"Opinions are just like assholes", New York creative Luka Sabbat tells me. "Everyone's got one and they all stink." As unfortunate as it is true, it's an interesting and strangely important life-lesson that the 22-year old has accepted, and one that provides some light relief from the expected pressures of 2.3 million people watching your every move on social media. The downfalls are obvious: one mistake and the world is quick to judge. Yet through Instagram and some carefully-curated choices, Luka has been able to build a global following, sharing work that spans across industry, and stake his presence at the centre of America's elite creative scene.
Photographer Bianca Gerasia and stylist Derek Beckman spend the day with the actor/model/stylist/creative director, getting personal through portrait. Whilst I dial in to discover what else I can learn about a guy who has already been so well documented on the internet. Born into a fashion family, Luka sits within established circles. His father, Clark Sabbat, is a fashion designer whilst his mother, Jessica Romer, was a successful stylist, now chef. Both their influences on Luka are clear, but it is the wider influence of female creatives - artists and designers - that Luka gravitates towards within the industry and beyond.
Saint Laurent suits and monochromatic frames keep the series simple for a guy with a no-nonsense policy and strong nose for forgery. In such an oversaturated game, "influencing" and content creation can be a sink or swim type-situation. It seems Luka is able to float above it all with ease.
Having come from such a strong, creative female lineage, in what ways have these women shaped you?
I grew up with my mum who was a stylist, and also my grandmother who was an interior decorator. My aunt was a pretty popular DJ in Paris in the late 90s-early 2000s. My parents were tight. All the females in my family are cool, because they all did cool shit. None of them had a boring job, or did anything wack. They all seemed to have fun doing what they did which inspired me to be a creative. They wouldn't complain about their job. Instead of being like "Oh, I've got to go to work", my mum would be very open - like, "We're doing productions for this show. It's going to be cool. I'm working with these, these and these people". Obviously, it's not for everybody, but it's crazy because sometimes you hear about people who have always hated their job. A lot of people, a lot of parents, bring that shit home with them, and then project that onto their kids. But that was not the case for me, so I'm very grateful for that.
Have they influenced your personal style at all?
I mean, yeah, my mum dressed me basically my whole life! Good Nikes, tracksuits. My dad actually put me in a lot of denim overalls, but my mum's the one that had the influence - she put me onto Margiela. I found out about all that shit from going into her closet. I didn't even know what that was at the time, but just she put me onto so much stuff, like Rick Owens. The foundation of what I know, I owe to her. Her and my dad, obviously, because my dad's also a designer and still makes clothes to this day. Both my parents are really into fashion, but my mum definitely influenced my style, and also that's why I think I end up wearing so much women's clothes now. Because as a kid, I would just take my mum's clothes, and they would fit me - or I'd make them fit.
What makes you happy?
I could tell you what doesn't make me happy... Most things make me happy. I'm pretty happy for the most part, as long as everything doesn't suck. You know?
Alright then - what makes you angry?
Sticklers, naggers, Negative Nancies. People who bring shit to the table. I'd rather feel indifferent about someone than talk trash. Just don't bring shit to the table. Especially in LA - a lot of sticklers and naggers. People that have nothing to talk about. I'm trying to not sound like an asshole, but sometimes people will appear super on-culture but talk as if they know absolutely everything about whatever subject we're talking about. We'll talk about movies and they'll be like "Oh I love movies", but then can only name like three of the most classic movies everybody's seen. They don't actually know anything. I hate shitty brands. Whenever I see something really wack, or too repetitive, I'm just like, we don't need it. There's a new brand every week. Why do we need this? What are you bringing to the table that hasn't been brought? In LA there's a new hoodie brand every week. Not to rain on anyone's parade, I get it's how you live; it's a way to make money. At the end of the day, there is a market for it and it's a cash grab. But being in fashion, it's just so oversaturated. When you look the pioneers of the 2000s and the 90s, what brands were coming out then versus what brands are coming out now? That's why I respect people like Wales Bonner and Martine Rose - which, obviously, are two sick female designers. There's a conversation in their collection. There's thought, there are stories.
Speaking of strong women, what others either personal, professional or even historical would you say you are inspired by?
Joan of Arc was tight! She was a boss bitch, she was a gangster. Michele Lamy is sick. The Virgin Mary... Eve from Adam and Eve - she paved the way. She's really the OG...
Anna Uddenberg, I think is really cool. I look up to her art. Now that I think about it, especially when it comes to art and fashion, I don't really necessarily classify creatives as male or female; I just classify as what's good and what's not good. Especially in an industry where some of the most predominant creatives are women. It's not like I work in tech. Women are very creative. Phoebe Philo. I could go on and on about every sick girl, ever.
