From Suburbia to SoHo
Patrick Janelle sits at the corner of the kitchen bar table in his one-bedroom SoHo apartment. The marble and brass table was custom-made by a friend of Janelle’s, Ryan Steel, owner of Kent Steel, a Brooklyn based furniture studio. From his spot at the bar, Janelle looks at his bike hanging on the wall–a ‘74 Schwinn Paramount 10 speed–passed down from his dad who raced on it in the 70s.
This morning Janelle biked around Prospect Park, stopping for breakfast at Winner Café & Bakery in Park Slope which his friend Daniel Eddy recently opened. Janelle documents everything from his bike rides around New York City to his travels to Guana Island to taco nights on his fire escape on Instagram under @aguynamedpatrick. The cosmopolitan photographs in his feed sharply contrast with the suburbia Janelle grew up surrounded by in Fort Collins, CO.
Fort Collins is a mostly white, fairly conservative city of less than 200,000 in Northern Colorado. Janelle’s childhood mostly revolved around church. His mother taught at the Christian school he attended for 12 years–a tiny school without many resources for kids interested in art and design. From an early age, Janelle was drawn to design. He was interested in cooking and would decorate cakes for friends’ weddings. “I actually studied cake decorating in 4H. Which is…a funny thing because normally in 4H you study calf raising and…other farm-related activities,” Janelle says.
In school, when he was on student counsel, Janelle would play around with Photoshop Elements on his family’s PC, making posters for student events. It was the first time he experienced design as a craft, he says. “[I] realized with… certain tools that it was possible to… basically take my thoughts and ideas and like express them in a visual manner using these tools.”
There is one moment, in particular, Janelle recalls as the first time he was exposed to design in a way that completely altered his perspective. It was a freak moment, Janelle says when the grocery store in his hometown carried the magazine Wallpaper when it had first come out.
“It was like kind of groundbreaking for me to see this…at the time…kind of edgy, design magazine…. It was…inflected with fashion and design and… very kind of…sensual and sexual while it was focusing on design. And for it to show up…next to… Better Homes and Gardens was just like so bizarre.”
Today, over 20 years later, Patrick owns the creative and talent agency, Untitled Secret, in Manhattan. He opened the company after living in Germany, working as a graphic designer at Bon Appétit, riding his Vespa around the US, and founding Spring Street Social Society–a membership based club hosting events, dinners, and performances around the country.
“I think we can use our platforms to broadcast important political and social messages, using these channels for activism.”
“A lot of the projects Janelle did with Spring Street Social Society were particularly memorable, he says. For one performance, the group took over The San Francisco Mint, an empty building in the middle of the city’s Tenderloin neighbourhood. They worked with florists and artists to create an immersive space filled with florals and greenery as part of an evening of events for their client, Veuve Clicquot.
Anything that we did through Spring Street Social Society had a lot of soul and heart, Janelle says. There was “always a goal to…truly connect individuals and community.”
Now, with over 400k Instagram followers and an agency that manages a roster of social media influencers, Janelle continues to explore how to connect people to their community. With movements like Black Lives Matter and channels like Instagram becoming more prominent platforms to promote social change, Janelle is examining the responsibility and opportunity that influencers have in this different landscape.
“I think we can use our platforms to broadcast important political and social messages,” Janelle says, using these channels for activism. “I think it’s also important for us to…find that flexibility. To use our platforms to talk about things that aren’t just what we think our followers are following us for.”