While security was tripping about graffiti legends like MQ tagging every wall inside the Long Beach Convention Center last week, Awake NY’s founder Angelo Baque was chilling at a booth covered in so much paint that it looked like a part of the Martinez Gallery in Uptown Manhattan. At its first-ever ComplexCon, Awake NY waved the flag for New York by exhibiting a booth covered wall-to-wall with fat tags and throw-ups by Kunle Martins—a.k.a. Earsnot of the IRAK graffiti crew. While some weren’t privy to the unsanctioned art occurring throughout the convention floor, graffiti is an artform Baque has long been infatuated with as a born and raised New Yorker. 

“I mean that was my first art gallery. My first museum,” says Baque when speaking about his love for New York City graffiti. “It wasn’t the Met or the MoMa but literally the streets and highways of New York.”

The booth was blessed with Martins’ art to commemorate the release of a ComplexCon exclusive collaboration between Awake NY and IRAK. It was one of many exciting drops offered by Awake NY at ComplexCon, as its booth also sold collabs with Girls Don’t Cry, Clarks, New Era, and more. However, like all things at Awake NY, the brand’s participation in ComplexCon was much bigger than just selling hyped merchandise. Aside from using ComplexCon to highlight the beauty of drippy mop tags and dusty fills, Baque also collaborated with singer-songwriter Cuco to release a long sleeve shirt where all proceeds went towards Jovenes Inc.—a charity located in Southeast Los Angeles that provides safe and stable housing for homeless youth. 

We found a moment during ComplexCon to catch up with Baque about Awake NY, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary and opening its first flagship store in the Lower East Side of Manhattan next year. He spoke about his vision for the upcoming flagship store, his love for graffiti, and building community through streetwear.