Take A Step Inside The Matrix And The Mind Of Lou Owens
AKINA STUDIOS is an up and coming luxury brand currently based out of Miami, Florida. We spoke with the founder Lou Owens about his experience starting the renowned fashion collective VBTL and running fashion shows with some of the hottest up and coming creatives in Miami, Houston, and most recently Los Angeles. Lou also talked to us about his most recent endeavor in opening the cyberculture and Y2K inspired luxury clothing label AKINA STUDIOS and his plans for tailoring the entire experience behind their first full collection “DYSTOPIA” dropping this summer.
Where are you from?
Lou: I’m from Miami. I moved out to Houston for a while and that’s where I met everyone and made the connections and now I’m back in Miami for a short period.
What is VBTL?
Lou: VBTL is a collective. You can compare it to AWGE, that was the inspiration to form the group. We have our own identity in regards to hosting shows whether that be fashion, music or art in general. VBTL is a platform for creatives out there that want to showcase their work and talent, it’s a spotlight in their own city. The main goal of VBTL is to bring out the creative spirit in that city.
When did you start VBTL?
Lou: VBTL started around this time a year ago. It basically started by me tweeting out who wants to be in this art/model/designer group chat. It’s crazy how we all came together and said let’s take advantage of our talents and make shit happen.
What inspired you to start it?
Lou: Lou: I always watched how AWGE and DONDA moved. It gave me the blueprint. I realized to make an impact in this world you need a team. You can’t really do stuff alone, especially when starting out. I took lots of inspiration from people I fucked with combined with the self realization of what I needed to do.
What does VBTL stand for?
Lou: VBTL is a vessel of opportunity. Opportunity is what we stand for.
Talk about the most recent VBTL Fashion Show in LA. How did it go? What did you learn?
Lou: Well the feedback that we got was all positive for the most part from our attendees. You always learn from these shows about what you can improve and refine. But from an audience standpoint everything went well and they enjoyed themselves. Lots of LA came out, people that had followings before and people that went out and made names for themselves in this show.
When and where was the first VBTL show?
Lou: The first VBTL show was in July, so it was about a year ago in Miami.
What inspired you to bring those people together?
Lou: For the most part we just had this group of talented people and it would've been a shame if we didn’t take advantage of our talents. It was set it motion. We already knew what we wanted to do, we wanted to hit cities and started with Miami.
How did you choose the locations?
Lou: Basically it’s just where most of us are located. I live here in Miami, and some other members do too so that’s why we did Miami. Houston was the next city where we had the most members so we did a show there. LA was off our own will, we thought why not test that market.
How many people are on the team?
Lou: Like 12-15. I’ll definitely have an updated roster when the website launches.
What were you looking for in members of the team?
Lou: When it comes to that it’s about what you bring to the table that’s different from everybody else. That’s something we are really strict on and as a group we’re very closed off on who we let in. You really have to have unique skill sets and a unique mind.
Are you just looking for something unique?
Lou: Young visionaries. That’s what we're looking for all the time.
What was your introduction to the creative scene and how did you build these relationships?
Lou: It was when I first moved to Houston. My close friend Mark moved out there with me too after Hurricane Harvey. Basically we were there by ourselves and we said let’s go out to the scene and see what’s happening in this city. We experienced how fashion shows were run because at that time Houston was having a little buildup in the fashion scene.
How did you approach the creatives coming to the show in LA?
Lou: We had two shows prior to that on our belt so we had more leverage explaining to designers what we’re all about. They liked the concept, they liked the vision and we were blessed that we had people like Vira and finamoe.
Besides the brands, what kind of people do you expect to attend your shows?
Lou: Just anybody with a passion for art to be honest with you. You don’t even have to love fashion since there’s so much more to it.
Talk about your most recent endeavor in launching Akina Studios
Lou: Akina Studios is the embodiment of cyberculture mixed with high fashion. Just growing up I’ve been into that whole Y2K aesthetic and inspired by movies like Blade Runner and Mad Max. It’s really just my childhood personified into high fashion.
What made you want to start it?
Lou: It’s just been something that’s always in my mind. You have to stay patient and study the game before you go out there. Prior to Akina I had two startups that didn’t go the way I wanted but it felt like the right time to launch Akina Studios. But it all comes down to starting a team. Before I didn’t have a team but now I have a great co designer named Altug. She’s really helped enhance the vision of Akina.
Why did you go the luxury route with Akina?
Lou: Just because there’s a whole story to be told with Akina that deserves that value in my eyes. I want Akina to be up there with the Ricks and the Rafs of the world, I might sound crazy now but I'll take that to the grave. I will have Akina be talked about along those names. I have a whole world for it and I know it deserves that placement. I guess it goes back to what Kanye says, ”crazy is the best thing I have going for me”.