That's interesting, though. Because historically women haven't necessarily received the same opportunities as guys, so I don't know if there are female creatives that have been platformed as much.
Yeah, that's true. But what's great in the industry is that they're praised. It's crazy, because to the public, people look up Margiela and all these male designers, but there are still the Rei Kawakubo's of the world. She is literally a powerhouse. She's such a pillar of the fashion community, from discovering designers to Dover Street Market, buying brands, putting on new brands, putting on other female creatives too - she brings in so many sick female designers. Yeah, Rei Kawakubo is definitely up there with Pheobe Philo.
It’s been said you may not like being in front of the camera as you do behind it. Why?
I just like making stuff more than being in stuff. It's cooler to be the guy doing it than be the guy in it, for the most part. And also less pressure. I don't have to look good. I can show up in sweatpants, a dirty t-shirt, and a pair of Chateau slippers and get it done. Versus like, 'oh, I've got to maintain this physique! Where's my spa treatment? Boo!'.
Is that the same for acting?
Weirdly, no. Me and my buddy Duke have been directing our first movie, and I love being behind the camera on that, too. But I also fucking love acting. Like, a lot. I guess it's just something about modelling that I'm not inspired by. It's fun when you can work with cool people but it's also sometimes kind of drawing because it's like, 'ah, I'm standing here. Wearing a jacket. Again.'. Acting requires thought, performance, dialogue. You can have your own take on a character. There's more to work on, there's more to debunk.
What would you rather do when feeling super creative? Write and direct? Design and build? Style and be photographed?
Oh, my mood changes by the day. It really depends on what side of the bed I wake up on. Literally. I just like to work on something. Either it's me having a conversation with Duke trying to figure out what are we doing with this movie, or me thinking of a chair to make, or trying to make graphics. I just like to be using my brain for the most part.
You grew up in both Paris and New York. Did you find much of a difference in cultures of masculinity in these cities?
100%. I remember when I moved from Paris to New York, I tried to say hi to somebody and then I tried to give him what we call 'la bise' - the kiss on the cheek - to be like, 'hey, what's going on?'. And them mother fuckers were like, "Hey, yo, pause. That's mad gay!". I was mad confused, like what? I've shown up to New York wearing skinny jeans and crossing my legs, and that shit was frowned upon. Well not frowned upon - people got used to it. But kids were caught off guard, because that whole toxic masculinity shit is kind of taught here. In France, and Europe in general, it's a bit more free-spirited in that way. You don't have to be Mr. Macho Man, you don't got to be Mr. Tough guy. You can just be a guy and be into whatever you're into and wear whatever you want without anybody being like, "You're gay!", which is crazy. But what was interesting is that nobody hated on it either. Especially in New York, where it's a super free city, and even though I went to some kind of hood school, at first people were like, "Yo, what's good with you?", but then when they realise you're just being yourself, and not trying to be Mr. Man, they're like, "Okay, yeah, you're cool". But it's just taught here. It's generations and generations. We all know what America is like.
Are ideas of 'toxic masculinity' something you ever struggled with, growing up?
No. I was raised by three women. I never really gave a shit. My mum was always like, "Do whatever you want". And my dad also - working in fashion. They get it. They never cared for me to be any sort of way or forced me to think any sort of way. That's how I'll raise my kids. I mean, I think I turned out alright! For the most part.
So far, so good. You've been known to take hiatuses from social media and your 2.3 million followers. Do you find it easy to switch off from it all?
As easy as I can be on, I can also be off it. That's how I keep my sanity. It's designed to keep you on it, all that internet shit. Your timeline - you could literally scroll on your timeline forever and it will never end. The algorithm never ends. So it's like, how much of that shit can you even look at? Cool. You're in Cabo in a bikini. How does that stimulate? It's not my reality, seeing how other people live and do shit.
That's an interesting balance you live, then. Because in many ways that platform has helped build your career and so many people - your followers - are invested in what you do.
Yeah, well, also the way I use Instagram, I think is a bit different than how most people use Instagram, even in our world of work. Obviously, I'm still selling product but for the most part, I post my own work and stuff things I'm a part of, versus like, 'this is me on vacation! This is me doing that!'. Don't get me wrong, my Instagram is very self-centred, because I am a brand. And I get it, I'm not trying to say that I am that different, but I don't overdo it either. I don't flood the timeline. I don't oversaturate. I post what needs to be posted and what I think is cool. Like obviously, the stuff that I participate in that I have approved, which most of the time I think is cool anyway.
