In the 1960s, Luke Walker’s father worked as an engineer for Rolls-Royce’s aeronautical division, a job which relied on him drawing meticulous diagrams and technical illustrations completely by hand. Decades on, this to-the-millimetre approach defines Walker’s own oeuvre at menswear label LEJ – even if his medium is clothing, rather than planes. ‘I’ve always made things since I was a boy; I was helping with the DIY and being drummed with “measure twice, cut once”. Clothes are the same, the bones have to be solid.’
An alumnus of menswear heavyweights Paul Smith, Dunhill and Drake’s, Walker founded LEJ in 2020, built from a desire to replicate the level of quality he’d encountered at these labels for a wider audience of men. ‘I couldn’t find the quality of casualwear I was happy with. I wanted to take all of my learning from working in luxury and apply it to what I considered a good, casual wardrobe. That was the first kernel of the idea.’
The pieces themselves have a vintage feel in design, though Walker is keen to distance himself from what he calls ‘vintage revivalist’ menswear labels, instead taking menswear stalwarts and refining them in construction and fabrication. As such, LEJ is built on foundational menswear pieces – airy flap-pocket shirts in silk or linen, workwear-inspired selvedge denim jeans, or lightweight cotton jackets with Cuban-style notched collars. Other pieces have a more playful flair: thigh-grazing micro-shorts in denim, and overshirts that fasten along the front with bows. The intricacies of each piece are often only revealed with wear.
‘I think longevity is a good signature – the way that clothes wear with time, and carry on changing through their lifetimes,’ he says. ‘Only if the craft, construction, and quality of the fabrics are there will people return to the brand in the long run. I want to try and resurrect more time-consuming techniques and finishes – they are subtleties, but it adds to the sensual nature of what might otherwise be a work shirt. When these pieces are worn, hopefully all this comes to the fore.’
This month, Walker launches his first physical space with the label, a ‘London residency’, which sees LEJ take over a store in Piccadilly Arcade, where shoppers will be able to purchase LEJ’s S/S 2022 collection. Pieces will encompass the brand’s wide-ranging approach, promising a core selection of the brand's signature shirting, outerwear, knitwear and softly constructed tailoring.
‘I launched LEJ in April of 2020, which means there’s been so little opportunity to show the brand in person. I’ve been desperate to get into the physical world, that reality of touch and feel. This residency is an extension of home – a welcoming place to come and chat, and if people want to look at the clothes, all the better.’
LEJ’s London Residency is open at 12 Piccadilly Arcade, London until 30 March 2022
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Jack Moss is the Fashion Features Editor at Wallpaper*. Having previously held roles at 10, 10 Men and AnOther magazines, he joined the team in 2022. His work has a particular focus on the moments where fashion and style intersect with other creative disciplines – among them art and design – as well as championing a new generation of international talent and profiling the industry’s leading figures and brands.
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