As we, along with the entire industry, scrambled to adjust and to figure out how we would make upcoming issues work, we stumbled on an iPhone app called Bellus3D. The app uses next-generation 3D facial scanning technology that anyone – Luka Sabbat, for example – can use to scan their face even in, say, the isolation of their own home. Could we create an entire shoot in CGI using just a facial scan?
We reached out to Bryan Huynh, expert in such things – he was psyched. We suggested it to Luka – he was open to it. We asked our friends at Burberry if they could get their hands on the digital design files for looks from Riccardo’s pre-fall collection – they could.
We sent Luka instructions on how to scan his face and received the scan back. It was a little blurred. We asked for another one and received the tragic news that one of his family members had passed away due to COVID-19. We couldn’t ask for another scan. Not then. We would work with what we had – extra weeks spent in the editing room, but worth it. We love Luka.
Weeks later, we reached out with some questions for the accompanying interview, wondering what he might be comfortable talking about; wondering if he’d be comfortable talking at all.
Then George Floyd was killed by policemen in Minnesota. The streets were on fire. Protests and anger echoed around the world. Black Americans have died at the hands of police in the US time and time again. But this was different. Eight minutes and 46 seconds captured on multiple phone cameras, close up. Videos swept social media and then the news. Everyone saw it. The world was watching. Calls for justice reverberated into calls for meaningful action to dismantle political and social systems that have oppressed black Americans for hundreds of years. Magazines and fashion felt trivial in this cataclysmic instant. But Sorbet has always been about change. Sorbet has always challenged the status quo in support of progress. This is a platform we have, that we can use.
Then Luka launched the Rosette Foundation, named for his late grandmother. The foundation is both a platform to encourage discussion and also to push for the enacting of meaningful change. We asked for an interview. We wanted to give him the platform we have to express his thoughts and feelings. When he asked us to email questions across, it was tough – what questions do you ask in this moment? Written down in letters, they either seemed empty or radical, without much in between. We received answers back, sentences, guarded, and understandably so. We needed conversation. I pushed for a Zoom call, and Luka agreed. We talked for an hour last night. I’ve talked to him before, at Paris Fashion Week, events and such, but this was intimate. He answered the Zoom call from bed. He’d been napping, and rolled over, sleepy eyes and cozy mane of dreadlocks framing his smiling face.
Ali Y. Khadra: “Where are you?” I asked.
Luka Sabbat: “I’m at the Chateau Marmont” – so rock and roll.
AYK: “You’re based in New York though, right?”
LS: “I had to get the hell out of there; it was so intense.”
AYK: “You mentioned you were working on furniture design in Nevada earlier in lockdown too. Is that a hobby, or the start of a new career?”
LS: “I mean, I hope that with time I become better at it. But I freaking love building things. It’s mad fun, like learning how to use tools and working with wood and metal. I’ve either made things that are all wood or all metal, but I want to learn how to intertwine the two eventually. But it’s mad fun; it’s something that I hope I get notoriety for eventually.”
AYK: “Let’s talk about The Dead Don’t Die, your first Hollywood film. How was that?”
LS: “I mean, that shit was tight,” he laughs, “Just kidding. But, you know, it was definitely mad fun. We were all staying at this random ass little town near Woodstock. I didn’t know who was in the movie, you know, because Jim [Jarmusch, director] doesn’t really tell you what’s up, he just tells you to show up.”
AYK: “And if Jim tells you to show up, you show up.”
LS: “Exactly. I said yes to the movie because I was a Jim Jarmusch fan, but I didn’t know who else was in it. I pulled up to set and there was Adam Driver, and I was like, okay, pretty sick.”
AYK: “How did Jim reach out to you in the first place?
LS: “What had happened was Jim’s daughter watches Grown-ish, and I guess she suggested me for the role. Shit was honestly fire. And even the best part was going to Cannes Film Festival.”
I’m reminded of the pictures of Luka on the red carpet, flanked by Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, and holding Tilda Swinton’s hand – must’ve been a moment.
AYK: “How was filming in such a small village with so many other stars?”
LS: “It was fun. It didn’t feel that serious. And Jim makes everybody super comfortable and chill and the actors see the take, and if everybody likes the take, then you move on.”
AYK: “What was it like, getting that call?”
LS: “I mean, what do you think, man? Really good! It felt really, really good. The best. Better than food. Better than sex.”
AYK: “I remember a scene – you walked into a store, and you didn’t even say much, but you totally stole the scene.”
LS: “Like, that cracks me up. The best part about all that, honestly, wasn’t even James, it wasn’t even none of that. It’s when people go ‘Dude, I watched your movie on the plane!’ That’s the sickest part about the movie. People go, “Dude, I was just on a flight! I just watched your movie, man!’ Ha, that’s sick.”
AYK: “Of course you’re an actor, and now you’re dipping into furniture design, but I know you most from the fashion circuit. Have you ever considered fashion design?”