Maybe I'm being a Negative Nancy, but also Instagram is sick because that's how you can keep up with your favourite artists and creatives. Some of the coolest artists right now, I could see what galleries they're showing in, I could see what new art they're making. It's not all bad. It's good until it's bad. You'll start looking at the stuff you want to look at, and then the algorithm starts throwing you shit that you don't actually care about and next thing you know, you're in some Instagram loophole of garbage. But even just not spending too much time on it a day is good enough. I don't revolve my life around that shit.
Does it ever scare you that so many eyes are watching you?
Yeah. Well, no, but yeah. What I mean by that is sometimes I do stuff, or tweet stuff as a joke. I think something is funny. And I forget there are millions or hundreds of thousands of people watching, and not everybody gets it. But also what I understand is that you'll never be able to make everyone happy. It's the internet. Someone is always going to be pissed. So when you accept that you can't win them all over, I think it's fine. That's why I'm not that scared. I don't do anything wrong. So when people get mad at me for shit, it's just like, what do you want from me? Am I supposed to be fucking perfect? Alright, I cracked a joke, sorry. It's weird. The thing is that now everybody has an opinion, you know? Opinions are just like assholes. Everyone's got them and they all stink!
Now that's a pull-quote if I've heard one.
Oh, you have to put that in the interview.
What else challenges you?
My friends, and me I guess. I get pretty hard on myself sometimes and I think I'm a loser and I don't do enough... Also when you start seeing your friends doing super sick shit, you're like, 'wait, I got to be doing sick shit, too', so it creates this cool dynamic of wanting to work - but in no shape or form is it a competition. But, mostly myself. We're all our hardest critics. And by challenging myself, sometimes I don't get stuff done or I have a hard time following through with things because I'm so hard on myself. I'm being spooked that something's not going to work out or something sucked; I'll get discouraged because something didn't go as planned and I'm like, 'fuck this'. I got to get over that shit - just do it! I am pretty good at doing that for the most part, but I'm not the best either. I fall through sometimes. That's my hardest challenge. It's like my brain is kind of dumb. I'll think about too many things at the same time or have a million ideas, and then it'll be hard for me to execute them because halfway through an idea I have another idea, and then I get distracted. I just have to be able to actually focus on one thing.
Are you much of an overthinker?
That's an interesting question.
[Asks friend off-camera]: Dude, am I an overthinker? Or an under-thinker?
[Friend: I'd say overthinker.]
I think I'm an overthinker, apparently. How do you expect me to think about how I'm an overthinker or under-thinker?! That question alone is insane to ask.
[Friend off-camera: You're overthinking it, dude.]
Ha! God. That answers that question.
Have you ever been in love?
Oh, yeah, it was pretty sick. I mean, it feels good. Love is sick. I dated a chick for mad long, almost three and a half years or something. And it was fun while it lasted. Having somebody to talk to, and hang out with, and share experiences with; go and see cool shit and travel. Being able to have sex at any given moment! Being single is garbage. But - I also love being single because ain't nothing better than freedom!
How would you visualise falling in love?
Obviously, it's a long process. You can't look for it. It has to happen organically. People look for girlfriends because they're like, "I need to get my shit together". It's like, buddy, that's you, man! You can't project that shit on a girl; you can't project your desires and what you want onto a person. You have to just do you, and then that person can help you be you. You can't look for something, because then that's how shit gets toxic. You have all these motives and then you go into a relationship expecting all these things out of a person. Then you'll get mad when they're not what you expected, but it's like, sorry, that's not their fault. They're not what you created in your head.
What woman has most influenced you in your life?
My mother and grandmother. Both of them. My grandma, Rosette from my dad's side. My dad's first generation American so she basically fled Haiti to give birth to my dad, That's a pretty fucking bold move. My grandmother on my mum's side, June Romer, too, because she was a political activist and helped break my grandfather out of jail - he's banned from United States of America and a bunch of other shit. And my mum, too, because she always did whatever the fuck she wanted to do. If she got bored or something, she would just find another job. She just followed what she wanted to do versus what she had to do.
What has been your greatest lesson you have learned so far?
It's a hard question because I learn shit every day. And sometimes I don't even remember all the shit I learned because it just downloads onto my hard drive and becomes part of my operating process without realising. I can't even pinpoint it.
Being consistent. And being a good person. So many people put out negative energy and expect the best and then they'll be bitter at the world. Just be a good person and it will figure itself out. Don't be shitty, mind your business, and be consistent.