trend garb and promoted philanthropy.

4 Ways Awake NY Stays On Brand

We love Baque’s take on staying true to his brand DNA: “Awake NY’s community can smell bullsh*t from a mile away, and the fact that we’ve never pivoted from our message resonates with them.” Check out four ways Baque keeps Awake NY true to its roots.

1. They understand and stay true to their identity.

Successful brands like Awake NY possess a strong identity and values – and that carries through from its products, to its marketing, to how it interacts with the community at large. Baque found inspiration in New York City’s diversity of people, culture and music, as well as its youthful energy and co-existing communities.

The brand calls itself “unapologetically New York,” because it reflects the city’s multicultural spirit as a modern streetwear label. That was apparent from the get-go, in their branding with the word “Awake” on the front and the letters “NY” in the corner like a trademark. (As a side note, “Awake” is also a nod to Baque’s personal sobriety journey.) Each new collection has its own vibe, but reflects the Big Apple’s bold, vibrant energy.

2. They’re actually part of the scene.

Since Baque has been part of the NYC downtown crowd for decades, he has naturally blurred and blended the traditional boundaries of ’90s streetwear and high-end fashion in his apparel. Awake NY’s latest collections include those telltale bold patterns, multicolored beanies, hoodies, sweatshirts, sweatsuits and t-shirts that nod to the brand’s New York roots – along with the brand’s nearing-iconic script “Awake” font.  

Awake NY’s graphics also include a lot of bold screen-printed designs, that include cultural references and historical figures like Michelle Obama, Nelson Mandela and Angela Davis printed on the brand’s t-shirts.

3. They design with a deep-rooted intent to give back.

In 2018, Baque told GQ, “When you buy into Awake, you’re also buying into being socially aware, socially active.” From the get-go, the label’s philanthropic efforts stood out from the first hat sales. Many of Baque’s projects are rooted in community empowerment, or raise awareness and money for special costs.

Recently at New York Fashion Week, Baque spotlighted “community” by partnering with UPS for a “La Bodega Baque” installation and special clothing collection – which celebrated New York’s Latinx community and the city’s bodegas, while spreading  a message of unity between the cultures of the Americas and the Caribbean Islands. Even more amazing, all the proceeds from the collection, plus a $50,000 grant, went to Manhattan’s High School for Fashion Industries for a scholarship program for Latinx designers.

“I wanted to bring intention to this partnership and design with UPS – highlighting our mutual dedication to empowering and unifying the Latinx communities,” Baque said. “When Awake NY creates, we do so to bring people together.”

Awake has also donated proceeds to Queens-based New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) and Equality for Flatbush, a POC-run organization that advocates against an array of social issues. Plus, the label developed collaborative products with Dan Colen’s Sky High Farm, a nonprofit that improves access to fresh food for New Yorkers in underserved communities.

Finally, season after season Baque has hosted many iterations of his pop-up Social Studies hands-on workshops to inspire young designers and give back. These events – with contributors like Virgil Abloh, Shaniqwa Jarvis and Melody Ehsani – include lectures on the history of streetwear and how to start their own movements via interactive workshops.

4. They remain true to their core values, even in their collabs.

Besides a core focus on giving back to the community, Awake NY has carefully chosen partners to collaborate with, including Reebok, ASICS, Vans, Moncler, Lacoste, Stüssy, Off-White and Levi’s. With each collaboration, Awake NY has brought its youthful, modern NYC spirit and sensibility to the pieces.

For example with the Awake NY X Levi’s AW20 Collection, Baque reimagined the iconic Levi’s trucker jacket and 501 jeans through his design lens. He used patches and panels of colorful bold fabrics and patterns from men’s shirting to give it a street style and New York vibe. The Awake team used a hand-sewn process with black thread to highlight the “imperfect” look of hand stitchery, so they could echo the brand’s unique DIY spirit.

Baque described this collab on his Instagram (@angelobaque) this way: “The objective of this shoot was to start shifting the perception of the fragmented Black and Brown family that has been portrayed for too long in mainstream media. We are creating the new here and taking control of our narratives. Vulnerability and love among young men presented at a high level and not through trauma.”

Parting Advice From a Streetwear Genius

Baque notes that even five years ago, streetwear brands weren’t as involved in giving back or doing work for their communities. Since then, street-style brands have embraced more of an awareness to do so. “I’m proud that Awake has always been at the vanguard of changing the norms in the streetwear industry,” Baque said.

Even more importantly, don’t change who your brand is during any outreach you do. “You never want to dumb down your brand’s design, product or presentation to ‘reach’ your audience,” he said. You’ve got to respect their intelligence and taste level.”

Feb 26, 2023
James Andres
Post Tags:
No items found.