Wisdom Kaye | Mind Turning The Temp Down, But Just a Touch?

Featuring Gucci Men’s Fall-Winter 2023, Via Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue!

Written by

Jorge Lucena

Photographed by

91 Rules

Styled by

Wisdom Kaye

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All clothing, jewelry, and accessories by GUCCI.

Surely the first catwalks must’ve been around the fire pit featuring Stone Age loin cloths from the Spring/Summer 3,500 BC collection (recently reprised by Rick Owens). Feeling fresh, sexy, a new, is nearly intrinsic to donning a garment on our body. But modeling as we know it only crossed into the professional realm in 1853, thanks to the British designer and mastermind of haute couture, Charles Frederick Worth. In the 170 years since, brands have continued the push-and-pull evolution of the model’s role in the fashion matrix, all the while adapting to new mediums and media to capture and shape this image. 

Today, we are in the midst of yet another seismic shift in the modeling industry. A crossroads between celebrity, voice, and fashion, the face of which is none other than the model and Best Dressed Guy on TikTok, Wisdom Kaye. Born in Nigeria and raised in Houston, Texas, Kaye’s fire was sparked in the digital haven of discovery, finding and sharing his passion for fashion along the way. Kaye’s eye-catching self-styled looks, musings, and couture interpretations of pop and animated icons (think Gary from SpongeBob in Gucci) are both playful and satirical, while also striking and putting a spotlight on a certain savoir-faire. This winning combination has amassed Kaye over 14 million followers across his social media accounts. Thrust into the spotlight, the IMG signee has simultaneously emerged on the luxury circuit, both modeling for campaigns and jet-setting between New York, Paris, and Milan to sit front row at shows—championing a new frontier of participant-reporter-spectator.

Fresh off the plane from London, FLAUNT spoke with Kaye about self-expression, the current state of menswear, finding his voice, and the impact of social media on the fashion industry. 

How would you describe your style and creative vision? What has this evolution looked like for you?

I would describe my style as whatever it needs to be. I moved homes nine times before I was even 20, so not being tied to any one place, community or trend is what makes me who I am. It may look like I have no personal style but the lack of specificity in my style is actually what makes it my style. I am a broad and diverse person, and it translates exactly in what I wear. Creatively I’ve always had an interest in the transformative nature of fashion, of using it to create different shapes even in human silhouettes. 

How do you feel social media has shaped your style and has impacted the fashion industry? What’s good, and what’s bad? 

Social media has zero impact on my style. If I’m seeking inspiration, I read or look at past works of specific designers. I’ve pulled outfit inspo from the occasional post like anybody else, but I wouldn’t say that it inspires me beyond that point. I find a lot of the fashion on social media to be derivative or even just insane for insanity’s sake. Everyone’s trying to one-up the last, and since we’ve been addicted to notifications for so long, now a lot of people are just searching for a viral moment rather than making something meaningful or even just something that actually stems from who they are. If the main objective is to just make clothing go viral, then it’s just an ad—a product rather than a piece. Simultaneously, like with most things, it’s been the ability to disseminate ideas and connect creatives and concepts faster and more effectively than ever before, and reveal new worlds to new people. But simply put, if more people are seeing more things more often than ever before, then we replicate and derive more frequently which in turn results in the acceleration of trends, creative burnout, and consumer fatigue. 

With all the oversaturation that comes with being online, how do you stay original and inspired? How are you thinking of long-lasting sentiments when we live in a world that is consumed with virality and trends?

I stay inspired by not being online. A lot of what you see on social media comes from the real world. So if you’re in the real world enough, you’ll find as much inspiration as you need. I found that I’ve pioneered this culture of fast-paced, highly edited fashion videos—it’s almost all you see now in the fashion space on social media. I’ve personally started to slow down on this. I thought to myself a while ago that on an individual basis, this isn’t sustainable. Everyday having to wake up and style film and edit a new thing was just taking too much of a toll on me. I’m focusing now on the specific things I’ve done that I like to do, and that of course my fans, supporters, and followers love too. I haven’t matured past virality, but I’m more focused now on making really really good stuff over decent stuff.

How has your relationship with TikTok evolved since joining the platform? Are there misconceptions about what it takes to gain and sustain a following? How do you connect with your viewers?

For as long as I’ve been on TikTok, I’ve always strived to deliver what I consider the best fashion content—content that encourages individuals to express themselves in their style and to feel more comfortable wearing things they’re afraid to, and to show the expansive world of fashion specifically with menswear and its possibilities. I’d say that’s always been my goal, and the platform has allowed me to do it even beyond my expectations. In regards to growing and sustaining a large following, the algorithm is always changing, so I’m unsure if how I started would work today, but I always put quality over quantity when I started and still do today. I definitely also think it’s important to communicate with your audience and listen to what they want—if it’s in line with how you make content, that’s how I’ve been able to connect with my supporters, by listening to what they want to see.

Have you ever felt there are obstacles to your self-expression through fashion, or has it always been natural for you? 

Being someone who’s 6’4 with bigger legs, clothes have always been a challenge for me, so that’s been the biggest obstacle in terms of expressing myself through fashion. A lot of things fit me differently than they’re intended to, and I’ve struggled to understand my body because I defined it by the letters X, L, and M, and every time I thought I was one letter, I was the other. Honestly, since getting into fashion, be it through making content, directing or modeling, it’s taken a toll on my self-worth, particularly the latter. But like most journeys, I’ve found a way to feel better about myself whilst still doing these things I love. 

What are your thoughts on the current state of menswear?

I love the current state of menswear. I think it’s more creative and experimental than ever and that’s wonderful. I just think the men that are supposed to be wearing it haven’t caught up. A lot of people, specifically men, don’t actually know how diverse menswear is and still think there are no options for them, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I love that today, as a man, if you want to live a life of bespoke suits and leather oxfords, you can, but you can also live a life of deep plunging V-necks, exaggerated, almost extraterrestrial-like shoulders, and heels that extend five inches above the Earth’s surface.

What does it mean to be a digital creator in an age where technology and online connections become more and more of a regularity in everyday life? What pressures, responsibilities, or expectations do you face?

For me specifically, I’m lucky to have made content when I did, and to have made the kind of content I did. Now short-form fashion content is everywhere and somewhat dichotomous. It’s either a get ready with me, or a video with visual effects so jarring you forgot what the person was wearing in the video, both of which I’m fully guilty of myself, the latter of which I pioneered. I think we’ve reached a “what’s next” point, where a super-talented person will find a way to make the content even more cool. But to start making content in general today, you have to study a bit I think. Some people have talents or personalities that just make people gravitate towards them, but I think you can have the upper hand by looking at what’s being done and finding ways to not do that—making it an irresistible viewing experience, or doing what others are doing but better.

How has your experience working on set as a model impacted how you approach content creation?

My days are literally styling and standing in front of a camera. So when I’m on set, I just do what I did like four times already that week. Since I’ve started modeling, most photographers and stylists have complimented my understanding of the relationship one’s body should have with clothes. Making content definitely makes modeling very easy because my content also involves me modeling.

Photographed by 91 Rules 

Styled by  Wisdom Kaye

Written by Jorge Lucena

Grooming: Jessica Ortiz at Kalpana NYC

Production Designer: Elysia Belilove

Lighting Director: Jeremy Gould

Flaunt Film: Matt Sparks

Styling Assistant: Niambi Moore

Location: Shio Studio NYC

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Flaunt Magazine, Issue 188, The Eternal Flame Issue, Wisdom Kaye, 91 Rules, Gucci, Gucci Men's Fall-Winter 2023