Whatever Luke Meier Is Doing At OAMC, It’s Working
Before you ask, OAMC, the label that’s the brainchild of Canadian designer Luke Meier, doesn’t mean anything. Actually, that’s not true, it does. It’s just that it doesn’t mean the same thing every season. Meier chose the name because he liked the way it looked graphically, and since he launched the label in 2014, he’s chosen to turn those four letters into a seasonal acronym. Fall 2017, for instance, was On A Midnight Clouded; Fall 2016 was Oscar Alpha Mike Charlie. For the Spring 2018 collection, which hits the runway tomorrow night in Paris? It’ll stand for One Always More Conscious.
If the meaning of the name is fluid, elsewhere Meier, who spent nearly a decade working for Supreme, has a much more fixed, concrete idea of what he thinks OAMC should stand for—an elevated, luxurious take on whatever guys his age (and oftentimes, given its cross-gender appeal, girls) want to wear; that peculiarly today fusion of street culture, tradition, athletic wear, archetypal “basics,” and tech. Yet even that list feels like it doesn’t quite capture the scope of what Meier—or indeed many of his contemporaries, like Craig Green or Martine Rose—are trying to do, which is about applying intelligent conceptual thought to real and relevant clothes. It is Fashion-with-a-capital-F, to be sure, yet denuded of so much that the fashion industry has held dear till now.
Whether that will be the tack that he and his wife, former Dior designer Lucie Meier, take at Jil Sander remains to be seen. The couple started there this past March, and their first official show will be in Milan in September. (They already worked on the label’s Resort.) In the meantime, Meier’s attentions are fixed on his Spring 2018 OAMC show. He took a few moments, calling from a baking hot Milan, to talk about what spurred him to start OAMC, the sociological imperative in his designing, and why he (rightfully) holds Supreme in such high regard.
Tell me how, and why, you started OAMC?
My business partner Arnaud Faeh and I started it four, well, three and change, years ago. We met through mutual friends while I was working for Supreme, and we stayed in touch after I left. I was living between Paris and New York as Lucie was still in school, and then she went to Louis Vuitton. Meanwhile I was trying to figure out what to do next. I’d always been interested in design from a sociological point of view, the culture of what makes something what it is. I was always really attracted to New York in the early ‘90s—Supreme, the DIY aesthetic, skateboarding stuff—which was an era that was pre–internet; back then, when you’d see someone wearing something cool, it was anonymous, it was a bit more about expressing yourself, whereas now everyone wants to show off something which everyone already knows about. And I was thinking about how big luxury brands make things, but I felt there was nothing on the market which had my sensibility yet was translated to a luxury level. So the question was how can we create something to that standard that speaks to us?
What was that sensibility? How would you characterize it?
Well, I could go on and on for hours about authenticity and how something does or doesn’t feel right [Meier laughs]. I’d see something from a luxury brand, made to a very high level, a sneaker or a sweatshirt, and yet… it might have been there were a lot of design cues from a culture I know and like but it didn’t look convincing. It was just something to be thrown on the pile called street wear. The best design, the best stuff, is not so easily defined; it’s fluid and borrows from all sorts of things, gets marinated in other ideas. So OAMC is things that feel authentic to us, but done in a luxurious way.
Can you give me some examples of that?
Some of the people who make OAMC have looked at us sideways; we’ve done shoes with Kevlar fabrics, or shirts with strange volumes and zippers. If you go to a traditional shirt maker in Italy or France and say you don’t want the fusing in the collar, they’ll look at you as if you’re crazy. Just as we might want to take all the structure out of the shoulder of a jacket, so that it feels soft when you’re wearing it, yet it’s still properly tailored. I went to school in Italy, I know what goes into doing things correctly; nothing is forcibly there for trend’s sake.
Let’s talk a little about the Fall 2017 collection….
I was thinking about evening for men; what I want to wear then. I have a lot of suits, and I’d gone to a Dior event with Lucie, and someone had said to me there “You’re a designer—you don’t ever have to wear a suit, you can wear whatever you like.” But I really enjoy wearing tailoring, and thinking about what it means today. If you’re a guy of 30, do you really care about a suit, do you care if it is fully canvassed? And then there’s the social requirements; in some circles, a suit is never necessary. So, some of the collection is about that: the art form of tailoring, the idea of how it can transform you, and do you get perceived differently when you wear it.
