How Do You Define Identity?



Rae Niwa, writer

Wading through an immensity of digital content, we live and breathe in a visual culture that calibrates based on changing aesthetics and attitudes. Whether from social platforms or the material from magazines and online publications, there is an immense exchange of pulsating visual language. In the layers of a digital photograph, there are millions of pixels; what about the layers that make up ourselves? Identity can be pared back to an ideology of culture, of interest, of appearance, of purpose. There is a duality between the humanity that postulates and hides in-between the lines of the austere nature of the imagery we share. What vulnerability and authenticity lie beyond? Where does identity breathe and grow in culture? What feeds us in the nuanced patterned ways of growth?

Andrea Melara


How do you define Identity?

I define my identity as who I am as a person rather than what I do and what my ethnicity is. Growing up, I always had issues with my identity because I never felt “Latina enough”. I sometimes wondered if our parents tried to integrate us in a way that we won’t have problems at school with other people, but it made me feel a sense of something missing as a woman who’s family is from El Salvador. Of course I grew out of that and just embraced both my culture and the woman I become. 

How does fashion play into Identity for you?

Fashion was a way to express myself freely without the need to fit in. Fitting I was always an issue growing up so I finally let myself embrace who I wanted to be. The way my hair looked didn’t matter unless it felt right to me, the shape and length of my clothing didn’t matter unless I was comfortable and felt powerful. And I truly believe that the shoes always make the outfit. It’s where the attitude in your walk comes from, your confidence, your persona of the day. 


What empowers you?

Surrounding myself with bad ass woman that also have the same ambitions and ideals as I do definitely helps me feel empowered. 

When do you feel the most powerful?

Not caring about the opinions of others makes me feel powerful. Knowing that I am aware of who I am and won’t let anyone dictate that, makes me feel powerful. That is to say that I do correct my actions if they ever offend anyone, but as for who I am, I will not apologize. I am unapologetically me. And it definitely took years to be ok with who I am, but now I love every bit of me.    


How do you connect to the word HOME?

Home was always a place I could go when the world became too loud. It is where my heart is. My comfort and protection. The place where I don’t need to hide my emotions and can just truly feel without the general public being in my face. The place where my partner and I will grow a family. Home will become a home for my future children, and hopefully they will feel the same way. 




How do you define Identity?

My identity is highly influenced by the skate and art community I’m a part of. I feel that identity is hard to explain for myself sometimes, but I would identify as an artist. A person just trying to do the same thing as everyone else; survive and get recognition for their craft. Sometimes artists identify with their art and loose themselves, rather than being a person first, and an artist second. 

How does fashion play into Identity for you?

Clothes allow me to be comfortable in my own skin. It makes a statement and helps people recognize you. Sometimes I walk by people who dress in a similar way as I do and there’s almost a sense of familiarity and respect. Buying what I like can seem repetitive, but all the pieces have their own personality, even if the make is exactly the same. 


What empowers you?

It’s empowering to feel like you know who you are. I start to reach eudaemonia and feel at peace with myself. Everyone is always so focused on how other perceive them, but it’s really empowering to move past that and tell yourself “you don’t need to be validated” in order to be accepted. 


When do you feel the most powerful?

Finishing something that I’ve started makes me feel empowered, like my paintings. Testing myself daily to see what I can accomplish to become a better artist, and create more frequently feels like I’m getting shit done. Some pieces drag on and the time will eventually catch up to you, and it just sits there unfinished like something in my life has just come to a stop, feeling weak and abandoned. So when I finish these painting, it’s like I’ve overcome a huge obstacle in my life. 


How do you connect to the word HOME

Home to me is my community and family. Sometimes home reminds me of bad things like addiction and pain and loss, but I think of it as a support system. Its many places and different people. It’s the skate park, or parents house, my Andrea.



How do you define Identity?

Identity for me is realizing what I like and what I don’t. Who I want to be and who I don’t want to be. In that way, I can start to build something coherent with myself and through that, construct a clear and defined identity. One of the most difficult thing of life I think! But oh so beautiful and thrilling!


How does fashion play into Identity for you?

Fashion plays a role in identity in the sense that, even with all that can be said, we nearly all judge/have an idea about somebody, at the first look. So for me, caring about my appearance, is also caring about my identity: how I want to present myself to others, from the outside. Before they even get to know me.


What empowers you?

Music (art in general I think) and nature empowers me. Because they lift me up to a level of understanding something that we cannot touch but that is absolute beauty


When do you feel the most powerful?

I feel the most powerful when I feel close to the music and the nature. When I feel in fusion with them.

