Whether it’s incorporating dry humour and tongue in cheek satire into his collection, or touching upon the juxtaposition between queer identity and streetwear culture, GAY TIMES delves into the mind and world of queer artist Leo Babsky, the brains and creative force behind streetwear brand, Old-Age.
What were the points of references that inspired your new collection?
As a creative, there’s constant pressure to create and grow – How do you maintain a healthy mindset and working environment?
As a street-wear brand, how do maintain a unique perspective on a such a popular market?
It is a crowded market and that can feel overwhelming but I think our range of interests are pretty disparate and how those interests intersect make for an interesting product. I don’t see what we do as art but coming from an art background I think it does help separate us. We try and be fun and accessible but also slightly ‘off’ at the same time… I like things not making sense on first glance.
I suppose I see queerness as less about being specifically LGBTQI (although of course that is really important to us too) and more about a certain mindset. My friendship group is straight, gay, rich, poor, artists, pornstars, escorts, strippers ….. and I really wanted something that embraced all those things.
Do you think streetwear brands have been less open to embracing queer culture in favour of perpetuating masculine archetypes synonymous with street culture?
What can we expect for future collections?
You admirably donate 10% of your profits to Human Rights Watch, how important is this organisation to your brand and yourself?
It’s really important, HRW do amazing work and they get results. In a more general sense, I think we live in strange times, there has been so much progress but there is also a massive pushback right now against civil and environmental rights and we all have to do what we can to fight that. We are a tiny brand and we aren’t making a huge amount of money but we certainly can afford to give a few pounds from each t-shirt sale towards a cause we believe in. As a consumer I believe it’s really important to be conscious of where you spend your money and support brands that align with your values.
You are also an art curator, how did you got into art curation and did this influence and inspire you to design your own streetwear brand?
I’m trained as a fine artist and I was a practicing artist for quite a while. I had a certain amount of success – I exhibited in London, Berlin and New York but it got to a point where I was a bit over it and uninspired. I was offered the chance to curate a series of exhibitions, it really clicked with me and that evolved into a paying position and then into my own consultancy business.
I don’t know if there is a direct correlation, my curatorial work and what I do with OLD-AGE is quite different – I do work with quite a few corporate clients though and I always find it interesting to sneak something subversive into often quite conservative environments. I guess it’s also what I do with the brand; making something that looks like simple streetwear but is more layered on second glance.
I am planning a series of exhibitions in a working strip club though so that would definitely fit into OLD-AGE’s aesthetic haha.
Who are some of the artists and figures that have inspired you over the years?
I like the documentary photography of Bruce Davidson and the photojournalism of Kirk McKoy, Davidson did an amazing series on the subways of early 1980’s New York – the era I would go back in time to if I could. Currently, I like the Berlin gallery Kraupa-Tuskany Zeidler, their roster of artists are really interesting, La Batarde are a t-shirt brand I like who donate all profits to help women in North and South Ireland access abortion services and I just saw work by Marianne Thoermer last night which was awesome.