The other part of the collection… when I was working on it, there was a lot of police violence. It’s a delicate subject, to be thinking about that when you’re talking about fashion, it’s not politics, but design is my medium, it’s my way of providing some kind of commentary on the world. It’s valid to me, given how I was thinking and feeling [about those situations]. So, there’s also a lot of uniform detailing—the shoes are classically made, but they have heavy straps on top, and lug soles, for instance—while a lot of the outerwear is military-inspired. We made almost armor-like pieces, but in a Gobelins fabric. So, the collection is about the duality of my approach to tailoring with something about the aggression we’re seeing in the world today.
With menswear increasingly pushing the envelope, I guess you likely think a lot about relevance; you don’t really seem interested in fantasy, to me.
Yes, that’s true. I mean, relevance, that’s something very important to me. It’s also a term that’s thrown around a lot, whether something is relevant or not, and of course, it all depends on the perspective of whoever is saying it! But I’m definitely not interested in making things only for fantasy. I’m always looking for the reality in whatever I do. I have to be able to justify that any given piece is something someone can buy and live with. Whether it’s to express themselves, or makes them feel really good, it has to be a quality piece that they can have for a long time. If I can do that, that’s where the relevance comes in. Social commentary can give a feeling of now, that’s a necessity to what I do too, but I never want things to be fleeting, that they’re done once the season is over. I’ve never liked that idea.
Can you tell me a little about working for Supreme? I’ve always seen it as an immensely admirable brand because it has always had a very clear sense of purpose and of who it is speaking to, which is pretty rare.
I was head designer for Supreme for eight years. I have a great relationship with James [Jebbia, founder of Supreme]; he’s more of a friend than a boss now. We shared the same perspective on things. James has an enormous amount of integrity; he’s had all sorts of opportunities to do all sorts of things, but he never wavers—he only ever does what he believes in. He never forces anything, it all happens naturally. It’s always about keeping Supreme cool and making it all about New York City, and that’s all that matters. I respect him a lot.
There’s been such a huge surge in energy and creativity in menswear, especially in London, with talents like Martine Rose, Grace Wales Bonner and Craig Green. What’s the particular energy in Paris right now? Where does it stand in this moment?
London is really interesting right now, and I always think that London should be creative that way. As for Paris, well, it’s always been the apex of the luxury world, this iconic place…. We’ve been able to wedge our way in there, but not in an aggressive way. It’s great to be able to show in the midst of these big brands. We can do things in a certain way that speaks to us, yet also present to everyone.
You included, what, five or six looks worn by women during the Fall 2017 show. I guess that leads to the inevitable question about whether you’re going to launch women’s. Yet in this day and age, does that feel relevant anymore? I know the industry likes the delineation between the two, for commercial reasons, but isn’t it more true to today to just say: “Here are some clothes, whoever wants to wear them can?”
I do feel that we are past that. People with the best style, they look at the whole package—they don’t care if it something is cheaper or vintage or designer.… Gender feels like it was the last thing to get past as an industry. It’s an old conversation, in a way. Lucie wears OAMC all the time, my sister wears it, I have girlfriends who wear it. And I have a friend, a guy, who wears women’s jeans because they fit him better, he doesn’t care…. Then you look at Supreme—it’s a menswear brand, but women wear it all the time. I do think if I had to officially launch womenswear, then yes, there are some things that I might do a little differently. I would think about what Lucie, someone close to me, would really want to wear, but it wouldn’t be a huge departure from what I do now.
Now that you’re also designing Jil Sander with Lucie, how are you splitting your time and life with OAMC?
We’re in the process of moving everything to Milan. OAMC already has a development office here, for logistics, etc. It’s been quite a challenging few months, getting everything organized, building the structure around it, taking time to perfect it all. I have a right hand at OAMC who helps me a lot. I’ve been between Milan and Paris. We bought a flat in Paris last July, and the renovations were just finished last week [laughs]. We will be in Milan a lot, but Lucie has deep roots in Paris, so we will definitely between the two.
How is it to work with your wife? Do you have a rule about not speaking about work at home, etc?
[Laughs] Lucie and I work together very naturally. We have had an open dialogue about the approach to design for over 15 years and have often spoken of working together one day. We don’t have any kinds of rules about when we can or can’t speak about work… It’s really something that comes naturally so it doesn’t feel so much like working rather than a constant exchange of ideas. We share a common vision although we arrive at it through different processes.
Lastly, without giving too much away, what are you thinking for Spring 2018 for OAMC?
For me, next spring is all about knowledge and education!
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