What appeals to you about minimalistic design?
Lou: I think it’s just finding the right balance between a simple but luxurious look and then mixing it in with that Y2K futuristic feel. It’s a whole combination of fashion but you want the piece to look like something anybody can wear in their daily wardrobe and feel enhanced in style and overall confidence. It’s a mixture of things but the end goal is to have it appeal for a wide variety of people.
What appeals to you about the Y2K era?
Lou: What is unknown is always appealing to me. It’s like if I can share my opinions on what I think the future is then that’s everything to me, I get to create endless worlds. It’s me being able to express my opinions through design and tell my story and my viewpoints that relate to Y2K and that Sc-Fi feel. It all comes down to mystery, it’s the most attractive quality in clothes, in women, people in general to be honest. You need to have an allure to yourself.
What is cyberculture to you?
Lou: Cyberculture comes down to me being a kid and putting on the anime Akira when I was young. It comes down to me being on Tumblr and seeing all these fan artworks of dystopian landscapes. It comes down to my dad owning one of those colorful old Mac’s. It comes down to my attraction to all those things, it’s crazy you can tell so many stories and combine so many designs.
What was the inspiration behind the pvc holo “Airplane” belt?
Lou: The inspiration behind the pvc holo belt was really a combination of things. When I sit down and design it all comes to me, whether it’s movies that I watched or places I went to. I strive to make one of one products truly. I can’t pinpoint one inspiration since it has so many but that’s a statement piece, that’s an Akina piece.
What makes it your favorite piece?
Lou: Just because it’s so unique, I haven't really seen a belt like that to be honest to you. You can go out in the sun and it’s flashing on some real flex. It was just unique to me when I made it and I knew I had something special in my hands.
What is the inspiration behind the AKINA Dystopia piece?
Lou: The Matrix movies. That was a big inspiration obviously as you can tell the letters fall horizontally.
Do you feel that our society is moving toward a dystopia?
Lou: Our society is very divided to be honest with you but dystopia is a very improbable term. I guess you could compare countries in the Middle East like Syria close to a dystopia but we’re very fortunate that we’re nowhere near a dystopian society.
Talk about the upcoming Dystopia AKINA collection: What should we expect?
Lou: You should expect a whole story to be told. I’m big on details so it’s not only gonna be clothes, it’ll be the stage presentation on the runway, the soundtrack, the way models walk and the lookbooks and editorials. Everything is connected. We’re giving out a full collection experience and the clothes look nothing like your average clothes. I have the highest expectations for this collection and I think everyone should be excited or at least interested.
When is it releasing?
Lou: That’s something I can’t speak on but definitely in the summertime Dystopia will drop. We will hit the runway and have our own showcase room.
Where do you draw influence from?
Lou: I guess you could say everyday experiences, holding conversations with people, browsing the web. I stay up to date with fashion in general as well as shows from the 80’s and 90’s. After that everything just mixes in with my everyday experiences in addition to movies and books.
What do you consider yourself? Are you a designer, a cyberkid, a creative genius, something else?
Lou: Lou Owens is a creative, I don’t consider myself one thing. I like designing, directing, styling, modeling, photography. Give me a task and I’ll give you something original. I get hands on and I’m very opinionated on a lot of things so I’m a creative in general. I always say we are going through a modern renaissance. Titles are played out just create.
Where do you want VBTL and Akina to be in the short term?
Lou: For VBTL it's just about rounding out different US cities. I still feel like we have a lot of cities to give opportunities in. For Akina it’s focusing on one thing at a time. All our focus is on Dystopia and we want that collection to be the very best that we can put out.
Long term plans?
Lou: Long term VBTL is worldwide status. That’s all we're really looking for. We want to do shows in other countries and branch into other areas to help creatives out. There’s an endless amount of possibilities. Akina long term, like I said have it up there with the most talked about names in fashion. I have the highest expectations for this line but we take it one step at a time. The good thing is that everything I do is with a reason, there's no step uncalculated with me. VBTL gave me the opportunity to showcase Akina at my control and at my vision. I don’t have to wait for the acceptance of fashion week. But what I’m trying to say is that kids shouldn’t wait, you really have the opportunity to create your own opportunities, your own bridges and I think that’s something everyone should be doing.
Who are some people in the game you look up to?
Lou: People like Maison Margiela, just his vision and the way he runs his world is very inspiring. Of course you have the Raf Simons, you have the more popular names like ASAP Rocky and ASAP Yams. Rocky really started and got AWGE off the ground but Yams was the pioneer behind the movement. Ye of course, so many people came out of DONDA with Virgil and Matthew Williams and Heron Preston . Those are key names I watch closely and study.