Hey, You’re Cool! Patrick Liberty of Akomplice
"We have to shift as a culture otherwise we could potentially go extinct."
Last summer we checked up on clothing line Akomplice and VSOP to see what was up with their lookbook, which was shot in Colorado’s Escalante Canyon. That’s where the brand was founded by brothers Mike and Patrick Liberty. Since then, the duo has been marching through the current political climate by tackling social issues and supporting true causes. This was highlighted with their recent solidarity release for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, for whom they have raised over $25,000 in food aid and to help prepare for winter.
The brand’s most recent collaborative effort with VSOP features a dramatic photo series shot in the majestic and colorful setting of Las Coloradas, a wonder of the world located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The lookbook, shot by Beth Saravo, is full of otherworldly pink bodies of water, flawless blue skies and gems of rock salt. That journey evolved into a photo essay, also by Saravo, capturing the local community’s weathered buildings, playful kids and towering mounds of salt. We caught up with Patrick Liberty over Skype to find out more about his views on the world, solidarity with Mexico and the need for sustainability in sourcing products.
How did you come about the idea for the lookbook?
I was flying to Mexico where I’ve been living a good portion of the year and this woman on the flight showed me photos of pink waters and blue skies. It looked unreal. It was just a couple hours from where I live and I’d never heard of it, so I was really excited. I got to Mexico after Trump got in. We’d just come back from New York where it was just so tense, the ICE raids had just begun and there were also the airport protests against the travel ban. At that point, I felt that it was really important that we do a lookbook in Mexico, even if it’s not a big deal.
Yeah, solidarity. We cast Mexican models that lived there. One guy was born in Playa del Carmen, which is crazy because it’s really small, so there are very few actual locals. We decided to shoot on the way and it ended up being this journey and one of the most fun road trips we’d ever taken. Mexican culture is literally one of the kindest. They invite you into their home and give you their food and it’s just so much love, whereas the U.S. and most places it’s not like that. And yet they get made out to be bad guys.
Does the actual collection reflect the spirituality of the lookbook?
My brother and I meditate every day. Whatever we do in our life, this output to the world, it’s a progression of our spirits and soul. Not just the brand but everything in life and every opportunity to grow. Unlike most brands where the aim is to make as much money as possible, we are totally not like that. We want to do good for the world and do stuff that excites us. That’s really the goal. So as far as Las Coloradas and the process, it just ended up being that way.
Are the recent politically charged themes intentional?
The brand has always been that away and the world just happened to catch up with it. When we first started we had this picture of a soldier with a gas mask during the Iraq war and it said: Death for Peace? The brand was always political, the way in which we are doing it is evolving and the climate right now is so tense it’s becoming more popular to do, which is good because we need that for the world.
Collaboration seems to be at the heart of the brand.
It’s funny because we named the brand Akomplice and it literally feels like what you name your brand or what you name yourself as an artist really can influence the outcome. It’s like an intention that’s there every day. We’re so surprised how we’ve ended up being an accomplice to all these famous artists and social movements, and a lot of the time we were really in the cut.
Which brother does what?
There’s a lot of melting of the roles but I’m more of the spokesperson and sales. He’s more of the artist, creative. I’m the editor and detail guy and he’s the big picture guy. We do both but we have our strong suits.
We started the brand at 18 and 20. My brother wanted to make some clothing that had some meaning. When we grew up we wore skateboard clothes and it was like a tribe. If you saw someone with an Alien Workshop shirt it brought people together. Then skateboarding became a really popular trend where people who didn’t skate were wearing the clothes. The idea for Mike was that people could look at your shirt and see something that you believed philosophically or politically that showed your interests. Akomplice was always very different because a lot of the streetwear brands are very logo driven we were concept driven and more on the creative side.
What type of person wears Akomplice?
Literally all sorts of people. We have a large demographic of different types of people all within one brand which is kinda cool because brands have been so divisive. That hurts the unity of the people. We have to get past that insecure ego stuff.
Is that something you consider when choosing collaborators?
Not really, we just collaborate with who we like. It’s always been our interests, what we love. It’s more like an art movement. We’ll shift what we do and collaborate with Wale, or do a Standing Rock project; kinda be all over the place but people have found a lot of love for that. If we are not innovating or pushing the envelope we get bored.
If you moved on, what would you do instead?
There are so many things that we want to do. One thing in our heart is creating new types of ways to live. We’ve all been born into these systems and now you see they aren’t working sustainably and we have to shift as a culture otherwise we could potentially go extinct. So I’m really interested in creating microcosm communities done very differently. Not a hippy commune, but aspects of it that are good without separating yourself from what’s happening.
The other thing we’d like to do is movies. Sometimes our ideas are too long to put on a T-shirt, we have a lot of different story collections – movies would be another format. We are blessed to have people in our lives doing movies so knock on wood we’ll be able to.
Do you travel a lot? You’re currently living in Mexico…
We’ve basically been nomadic and running this company a different way. Our warehouse and office are in L.A. but we’re rarely there. We have a lot of employees in different locations because since starting, a lot of the people wanted to move and we wanted to keep working together, so we created flexible work ways. Orchestrating the team and leaving everyone responsible for their own roles. My brother was living six months of the year in Brazil for a while. You lose some synergy but you also add a lot to the pot as far as keeping yourself free. But now we’re looking for a location to regroup because it’s been 2-3 years.
What makes Akomplice different?
The fabric of the line is almost 100 percent organic cotton and recycled polyester. For us, that’s a huge feat because there are not many other brands offering that, especially in the stores we sell at. We are probably the only organic product in there.
Conventional cotton growing is the worst pesticide crop. One of the main chemicals used in the pesticide to grow cotton was created as nerve gas in WW2. We didn’t know that until two years ago, and we are environmentalists. We just thought organic cotton is really good but we didn’t realize how important it was. I believe in the future it will be illegal because it’ll be too taxing on the earth.
Any advice for people trying to live consciously?
The important thing is to find what you love and keep going in that direction and. You’ll start discovering the travesties that surround those interests but also the ways to make it better and start spending your money accordingly. Whatever someone’s interests are, there are so many issues in this world that we can just go forward and be the change.