The 18-Year-Old Fashion Influencer : Luka Sabbat


Lil Yachty is fire. Astrud Gilberto and Hedi Slimane are sick. Playboi Carti is in this minute’s rotation, right there alongside Chet Baker, Bad Company, Kanye and the Germs. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a dope game, though maybe not as dope as Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege. Stéphane Ashpool’s pastel Pigalle cardigan is the latest score at retail — that, and a bomber from Alyx and a ring from Saint Laurent.

If, in the profoundly solipsistic age of social media, each of us is definable according to what we consume, then assemble the names and labels listed above and you have the makings of an algorithm whose endpoint is Luka Sabbat.

Who is Luka? The question, which also happens to be his Twitter handle (@whoisluka), is unlikely to go unanswered for long. Among his roughly 184,000 Instagram and 64,000 Twitter followers, the 18-year-old New Yorker has already established himself as the coolest teenager on the Internet.

That is what Complex magazine termed him last year soon after he appeared out of nowhere — or, anyway, from that singular cohort of New Yorkers who line up on any given Thursday outside Supreme — to become a social media phenomenon.

By occupation, Luka Sabbat is a model (and sometime stylist). He has been featured in campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, American Eagle and Hood by Air, appeared in an Adidas NMD billboard that towered over Times Square and was cast by Kanye West for his Yeezy spectacle.

Discovered in SoHo by Kevin Amato, at the time doing casting for Hood by Air, he was signed soon thereafter by the owner of ReQuest Model Management, who intercepted him on the way to buy a new video game.

Teenage and tweenage girls mobbed the street outside the show space, chanting Mr. Dallas’s name. Amid the unanticipated hubbub, front-row types were sent scrambling to the Internet to search for a name few of them could identify, yet one familiar to more than 11 million followers on Instagram.

It remains unclear what those numbers signify or whether Mr. Dallas’s appearance at the Calvin Klein show benefited the label or the Internet sensation himself. Still, questions like that have not slowed the corporate hunt for young influencers and the intimate link they represent between consumers and products by means of the smartphone, the only platform that seems to matter in 2016.

By the standards of some social media hotshots, Mr. Sabbat is a modest presence. Yet, unlike some demi-celebrities whose fame is as fleeting as a mayfly hatch, he has an advantage.

Not only is he a digital native, he is also native to fashion, having been raised surrounded by it in Paris and New York. Mr. Sabbat’s mother, Jessica Romer, a caterer now, was for many years a model booker and an assistant for the fashion show production powerhouse Bureau Betak; his father, Clark Sabbat, designs a line of women’s wear.

“My style is, I don’t know, Fear of God, Off White, Rick Owens, Martin Margiela, Haider Ackermann, Supreme, a combination of vintage,” Mr. Sabbat said. “I’ve been really into Saint Laurent for a minute, and when I posted a picture of myself in the Chelsea boots, people started D.M.’ing me right away, and I got mad kids to wear the boots.”

Back when he began experimenting with social media, Mr. Sabbat said: “I was blind to it, my influence. But for some reason, people were really into me. I don’t know why.”

Now nearly every image of Mr. Sabbat, his most telegraphic online musing, generates a level of follower engagement that is catnip to the corporate world.

“That’s why brands and designers really want to work with people like Luka,” said Mr. Marsey of DigitasLBi. “They can weave their products into this ongoing social media narrative, but in an organic way. You want to know him. You want to be around him. He’s the cool kid at the party we all want to be.”

194 total views, 1 views today