Featured Image by AUDAZ Creative Director and Stylist Winter Jefferson
Bakaboo occupies a unique place in Second Life® fashion, successfully straddling art and fashion in a way that few other brands have been able to pull off. Indeed, it can be said that Bakaboo has become synonymous with color and pattern in a field often bereft of either. We interviewed the creator of this brand, Ocean Blackthorne, and traced his path from when he first joined Second Life in 2006 to the beginnings of Bakaboo in 2015 and beyond. We found a person who is thoughtful, gifted with artistic talent, humble and funny, and we are excited to introduce you to Ocean Blackthorne.
AUDAZ: Hi Ocean Blackthorne! It is a pleasure to meet you and interview you. How are you doing?
Ocean Blackthorne: “Hi and thank you so much for having me here! It simply is an honour and I am just humbled and elated to be part of this interview. Real life has been a bitch though (can I say bitch?) and with Covid-19, basically most of my time, energy and creativity has been dedicated to RL, and I do miss SL a lot! I am trying to be here as much as I can and when I can.”
AUDAZ: Let’s start with the standard SL questions: how did you discover SL and when and why did you decide to join?
Ocean Blackthorne: “I have been using SL since 2006 – for fourteen years – and I honestly can no longer remember how I stumbled upon SL. I must have Googled MMO or something back then. I was really intrigued by this open-world platform which is mostly fueled by user-creation!
I decided to join because I wanted to be a girl (HAHA). As a gay man back then, I wanted to start my “Second Life” as a woman, flirting with boys and doing some good’ole catfishing (hey, I started catfishing even before the term catfishing was a thing alright).
But it was pretty quick before I realized that I didn’t want to be a girl; I wasn’t enjoying it, and the more I tried to immerse myself as my avi, the more disconnected I was (and I missed my dong). Thankfully, my SL name was kinda unisex enough for me to switch.
Is this a good platform to say sorry to all the boys I lied to years ago?”
AUDAZ: You started as a model and blogger. What was the process of becoming a creator?
Ocean Blackthorne: “Oh dear. Long story warning! It was a long and strange journey, after all.
I have always loved creating art and images; in RL I even pursued and achieved a degree in fine arts photography (which was chucked aside as I faced reality and took on a real job). So SL was the perfect platform to practice making images and using Photoshop. I was hooked on creating images and art using my avi as the model, and at the same time, I was also binging on America’s Next Top Model. Well, if you can’t fulfill certain dreams in RL, that’s what SL is for, isn’t it?
I was fascinated by the modelling world of SL, and I was inspired by seeing all these SL fashion magazines pop out in my Facebook feed. It was my goal to one day get my works published, and be famous and admired, become a star etc. etc. I joined AVENUE Models Academy, and it was a great deal of fun learning styling. Although walking the runway was not really my goal, it was such a surprising challenge that it gave me so much joy to master it. I was also playing World of Warcraft back then, and I can tell you walking in a SL runway is akin to the raiding in WOW where there is so much coordination and practice along with mad mouse and keyboard skills; so any readers, if you aspire to be a model just, FYI you have been warned!
As I doveinto the world of modelling, graduating and eventually auditioning and getting into the AVENUE team, I saw my dream came true when I started to publish my works in the magazine. At the same time, I got into a relationship with another model who owned a SL clothing store, and he introduced me to the world of blogging while I learnt about clothing creation, watching him work.
However, soon I took a hiatus from SL due to graduation and having to start work RL. I thought I would be gone for good, initiated a messy break up and burnt a lot of bridges, but afterwards came crawling back shamefully to SL again after a few months because damn – this place is my escape, and I was missing my “Second Life.”
By then AVENUE had dissolved, and I joined Ferosh, which was another fashion project. It was during one of my assignments I was tasked to style “Mixed Prints” and I fell in love with the theme. However, the joy was short-lived with my frustration in trying to find male items to style to this theme. It triggered me to want to make my own clothing, and the concept was not foreign to me, thanks to my ex. I got myself some full perms and found that my skills in Photoshop conveniently paved the way for me to do texturing, and that’s how Bakaboo was born.
TLDR [Too Long Don’t Read]: Watched America Next Top Model, pretended to be a model for a while, stole ideas from my ex and joined Project Runway instead.”
AUDAZ: How did your modeling/blogging background inform your work as a designer and brand owner?
Ocean Blackthorne: “During my time as a model doing print work for magazines, I was attracted to colours and always picked the themes on colour, colour blocking and prints etc. I had to visit countless stores trying to find the right outfits, and after a while I realized that SL was quite starved of colours for men. I was seeing white, black, brown and if there were colours, they would be the dark or dull version, like dark blue and military green. Prints were almost non-existent.
So for my brand, I wanted to fill the gap where men can have access to colours and prints. As simple as that. :)”
AUDAZ: In your mission statement you say that your brand “attempts to bridge the line between fashion and art.” Who is your favorite real life artist? Why do you love him or her?
