Fashion, Music and New Philly – A Chat With Gianni Lee

We had the pleasure of speaking with the stylish Philly CEO, Gianni Lee of Babylon Cartel, about his upcoming releases, musical past, and future endeavors. Read more to hear why you should “forget fashion” and focus on “relationships and what you do with them!”

two.one.five magazine: You are currently the CEO/Founder of clothing brand Babylon Cartel as well as a DJ. How did both of these careers start out and how do you balance the two?

Gianni Lee: The Clothing Line “Babylon Cartel” started during my sophomore year in College. I was bored and I had a bunch of friends that I wanted to share a dream with. I always had ideas for an actual brand after watching how Pharrell Williams took his influence and transformed it into a brand that covered Music + Fashion among over things. I can honestly say that Pharrell was my inspiration in both fields. DJing was something that I fell into because of my infatuation with music. I would DJ house parties with a fellow party promoter who also happened to be my roommate by the name of Brandy Staton. We had the most rudimentary DJ equipment but somehow we made it work and people did not care that we did not have the conventional turntables and mixer set-ups. I would also host events with local DJs DJ Qlassick and DJ Mont who were fellow Temple University students. I would watch how they mixed and, any chance I got, I would hop on before them (that was my practice). Once I graduated, I put more focus into building my personal brand as well Babylon Cartel, so I swept DJing under the rug. It wasn’t until October 2011 that I decided to actually take DJing serious. I started DJing because I felt like I could be bigger than a DJ Drama or even a Diplo one day if I just applied the same work ethic to the craft while bringing something new to it. I wasn’t satisfied with the reluctance many DJs had when it came to experimenting with new genres and sounds so I decided to be the one that would do it.

I don’t really have a formula or certain algorithm for balancing the two. I just assume that if you want to be successful at anything that you put on your plate, then you have to put a significant amount of time into it. Lets just say that Google Calendar and Google Docs are a life-saver when it comes to balancing the two.

two.one.five magazine: Tell us more about your collection titled the “#Seven Capsule Collection.” I’ve read that the collection was inspired “by the intricate detail of Hermes scarves.” What are some of your other influences for past collections, and what can we foresee for the upcoming Winter ’12-’13 collection?

GL: Seven was inspired from something I like to call a religious reawakening. I studied the number “seven” and its cultural and religious influences. I then noticed the trend in the use of the number “six” in fashion and music. I am not going to go as far as many people do and say that there is a direct correlation between the devil and the use of “six” in popular culture. I will say, however, that using 6 in its many forms such as “666” alarmed me because of the darkness that surrounds the number, so I thought it only made sense to popularize another number. Why not 7, which means “completion above all else”, and has way more connections to God (which is a positive representation in my mind)?

As for my past collections, my influences have always been the Graphic Design from markets as London, Sweden and Paris. The simplicity of the typography always translated into graphic tees that transcended traditional markets and found their place in the great Fashion Houses, or even worn by some of the most famous designers. All of my designs had an international inspiration, be it Africa, Asia or Europe.

As for Winter 12 – 13? I am experimenting with more busy designs. Shirts that are printed in more than one location that collectively communicate a message. We don’t really follow the Fashion Calendar, so we will sometimes skip entire seasons and just drop one tee, or we may release an entire collection just in time for the Fall or Summer. If we were to have a Winter release look for some designs that fight with the concept of life and death and our color combinations will reflect that.

two.one.five magazine: Describe your everyday personal style in your own words. What are some of the brands (other than Babylon Cartel) that you wear?

GL: My everyday personal style? I don’t have one and honestly I can’t stand to have one. Waking up everyday with a vision in your mind of what you want to look like to other people? I feel like that is very slave-like. Being a slave to fashion doesn’t seem like a very exciting thing especially for a person like me who openly advocates against conformity and constraints. I like things I see on TV, comic books, video games, and on other people it’s all based around what content I drown myself in, thats where my inspiration will come from, and I think I subconsciously add it. Or I could just be rambling on about nothing, I probably just wear anything… I don’t know. Forget fashion, it’s about relationships and what you do with them anyway.

two.one.five magazine: You recently DJ’d at the Trillectro festival this past summer- tell us a little bit more about that and your experience at the event itself.

GL: Trillectro is one of those things that only come around once in a lifetime. Trillectro was the most fun I had all year. A simple day of Electronic Music and Hip Hop wrapped in one day had rivaled my experience of an entire week as SXSW. It has that potential to continue and advance and shape culture.

two.one.five magazine: You’re pretty active on social media. Do you have a favorite platform or site that you’re currently obsessed with?

GL: Not really…I love Instagram, but liked it better when people took it seriously. When Instagram first came out people really went out of their way to take those vintage looking snaps of everyday life. Every photo looked like a screenshot from a Lana Del Ray music video. Recently more mainstream attention has come to Instagram, so now business and more casual users don’t approach it in the same artistic vision as the original ones did. I mean its not a bad thing; that’s what happens when a product becomes popular and gets monetized.

two.one.five magazine: You’re currently developing a new movement here in Philadelphia called “New Philly.” Tell us how you got started with the concept, what it is, and what you foresee happening with “New Philly.”

GL: New Philly is in its infant stages, and I would like to approach New Philly as something that every person can draw inspiration from and be apart of. It  is not some separatist faction. We the people of “New Philly” just take a radical open approach to new things. In a city that was built upon tradition and a rich history we tend to look backwards instead of forward. When that energy exist in a city it creates habits, you can see it in our architecture. This city loves design but its own exterior has not really changed for decades. Brick and glass are all over Philadelphia; but recently there have been great architects and interior designers that come to Philadelphia and have started changing things to give us a new identity. That is what New Philly is about at its core. Bringing all of the youth or anyone with that youthful spirit and creating a new utopia of open collaboration, ideas and talent. A place where we can be ourselves and have fun doing it. Its all about getting the message to mean something to the masses, aka Strength in Numbers.

two.one.five magazine: Is there anything else you’d like for two.one.five readers to know?

GL: I am in a band called T H E C H I L D, and the debut EP will be coming this fall/winter. Other than that I just would like to tell people to continue working hard on your dreams. We all are business owners now, and we have the ability to make our own money for doing what makes us happy.

two.one.five magazine: Thank you Gianni!

For more information on Gianni and his endeavors, follow him @giannilee.

 

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