GREATEST: Luke Meier of OAMC
From creative director of Supreme to reinventing military-inspired menswear, the Vancouver-born designer looks back on 10 years of OAMC.
An old cliché says youth is wasted on the young. Luke Meier dispels that notion. Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the OAMC co-founder embraced his city’s relative outsider status, soaking up skate, music and other counterculture artifacts that trickled in from SoHo New York and Soho London alike. These would be the formative grounding points for a career that has seen him rise through streetwear to become one of the most respected designers operating in menswear today.
After studying finance and international business, Meier moved to New York and shifted his focus to style, attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. The path led him to James Jebbia, founder of Supreme, who was then on the hunt for a new head designer after Brendon Babenzien left to start his own line, Noah. Meier’s childhood immersion in subculture undoubtedly came to the fore during his eight-year tenure, assisting its transformation from modest skate shop to global fashion powerhouse.
In 2013, Meier established OAMC alongside industry stalwarts Arnaud Faeh (Carhartt WIP). If Supreme was the riotous upstart harboring bad intentions and a middle-finger-to-the-world attitude, OAMC could be considered its responsible elder sibling who went away to college, matured and found a sensible career. Arriving at a time when men’s style had shifted from the sprezzy, Don Draper-indebted classicism of Tumblr’s #menswear era to an all-bets-are-off interpretation of casual, proselytized by Kanye West, the A$AP Mob and Riccardo Tisci’s graphic-laden Givenchy, OAMC slipped somewhere between the cracks. It was luxury channeling a streetwear spirit—masterfully constructed, made-in-Italy clothing with couture-indebted details that, against the odds, managed to communicate an irresistible sense of danger.
Years before becoming a power player amongst the streetwear cognoscenti, Meier spent six months on an exchange program in Florence, Italy, honing his craft as a tailor. Here he met his future wife and professional partner, Lucie, whose enviable style CV would include stints working under Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton, at Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière, and at Dior under Raf Simons, before becoming co-creative director for five collections following the Belgian’s decision to leave the house. In 2017, the husband-and-wife duo were headhunted by Jil Sander as joint creative directors, garnering critical acclaim for their effortlessly modern evolution of the brand’s minimalist design heritage.
Skip to the current day and Luke is splitting his time between Jil Sander and OAMC. Sustainability has become a key pillar of the label’s operation, including the Re:Work project that takes existing garments and turns them into something contemporary. Looking back at 10 years of OAMC, GREATEST caught up with Luke to discuss his early life, the practical challenges of sustainability and why there should be more—not fewer—collaborations.
Paige Silveria: Starting with your youth, what drove you to design clothing?
Luke Meier: I was attracted to this work because of the cultural influences I had growing up in Vancouver. You have this voyeuristic view of California, New York, London. Vancouver was interesting because we had a really good curation. There was a great skate shop that had been open since the late ’70s, and we had the first concrete park in Canada. We had really good pros, young skaters, a punk rock scene, hip-hop DJs and radio shows. There was information about what was interesting. I was always curious about what made certain things move the dial and what didn’t. Even as a 12-year-old kid, I remember walking into a skate shop thinking, “Okay that’s cool, but that kind of sucks,” and thinking, “What’s the difference between them?”
When I moved to New York in 1996, it was the same flavor of what I experienced growing up: record labels, underground bands or MCs, people making clothes. Union, started by James Jebbia, was a shop that carried brands from London and Japan and stuff made in the city. People would bring in and sell their own graphic tees. It was a dynamic, artistic approach to clothes. I was really interested in that. That’s where the whole sociological approach comes from.
PS: What were you like as a kid?
LM: Most of the kids I went to high school with were skaters. Vancouver was very cool, very different from your typical North American environment. I had amazing parents who always supported me. My teenage years were the late ’80s, early ’90s. I remember certain records coming out and blowing everyone’s mind. People were into specific genres: hip-hop, metal, punk, dub, reggae. But when Nirvana’s Nevermind came out, everyone bought that record; it didn’t matter what you were usually into.