Ocean Blackthorne: “Oh dear. I was just trying to be fancy with my mission statement…Haha kidding aside, one of my earlier inspirations would be Yayoi Kusama. I love the celebration of colours, eccentricity and boldness in her works; I feel joy and life when I see them (although the origins of her style are a much darker story). She refers to her art as a form of liberation while transporting people into her world of madness, and I relate to that.”
AUDAZ: Your graphic sense is undeniable; you use texture in unique and creative ways, not only in your clothes but also in your photos. Have you always had this talent? have you always been drawn to textures and pattern?
Ocean Blackthorne: “To some extent, my passion for colours and prints derive from the lack of them in my RL. As a man living in a conservative-ish Asian society (Singapore), wearing loud colours or prints would require a lot of bravery and you would stand out in the crowd like a sore thumb with all eyes judging you. Deep inside, I do want to be free and wear all kinds of fancy shit that makes me happy, but unfortunately, I lack the balls to do so. With this pent-up desire for colours, textures and prints, it definitely influences the way I create for SL.”
AUDAZ: What is your creative process? How do you pick which textures to use and how to pair them up?
Ocean Blackthorne: “It is actually a very loving but tedious process. I do find and purchase patterns and resources, and they are mostly Asian inspired. I have a huge gallery of choices, and the experience, I guess, is akin to being in a fabric store trying to go through all the choices and putting them side by side and seeing if they match, etc. Many hours can be spent purely on doing trial and error, where in my mind a mix seems good and I would export the image and test on the mesh and realize that it is a disaster and redo the process.
There is a lot of switching between the Photoshop window and the Firestorm client, constantly trying to compare, refine and experiment. There is a lot of experimenting involved where eventually I am also layering multiple patterns and manipulating patterns. Over time, I have become slightly better at mentally picturing what works and what does not work but still produce butt-ugly mixes now and then.
As for the final product, usually I take a step back and see the complete outfit and try to imagine if this is an outfit, I would enjoy seeing on the runway in a fashion show.”
AUDAZ: What role does creativity play in your life and how do you manage when you feel your creativity blocked?
Ocean Blackthorne: “If I may give an analogy, I would compare creativity as milk and I would be the cow (yay for calling myself a cow). I do generate a lot of milk, and if I don’t use it often enough, my tits will start to hurt, and I get distressed and stomp my feet and brawl. That is one of the main reasons why I can’t leave SL – because it’s a great place to release “milk.” That being said, with a ton of changes happening in RL work right now and my team embarking on a brand new workplan, let’s just say I have given every last drop and have hardly any left for SL at the moment. Creativity is a finite resource for me, and the best way for me to handle creativity blockage is to simply wait for it to regenerate again. I have always maintained that Bakaboo is a hobby/project rather than a proper business, and that gives me all the false sense of security I need while I get my shit together.”
AUDAZ: As a creative person how do you deal with your internal critic?
Ocean Blackthorne: “My internal critic is thankfully not a depressing/evil one, and I do listen because he pushes me to do better and that’s about it. I am also extremely thankful to the validation I have received over time; I would say my inner critic was a lot harsher when I started because I would be full of doubts and uncertainty especially when I was doing something different from others.
I am very lucky to be saved by a lot of people who gave me words of encouragement and loving what I do. I know my work is not for everyone (and it is not intended for everyone), but to have even straight dudes loving what I do and sharing my passion and saying things like, “Finally I can express myself better,” softened the voice of inner critic a lot and instead grew the voice of an inner enabler instead, assuring me that taste is subjective and to keep doing what I like to do :)”
AUDAZ: In several of your photos you put yourself as the one different item in a sea of sameness. I find these photos very evocative and beautiful; what draws you to creating this type of image?
Ocean Blackthorne: “I have not really planned it this way intentionally, but I guess this goes back to my conservative roots where I wish in RL I can be louder, bolder, and be myself in the sea of mild sameness around me. Why can’t people be more free and fun? Subconsciously, I guess this influenced my work as well; my pieces are meant for the wearer to stand out and grab attention, be a talking point, be noticed etc.”
AUDAZ: Your Facebook feed is full of humor, often self-deprecating. What role does humor and laughter play in your life?
Ocean Blackthorne: “We are all very complex creatures and personally I think life overall is inclined to being tragic no matter what. How many times have we seen people who should be happier based their good circumstances lead sad and unsatisfied lives, oftentimes beyond their control? We all have our wounds and burdens, and laughing at myself is often a coping mechanism to remind myself not to take life so seriously.”
AUDAZ: What advice would you give to a new creator?
Ocean Blackthorne: “Creating is hard work and so damn tedious! Don’t do it! Are you that free?? There should be better ways of earning money and being creative! Haha ok I am really not the best person to give advice for new creators because my journey to becoming a creator is a very unique one and I am creating mainly for self-indulgence rather than any proper responsibility LOL. Depending on what you hope to achieve from creating, the advice would be very different; the best advice I can give is: hit me up! I am very approachable (self-praise) and I love to help and share whatever I know.”
AUDAZ: Is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to add?
Ocean Blackthorne: “I have probably already over-added already haha.”
AUDAZ: Thank you so much for your time!
Ocean Blackthorne: “Again, this is an unexpected honour and I thank the AUDAZ team so much for this!”