Tyler Blake started his creative career as a dancer, but says he was met with “roadblocks” and never felt he was fully able to express himself in the dance world. Trying his hand at both photography and filmmaking, he experienced the same struggles.
So, Blake says he no longer wanted to be “just a dancer” and branched out. He’s now the creative director and co-owner of wäke, an online clothing brand.
Alongside his business partner and fiancé Monalisa Perez, Blake began building wäke in their basement. Before the wäke brand became the force it is today, Blake and Perez started by selling sunglasses on eBay and Poshmark.
I STARTED WÄKE BECAUSE BECAUSE… as an artist I needed a space to express myself freely. Some may know that my journey as a creative started as a dancer, and even then I felt that there was a limit or a wall to just considering myself as ‘just a dancer.’ Even as a freelance photographer and filmmaker I met my roadblocks to expressing myself freely. It was only when I created my own brand that allowed me to do what I want.
PEOPLE MIGHT KNOW ME FROM… the People Being People podcast, a show that my fiancé/business partner Monalisa started to connect with our audience on a deeper level as entrepreneurs and individuals working at finding our place in the world every day. Our stories are far beyond the clothing and sharing our take on self-love through the clothing we create. We wanted to let people in beyond that, and [that] has connected us with so many cool people that have, in turn, shared their stories with us.
THE BEST PART OF MY JOB IS… being able to create pieces of art for people to enjoy and connect to their own lives. It’s the best feeling.
ONE OF MY FAVORITE PROJECTS HAS BEEN… organizing our pop-up shop that we hosted in Chicago. With us being a baby as a company, we were pretty surprised with the turnout. [We] can’t wait to do more as the world starts to open back up.
VISIT THE WEBSITE TO BROWSE HOODIES, T-SHIRTS, SWEATPANTS, JACKETS, ACCESSORIES, AND MORE. THE COMPANY ALSO HAS KIDS’ APPAREL.
CUSTOMERS COME TO THE WEBSITE LOOKING FOR… our No. 1 sellers, which are our t-shirts and BIKERSHORTS+. We might need to open a biker shorts factory someday because no matter what we drop people just keep buying biker shorts from us. Trust me; we work hard to keep them in stock. [It’s] a good problem to have. I won’t complain.
MY FAVORITE THING IN OUR STORE RIGHT NOW IS… our REMINDERCHARM. It’s good to have the reminder every day that you’re valuable beyond measure, and I believe we work really hard at making sure that our customers know this.
I DON’T DO THIS ALONE… and wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for Monalisa. Business is business, but it’s even better when it’s within your family.
OUR CLOTHING STYLE IS INSPIRED BY… just being as stylish as you can while staying comfortable and simplistic, yet loud at the same time.
WE’RE CURRENTLY IN THE PROCESS OF OUR FALL/WINTER 2021 COLLECTION, AND LET’S JUST SAY WE’RE PLANNING ON GETTING BACK TO THE CORE OF WHAT STREETWEAR IS ALL ABOUT. I’M REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS SEASON.”
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT PUTTING TOGETHER WÄKE WAS… the grind toward launching it. Monalisa and I literally sold sunglasses on Poshmark and eBay all of summer 2018 to get wäke started. Who would have known sunglasses were the answer?
WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT KNOW ABOUT WÄKE IS… that the brand is all about self-love and self-awareness.
“MY advice for rising creative types is to be yourself. Don’t try to be. just be.”
WHEN I WALK AROUND DOWNTOWN ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES TO STOP BY… was Kaizen Studio [before] COVID started.
SOMETHING THAT IS INFLUENCING ME RIGHT NOW IS… working on moving wäke out of our home. Steve Jobs started Apple out of his garage, and wäke started out of our basement. We have a long way to go, and the process is interesting to say the least.
I LOVE TO GRAB A BITE OR DRINK… at Oshima Sushi Japanese Cuisine or JL Beers downtown, a couple of Monalisa’s and my favorite spots.
MY FAVORITE PLACE TO GO FOR INSPIRATION IS… the internet right now… so much endless art and creativity. When I was living back home in Chicago it was Saks Fifth Avenue. I loved stopping by Saks during my teenage years just to get inspired by all of the designer clothing. I understand it now—brands, business, and how they work. But it’s still crazy to me that there are hoodies out there priced at $1,200.
ONE THING I LOVE ABOUT SOUTH DAKOTA… our freedom as a state. I take pride in it because I’ve seen that other side of things growing up in Chicago. [I’m] proud to be living here in South Dakota. This is home.
SOMEONE LOCAL WHO I ADMIRE IS… my guy, Vaney Hariri. That guy’s mind is a fortress. [He’s a] very deep thinker.
IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS, I HOPE TO… have a flagship warehouse opened for wäke. Fingers crossed.
I LOVE… to love. The best thing we can do in life is offer compassion toward others. It gets hard because as human beings there’s a need for us to protect ourselves, but there’s something about opening up that’s rewarding.