NEW YORK CITY: “It’s peculiar, but I’m not mad at it,” says Luka Sabbat, assessing the peanut butter oatmeal on his ICON cover shoot set. It would be the first of many soundbites that day, ones we pondered bottling, labelling Luka-isms and selling for the price of a small car. “In 2019 if u still wearing clothes you washed. Y’all gotta catch up,” Sabbat posted earlier this year, lingo we would hero in our new business venture. Standing in the kitchen of a West Village apartment, Sabbat – dressed head to socks in bubblegum-pink Marni – is right at home. Despite the cool demeanour he carries – one contained in dreadlocks, a cigarette and a subtle confidence in the known power he wields – Sabbat, a creative by trade, is stumped by what it is exactly about himself that resonates with his millions of Instagram followers. “I’m like relatable, man,” he begins, slowly and considered. “I’m just some kid from New York that, like, makes stuff and hangs out with his friends. I just happen to do these things, but at the end of the day I was just some LES [Lower East Side] kid, you know what I mean.”
After growing up in Paris, which he says taught him “manners”, Sabbat – the son of a fashion designer and a model booker – went to school on New York’s Lower East Side. “It was tight, it was kind of crazy because it was a bunch of young drug addicts, skaters, hipsters, hood motherfuckers – it was a medley of almost like every single type of demographic that you could imagine,” he recalls. “It’s like surrounded with Chinatown, so you have all these Chinese people – it was cool. Everything was cheap so I didn’t really spend much money – I didn’t have much money to spend – so I could buy meals. There was this little shop called Economy Candy [on Rivington Street]; it’s still open actually. There’s also an arcade on Mott Street that I used to go to. It was fun.
“The scene I really got caught up in was the SoHo scene back in 2013/2014 because that’s where I worked,” he continues. “So, after school (you never really want to hang out in the neighbourhood you went to school in) I’d hang out in SoHo because I didn’t want to kick it in LES. But even though I did kick it there by default.”
Sabbat has just returned from the Venice Film Festival after the debut of Giants Being Lonely, in which he served as an executive producer. Taking the form of a stylistic coming-of-age film rooted in common themes of overbearing hormones and vulnerability, the film follows the story of three high school seniors on a foreign path towards adulthood. Where it lacks in star power, it gains in impressionist treatment, creating the same ethereal essence as its predecessors. Working alongside up-and-coming director Grear Patterson, it is Sabbat’s second credit as a producer and, like most creatives, he’s a little aloof.
ICON: You’re producing.
SABBAT: I’m slowly trying to gateway myself into making movies and eventually I want to direct. I wrote a few scripts that I really see myself directing very soon. Producing a movie kind of gives you an insight into how movies work and the experience of filming and getting shit done and getting shit made. Getting lighting and DPs and understanding the process of distributing a movie – it gave me an understanding of how movies really get made. So the next step is to just make one.
ICON: You’re only 21. How do you think your age and experience is perceived in the film industry?
SABBAT: I don’t know. I mean, I don’t really um…
ICON: Does that scare you?
SABBAT: No, not really. I dunno, I don’t think about shit like that. I just want to make movies.
ICON: Do you fear anything?
ICON: I feel like you don’t.
SABBAT: Yeah, I don’t think so. Nothing that I can think of. Like, I have an irrational fear of getting stabbed. Like, I’d rather get shot than stabbed. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna die, just the fact that it’s way more personal to get stabbed; somebody up close and you could fucking smell their breath and, I dunno, it’s scary.
Righto. A publication gave Sabbat the title “sartorial emperor”, one whose markings of cool lie in the people he’s seen with and the fact he’s always wearing the thing no one else has, seemingly without trying. But how considered is his style, really? “It’s not that considered, I just put it on, really,” admits Sabbat. “I do have a plethora of really rare stuff, so this T-shirt is extremely rare. It’s something nobody has. These are my sample Off-White pants. It’s just like shit I get from my friends or wherever, you know. I’ve been making more stuff than ever lately – like solo in my own time. So the more creative I get, the less time I spend thinking about what outfit I’m gonna wear. I just want to put stuff on and get out of the house and get busy. So it’s like, since I’m more active, its way less considered now. But I feel like the blueprint of my closet at this point is really top tier, like I have a lot of really good stuff. So almost anything that I would put on is really good, you know what I mean. My blueprint and my everyday things are, like, the best. And I can just put it on.”
You won’t catch Sabbat’s name with a salacious headline because he chooses to run in a very tight crowd. “I don’t be hanging with no extras,” he interjects. “I won’t be leaving the place with no extras. I don’t want to be like kicking it with them. I might entertain them for two seconds while they ask me something, but I’m not about to kick it with them, you know what I mean. I hang out with my people. I’d be solo and with, like, a few close friends.”
One of them is Virgil Abloh. “He’s a very humble, sweet man. He’s one of those people where his actions speak for him. He doesn’t really need to do much. I mean, just look at what he’s doing. What is there to talk about? He took over the fucking fashion industry. He knows that. But he’ll never even admit to it, because it’s like obvious and that’s the beauty of it.
“I learnt a lot from him, too, in the sense like we started hanging out when I was, like, 16 or 17, and being around him, I just absorbed so much,” Sabbat continues. “I just saw how he works and how he operates his business. He’s like the busiest man in the world, but when he sees me, it always seems like he has nothing to do with it – he’s super calm and chill. He literally always has somewhere to go and something to do. Every single second of the day.”
And with that, so does Sabbat. There’s a party uptown. He exits with his pants firmly on.
Creative Direction: Dané Stojanovic
Photography: Daniella Midenge
Hair: Owen Gould
Makeup: Tobi Henney
Styling: Cat Pope
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE OCTOBER 2019 EDITION OF ICON AUSTRALIA.
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