This March, Angelo Baque’s streetwear imprint Awake NY have joined with Reebok Classics to create a new spin on the Workout Lo Plus and Instapump Fury with accompanying apparel. The range pays homage to the ‘90s hip-hop and art movements of New York with nostalgic colorways and branding hits. Ahead of the release, we spoke […]
This March, Angelo Baque’s streetwear imprint Awake NY have joined with Reebok Classics to create a new spin on the Workout Lo Plus and Instapump Fury with accompanying apparel. The range pays homage to the ‘90s hip-hop and art movements of New York with nostalgic colorways and branding hits.
Ahead of the release, we spoke with founder, owner and designer of Awake NY Angelo Baque and Leo Gamboa – Head Of Global Streetwear Collaborations at Reebok Classics to talk inspirations, sneaker culture today, music and more.
Firstly, thanks for your time Leo and Angelo. How does it feel to be in your position for Reebok and Awake where you can make things happen to represent other brands and individuals to give them shine?
For this collaboration, I identified who makes the most sense from Reebok and, having known
Angelo for a very long time and understanding his history and his passion for Reebok, you
know? As I got into this role, he was one of the first people I’ve actually reached out to initially.
We just waited for the right time to kind of like, come together and make it happen. It was
something that once I started, I brought it up to him and then it was just waiting for him to give
me the green light.
That’s the main objective of my work, to be able to be a platform for others. Working with a company like Reebok helps broaden our reach. So I can help the next kid coming up. My main objective is always growth, not just financial growth, but growth of community and to take advantage of being in this mentor role.
How did the collaboration between Reebok and Awake originally arise?
I’ve been really spoiled in that I am friends with many of the people I collaborate with. We’ve all come up together so we’re going to support one another within our community. If I were on the outside looking in, I could say, oh, this is some big circle jerk nepotism ring. But it’s not. We’ve all been on the same grind, hustling, flipping, copping. We’ve all worked to be in these positions that we are in. For me, it’s like, how can I support Leo? How can you support me? It’s not so transactional. That’s why, for example, the Carhartt collaboration was so successful. Wilfred from their marketing team, we’ve been friends for 13 or 14 years, almost the same amount of time that I’ve known Leo.
Just to add to that, I remember knowing Angelo and meeting up for the first time, then seeing how we’ve evolved over many, many years. Just friendship and chats to see where we are now. It’s kind of a surreal moment and say holy shit – This launch is going to be very special for myself and Reebok.
Where did the original concept for the chosen silhouettes (Workout and Instapump) come from?
I had a pair of Workouts in high school. It’s that simple. To me, it’s still very much a New York
shoe. A lot of people don’t see it as a New York shoe because the narrative has been lost over the
years. How do we make it fresh, new and relevant? When Palace does Reebok it’s very London.
We have our own identity. We’re very New York. Personally, it’s important when someone sees
the shoe and they think, that’s New York, that’s Awake, that’s Reebok.
When Angelo came to visit the office, we were going through numerous different models to see
what made the most sense for the first collaboration between the both of us. We wanted to pick
something that we identified with. The Workout is one of those styles you would see us wearing
a lot of. Angelo came up with the great idea of focusing on Japanese sneaker culture. The Fury is
one of the most iconic sneakers in Japan. So, I think him adding that model to the storytelling is
good offering for two different people, there’s a kid that wears only The Fury and that’s their
aesthetic. But I also really identify with The Workout. So, we made the decision to offer both
sides and both shoes are very strong in their own way.
Reebok and Awake have both been producing unexpected and exciting releases recently so it makes sense for you to finally meet, how long did the full collaboration process take?
Leo what do you think? A year?
Yeah, I’d say it’s definitely been a year. There’s always some some unfortunate hiccups here and there, but it’s around a year from the initial conversation to go to market.
The Workout Plus has always been a classic silhouette, especially here in the UK. What is your earliest memory with the shoe and how does it resonate in New York?
When I think of Reebok and of the Workout silhouette, I think of Raekwon. A lot of people don’t
see that association, but I think of Raekwon, Glaciers of Ice. Editorials of certain Wu Tang
members wearing that shoe with military cargo pants tucked into their sock or a hockey Jersey.
It’s all in my head, I can tell you which issue of The Source or Blaze Magazine that did a certain
editorial with The Wu Tang clan. I look at it and I instantaneously go back to 1993 – ‘95 when
that was a staple shoe and you had that in your catalogue. For me, that’s the correlation. I see that
shoe and that’s the energy and the vibe that I get.
To add on Angelo’s points, I definitely agree with him. If you go back to all the old videos and
everything like that, you definitely see an icon of Reebok living. What Angelo said, it’s where
Talk us through the colour ways and design for both styles, was there anything you set out to aim with these and are there any hidden references with the designs?
I wanted it to feel true to Reebok heritage. I wanted to tap into those colours that I saw when I
was a kid – a certain green or blue or even that cream. That’s Reebok. You don’t question it.