LS: “Honestly, I think there are enough brands out there right now. And kind of even more so, in the midst of a global epidemic and a revolution, this wouldn’t be the time. Brand-wise, right now, I fuck with any brand that puts their money where their mouth is. So many of these brands get inspired by black culture, by black people. Obviously, there are a lot of brands that have reasons to get cancelled, but it should be about how can we make things more progressive? How can we get more diverse people in a company, at a brand? It’s not about getting brands cancelled. It’s about what we do to progress and just level the playing field. There are brands right now that are just stupid, and are completely ignorant to the issues and completely have no idea what the hell they’re doing or talking about – super out of touch, and that can’t be excused. But also, we have to highlight black businesses. People are so caught up with calling brands out, that they forget to celebrate and support black brands: A-Cold-Wall*, Wales Bonner, Martine Rose – they’re all black-owned businesses. And yeah, this is just the fashion aspect of what’s happening right now. But it’s about integrating everything and everyone, you know?”
AYK: “Tell me about the Rosette Foundation. How did that happen?
LS: “Okay, so yeah, I will say, like, I’m an Instagram guy, but I’m not an Instagram guy. You know what I mean? We live in a time of repost culture where you see something that you agree with on someone’s page and then you repost it – you’re not even 100 percent sure if it’s true, because people don’t even background check; you see something and then you put it on your story, not considering that it might be wrong. You don’t know if it’s misinformation, people always get asked to take stuff down, blah, blah, blah. But it’s just like, I get it too. I mean, we all want to learn, but everybody is so scared to learn. So, that’s why so many people don’t want to say too much. And I was kind of in that predicament too. It’s like, obviously, I know what I know, but there’s always something you don’t know. You know what I mean?”
AYK: “I know exactly what you mean.”
LS: “So, creating this foundation, and it’s a soft launch – we haven’t raised any money or made any donations; obviously, that’s going to come with time. But first, we wanted to be able to take people’s opinions and stories, because without communication, you don’t have anything, you know? There’s one thing you read on the internet, there’s one thing you see in the news. I want a place to gather this network of information so people are able to make better decisions. Because I’m not scared to learn; I’m down to get schooled if somebody tells me like, ‘Dude, you’re fucking wrong, here are the actual facts.’ I wanted to get everything in one place, a way to organize everyone talking on it.”
AYK: “You mention repost culture and misinformation, but how do you feel about social media at this moment in general? Because there was a time we really were just spoon-fed the news, and now it feels more democratic and more impactful to me.”
LS: “I mean, it’s pretty cool. But it’s also weird. Because it’s like, alright, someone got called out, and then what? You know? Like two of the guys who’re part of the whole George Floyd indictment got bailed out. If they’re walking right now, who gives a damn if they got called out on the internet? It’s a cool way to raise awareness, I guess, but we have to realize the internet is not the streets, it’s not the legal system. It’s not any of that stuff. And like I said, it’s cool; everybody should be using their platforms and you know, petitions are a way to take action, donations are a way to take action. But you also have to watch where you donate, because so many of these campaigns are shams too. A lot of these donations are not going to where you think they’re going. You’ll see somebody be like, ‘I donated here!’ and then the next guy is like, ‘Oh, well, me too. Match my donation!’ Like, man, do you even know what the hell you’re donating to? You’re just throwing your money out the window. Some of these movements I see people supporting, you could look two minutes into it, and figure out it’s a sham. And it’s cool, because it gives everybody a sense of learning and being able to have a voice, but it’s also so easy to get finessed into doing some dumb shit or saying some dumb shit and being spoon-fed the wrong info. There’s two sides to every coin. I do think it’s great, but I also just feel like there needs to be more done, man. Like there’s people being called out, but they’re still walking free. How many times are we going to call out Breonna Taylor’s murderers? Those guys are in their beds sleeping right now. You know what I mean? And these guys can just disconnect from the internet. That’s the fact. You can’t disconnect from reality though, and the internet isn’t reality. That’s what I’m saying here.”
LS: “Thanks to social media, it’s so much easier to organize these protests, it’s so much easier to be able to get these people’s emails, phone numbers, and try to make changes. But I’m also conscious that for a lot of people, this is just surface.”
AYK: “I’m reminded, the answers you sent originally, I asked you who was inspiring you, and you said ‘No one is inspiring me right now, with the exception of my buddy Duke Nicholson. He inspires me BIG TIME !!!!’” How is he inspiring you?
Luka laughs and someone in the background laughs too. Luka rolls over in bed. He flips the camera around – Duke, Jack Nicholson’s grandson, is in the bed too. He jumps over by Luka, “Hey man, how are you?” After a lot of laughter, Luka says, “I said he inspires me because we kind of live together, quarantine kids right now, and sometimes everything else honestly just seems so stressful. I just can’t sometimes.”
We talk a bit more, casual catch-up-stuff, and we say our goodbyes, sign off. Then, after all this important talk, I reflect some more. Luka’s just 22 years old. It’s easy to forget – he’s so accomplished, so smart, so cool, in the midst of a pandemic and a revolution – but he’s also still just a young kid, crashing with his mate, perhaps after a party at the Chateau Marmont, just also trying to enjoy life. And that is a beautiful thing.
END OF STORY