There was so much creative energy in the air. You’d walk into Foot Locker and all the sneakers were brand-new designs—you didn’t have any retros or reissues. There was something very distinctly new and strong about what was happening. Then at a certain point in time it all switched. All of a sudden I’m seeing kids buying Gazelles, wearing big pants and riding skateboards with tiny wheels. People started looking backwards.
PS: What did you do when you left Vancouver?
LM: I got a degree in finance from Georgetown and studied a little at Oxford. The one knock I’ll give about my high school experience is that it didn’t have a concept of how to do the things that I was into as a job. I didn’t know anyone making a living being a musician or painter. Following the normal path of life and being encouraged to do something after high school, finance seemed practical. You’ll always need to know how to pay for things and balance a checkbook. Then I wanted to get to the source of things that were inspiring to me, so I moved to New York.
PS: What was New York like when you arrived?
LM: Different than now. Everyone says New York was better in the past, no matter what age they are. Downtown was very intimate. I met a lot of people quickly, like the guys from Supreme. I had no intention of working a 9-to-5. I just wanted to skate and hang out. I was finally at the place where a lot of these things were happening. It felt like there was a lot of possibility to do new things. I still feel like New York is home in a way.
PS: Culturally, what excites you?
LM: AI is changing the world entirely. It’s scary, exciting, strange—all those things together. You try not to be pessimistic, like Armageddon vibes. If you look on the other side, maybe it’s actually something beautiful that can help. I don’t know. You have to try to stay positive. On the opposite side, I’m finding the curation within books and printed matter exciting at the moment. There’s so much saturation everywhere that I’m excited when I find a great book or magazine. There’s this cadence and order; perspective and story. I quite like that at the moment because sometimes it feels schizophrenic to be online. You just click around and there’s no sense of direction.
PS: Tell me about Re:Work. What does it allow you to do that other lines don’t? How does it relate to your sustainability ethos?
LM: Re:Work’s existence has multiple rationales. It’s an upcycling concept, so it’s taking deadstock in warehouses and giving new life to those pieces. It’s also interesting to play with these archetypes of design. Military pieces and workwear have become temples of design, very apex-level ideas that are in the vernacular of the menswear vocabulary. We can take those things and change them around or just play with the proportions and introduce new ideas. It’s also a very exciting design exercise. We care so much and push hard to get things made really well so they’re long lasting. We push our suppliers to use organic materials and less water, recycled fibers, etc. But what’s most difficult to answer is the holistic approach.
PS: In what way?
LM: Like an organic apple at the grocery store sounds great, but what’s the entire story? There are no pesticides, but was it flown across the world? What’s the packaging? Understanding the full picture is proving to be very difficult in the work we do. You need to have confidence that within the supply chain, the depth of what you’re trying to do is being upheld to a standard. We can’t police it ourselves; the government needs to step in. In New York, the only way they were able to effectively ban single-use straws was because it became illegal to use them. It’s not like all the delis would willingly decide one day to stop supplying them. I think the same thing needs to happen in the fashion industry. People are very resourceful and inventive so we’ll be able to do really cool stuff, if the state institutes a different set of rules.
PS: What’s your perspective on “artist x brand” collaborations?
LM: People roll their eyes and say there’s too much of it, but at its root collaboration is something positive. The approach of renting someone’s work and plastering it all over your clothes, that’s not exciting. It’s either a very intimate thing, with close friends or those we have a relationship with, or it’s more pragmatic, where we can’t make this technical sneaker so we reach out to those who can. It’s people from different perspectives trying to create something new that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Great creations are always welcome and inspiring. It should happen even more—so long as it’s quality. It’s the same with musicians vibing in a way together that they wouldn’t have on their own, which leads to something new. In the early days of Supreme it was necessary to collaborate to make things. Back then people weren’t really used to the idea, so when the project worked out well, it was very satisfying. Those are the good ones.