How do you connect to the word HOME?

The word home first means to me the sound of birds in the garden of my parents in the beginning of spring, filtering through the opened windows. But it means also the feeling of peacefulness that I can feel in my chest when I play music and travel in beautiful places. In that way, I realize while writing this , that I can feel home anywhere in the universe!! So cliché but so true to me!




How do you define Identity?

Identity in itself is too dynamic for anyone to just say that it is one way or the other. But I define identity with knowing one’s true self, knowing what is that light that is inside of you that makes you or me this individual. Going through all the trials to get one step closer to that light where you finally know who you are and that’s what identity is for me. 

How does fashion play into Identity for you?

As I look back, fashion has played a big part of my evolution. Whenever I was feeling confident I was wearing brighter colors and experimenting with trends because I was okay with being seen. Then I realized when I was going through my depression I was wearing more darker and earth colors to blend in. I think fashion for me usually plays with what’s going on with me in that moment in time.

What empowers you?

What empowers me is people and how incredible they are and all that we have accomplished as a species. Sometimes I look up in awe, how we can build a tower or fix these diseases. 


When do you feel the most powerful?

I think I feel the most powerful when I have had people in my life, whether it’s strangers, family, friends, lovers and there’s a moment they have when I empower them to reach a moment that leads them to the next part of their journey or they come to a realization. The questions I always ask is, “what am I doing to help others?” and the way that I am I try to help others with the little experience and knowledge I’ve received by being on this earth and through my own unique experiences. If I can just give an ounce of that so people can have a little bit more clarity of what they’re going through. Once they have that A-HA moment, that’s when I feel the most powerful, and I see the power that I have within me to continue helping others, even if it is just as simple as shedding a little bit of clarity of what they’re going through at that time. 

How do you connect to the word HOME?

I’ve been alone a lot of my life. I left my house when I was 14. But even before that I felt very alone because I was misunderstood within my family. For a long time you have that nostalgia of home or being homesick, but I never had those feelings. I used to look for that feeling of home externally in trying to find people to relate to, a physical dwelling, but over time I realized that home is within me and it doesn’t matter who I’m with, what place I’m living, where I’m at, home is within me. With my personal experiences that’s how I’ve been able to live alone, before I used to have my dog and that was my home and I never felt like I had a home and whenever I was with him I did. Home is within me. 





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Death to Stock and the Shape/Shift Report created a ripping visual collection together back in September 2017. Well. We decided we wanted to do it again. The images that cover this month’s Identity Issue are available for download. Yeah— you can access the rights to use them for whatever, whenever.

Our very own Alex Tan was the Art Director and Photographer of this shoot. Click the header of this section to read what he had to say about his creative processes for this collaboration and how purposefully produced elements make each shot in this package unique.

— Shape/Shift Report x Death To Stock

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creating the perfect identity online is easy

Just be as selfish as you possibly can.

Instagram, Twitter, whatever. They’re all complex apps with their own respective advantages and disadvantages, yeah, but also like they’re all about the same thing. And that thing is: pleasing people. And rewarding you for doing so.

— James Royce, Writer

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How do you define identity?

I stopped four people on the streets of San Francisco and asked them about it.

— Rae Niwa, Writer

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we’re all a bit goth in some way

…You know who the moodiest people on the planet are, though? That’s right: goths. We’ve all felt a bit goth at some point, haven’t we? Yeah, because get moody. Goths are moody. You get moody. Anyway here’s a list of the different types of goths so you know which one to self-identify as next time you’re walking around with a frown.

— James Royce on behalf of the Team at Matte Black




meet the climate change credit card

If you are serious about limiting your impact on the environment, this new credit card might be perfect for you. The DO Black Credit Card, launched recently by a Swedish fin-tech company, associates each purchase you make on the card with the carbon footprint that expense created.

how did that coffee cup make it into the episode???

Picture this.... you have the world's attention. You have created a television show that is at the peak of popular culture. 17 million people watched your last episode during the live telecast. Somehow everyone in 2019 is talking about your show that takes place in a medieval world full of dragons and magic and knights and monarchies. Yet.... you somehow left a modern to-go coffee cup in the middle of a scene of antiquated celebratory debauchery.



042 - Getting Your Art Out There with Steph DeAngelis

So you've been posting your art on what? We sat down with Steph DeAngelis, LA-based designer + illustrator who has worked with brand like Outdoor Voices, The Standard, and Man Repeller, to speak on the topic. Tune in to hear about Steph's creative journey, and her 5 tips on how to get your art out the wild, and the brands in your inbox.

SESSIONS by Matte Black