There’s an identity to the cream and the leather, with the blue and neon yellow-green. It’s very
Reebok right? You think of Michael Chang and you think of the Pump. Reebok had its own
energy in the early nineties. Over the years that narrative has been lost a little. For us it’s all
about evoking a feeling and an emotion. The cream colorway takes me back to that time period.
It isn’t nostalgia about being back in the early nineties, rather, it’s about getting that feeling
today in the present moment, 2020.
Like Angelo just said, he took some of the most iconic parts of both models and meshed them together to tell that iconic story. The cream and neon from The Fury – putting that together into one model is very interesting and fresh.
Outside of working on new collections, projects and collaborations, what do you do in your spare time to unwind from the hectic day to day?
I want to hear what Leo does *laughs*. I want to hear about Leo fishing outdoors on the
I grew up in New York and I moved to Boston about two and a half years ago. We definitely
don’t have the same energy as New York and have a lot of availability to enjoy the fruits of the
city, it’s a lot slower here. So, to be honest, I’m very just chill here, I enjoy a lot of outdoor
activities and I snowboard a lot. It’s a lot of just being outside, hiking, snowboarding. I feel like
living in a city, when I was in New York I tried to escape and to kind of appreciate nature and
stuff. Now that I don’t have like a city like that I just go outside a lot.
I just started boxing again. Boxing is important, as is meditation. Like what Leo saying, my
biggest luxury is time. I don’t have enough of it. I’m on my old man shit, I like a nap on a
Sunday for an hour. I’m happy, man, just being able to set aside five to ten minutes each morning
to meditate and twice a week boxing is great. We aren’t getting any younger.
Angelo is a good version of how old he is! He definitely looks and lives a great life. So, when you say like, uh, forties the new thirty, I think he’s a great definition of that.
Thank you Leo!
Sneaker culture has changed massively through the years, what do you see the next decade looking like?
Leo: To be honest, sneaker culture in the early days was different, I’d go to the store and have
that excitement of buying something just because I walked in and saw it. It’s different to the
having the interest of online product. There’s a lot of stories that are being told on a weekly basis
and I just think that consumers are having a lot to choose from. I’d like the next decade to be a
lot more concentrated, where each collaboration is not just doing a collaboration, just to do it. I’d
like them to be more meaningful and organic, definitely not forced.
It’s hard to turn the ship around at this point. Kids will wait in line for a pair of kicks. They put it
on Stock X and flip it. They buy it for $180 and sell it for 7-800 bucks the next day. How do you
turn that culture around?
There is a huge system of people making money and everyone is playing a part from beginning
to end. Shoe companies are producing more, the kids are consuming it and reselling it. Then
there are resale platforms. Honestly, I don’t see a reason for any of that infrastructure to change.
At this moment everyone’s eating.
Right now sneaker culture is about profit. I don’t know anyone who is collecting for the sake of
collecting. When Leo and I met 20 years ago we were collecting. We bought one to wear and we
bought one to break out in five years.
Music has always been a big thing here at Hip in our history and in the city of Leeds, exploring different genres and uncovered gems in the same way people explore their clothing and footwear styles. Like you once said Angelo, clothing stores are becoming the new record shops in a way. Could you name 3 classic albums that people may not have heard of, but stay in your all-time rotation?
Pulp, Different class. It’s one of my favourite albums. Leo, why don’t you chime in with an
Mine is a bit more basic. I’m very into the older hip hop, the low-end theory, Illmatic, 36
chambers. You’re not going to get something digged out of that for me. Tribe Called Quest were
probably one of the early age rappers, I think they’re the best. That fashion was one of the most
iconic fashion eras.
Another album I listen to is Company Flow – FunCrusher Plus. It might be a little too backpack
for you Leo, your ears might start bleeding *laughs*
It’s only on YouTube. I’ve got another one for you, Gil Scott-Heron, Bridges, only on YouTube.
That’s one of my favourite albums.
For the youth wanting to get into the creative side of the fashion industry, what advice could you share?
Just be ready to work. None of this is serendipitous, This is 20 years in the making. I’ve been in
good relationships and working steady for over 20 years to get to the position that I’m in right
now. Kids now have the advantage of social media and these other tools but at the end of the day
you still need to work hard and to be original with some good ideas. Your ideas can’t all come
off of Instagram.
Something else I would say is, as you’re growing, never burn bridges. The industry is small,
really small. It’s big but it’s small. What Angelo said earlier about everyone, being friends and
supporting him, wanting him to do well. The last thing you ever want to do is burn a bridge
because as you progress in life, no matter if it’s through work or through personal, something
could always bite you in the back. Be humble and never burn bridges.
I’ll give you a perfect example; I’ve fired a few interns, but I still hit up the ones who left
graciously, and ask them to work for me. Just because you got let go doesn’t mean that the
relationship is over. Don’t let your ego get the best of you.
Is there anything coming in 2020 for Reebok (Leo) and Angelo (Awake) you would like to share or hint?
We have another shoe coming. Stay tuned, all will be revealed.
The Awake NY x Reebok Classics Collection is online now.