The first thing I notice about Luka Sabbat is that he is, as advertised, a teenager. Slumped over low in a chair at Delilah’s—the swanky restaurant that is the venue for a dinner celebrating the holiday denim campaign he styled for PacSun—Sabbat has a seasoned model’s pout and an impressive dedication to avoiding eye contact. To be fair, this is the day after the Presidential election has stunned the nation, and I don’t know many people, myself included, who don’t feel like teenagers right now—angry, angst-ridden, powerless.
The 18 (“almost 19”) year-old “influencer” spent much of his childhood in Paris and was discovered in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood at age 15 on the way to buy a video game with his father. Though he grew up surrounded by fashion (his mother, Jessica Romer, was a model booker; his father, Clark Sabbat, a womenswear designer; his babysitter, for a short time, the model Lara Stone), young Sabbat was initially resistant to the idea of modeling, more interested in video games and Daft Punk than anything to do with that world.
Four years later, and Sabbat has not only embraced fashion, but, thanks to a combination of his own nuanced sense of personal style, his impressive grasp of visual aesthetics, and of course, his well-documented friendships with other stylish (and very famous) teenagers like Jaden Smith and the Jenner sisters, he has built a name for himself as one of the Internet’s most intriguing creatives.
After Sabbat sized up my outfit, asking “Is that Britney Spears, Halsey, or Justin Bieber on your T-shirt?” (it was Sinead O’ Connor, actually), we got to talking about some real things: his past, his aspirations, "the club," and his new PacSun campaign—and a potential career in comedy, for good measure. Here are some scattered teenage thoughts.
I didn’t like it. My dad had to convince me. Shit looked wack. I was like, "What, standing in front of a camera? I could just be playing video games." But, then they started talking numbers, and I was just like, "That’s fire. I fuck with that." I really got into it because of the check at first, but then it turned out to be quite fun, because I got to travel and stuff.
On what he was like before he was discovered:
I hated sports. I was just listening to Daft Punk and house music, because I grew up in Paris. When I went through my Odd Future phase, I was excited. That was when I first got into streetwear. That was pretty tight; I was a hypebeast. But before I was a hypebeast, I was a kid picked anything out of his closet. I didn’t have style like that. I just kind of knew how to put stuff together. If you look back now, I look like a fuccboi. At the time, I thought I was fly. Skinny jeans, with some graphic tee, crazy Adidas sneakers, and a bomber jacket. I would wear hats, and I had crazy hair, so the hat was on the top of my hair, not my head. I looked crazy, but I didn’t really care. I would just put on clothes and leave the house.
On other creative aspirations:
Acting. I’ve acted but not in a movie or a play or anything. I graduated from acting high school, and I took acting classes even before that. So I studied acting for about 6 years. I took improv. I was always the class clown, so by default it was comedy improv.
I fuck with stand up comedy. I was going to start doing that. I’m pretty high on energy usually. I like to make people laugh in a real setting, with just talking. Man, what’s funny? Anything is funny. I can make a whole skit about how I hate water. I don’t fuck with water, because it has no flavor. I found out—plot twist—that you actually need to drink water and shit. Plot twist—water is in everything. I was talking to Fredo Santana yesterday, and he was talking about pH balance. He knows a lot more about water than me.
I could make a whole skit about how I never got the concept of scary movies. Like, I hate being scared. I work really hard for my money, why would I pay money to be nervous? I spend my whole life trying not to be nervous. Why would I lock myself in a dark room that makes me mad nervous? [Laughs]
On working with PacSun and his approach to styling his own campaign:
I can do all this high fashion stuff, but at the end of the day, I have to relate to the kids. A lot of the shit I do, my demographic can’t afford. How do I appeal to that demographic? These kids support me. I have to be relatable. Streetwear is relatable. I walked in [to the shoot]. They said, "What do you want to do?" And I just put on clothes, the way I would just get dressed every day. And that’s that. If I’m an influencer, then let me just be me.
On "the club:"
OK, so, you take all the worst people, style-wise. A bunch a promoters. And also you take a bunch of rich, old dudes. Then you put them in a room. Then after that, you take a bunch of young girls, like models. Small dresses. You have to make sure they’re not too clothed. Then, you put them all in a room. And then you see which old dude gets the most bottles for these young girls. And then, you got yourself a club. There’s some cool clubs, but most clubs are just like cringe-worthy. "Let’s pop some champagne! [Sings] How deep is your love/Is it like the ocean.” Then there’s sparklers, because you bought a $40 bottle for $1000, so they throw on some sparklers, and now you got a $44 bottle. It’s basically a flex competition.
On how his life has changed since his 2015 Complex profile:
I’m not a kid anymore. But I am. But I’m not. I am a kid, but work life changed. I have way more work. More friends. More social life, obviously. Love life, I have a girlfriend now. Any aspect of my life you could think of, really. I’m not in school anymore. I don’t really do any of the same things I did then.
On any last words for his fans:
Do you have a lighter?