The co-founder of Luke tells Suzanne Bearne how he can trace the young fashion brand’s roots back to a caravan in Norfolk.
How did you get into fashion?
I’ve have been making clothes since I was 12 - that’s when I made my first shirt. My mum was a wedding dress maker so there was always a sewing machine around and I realised I had the skill and drive to make clothes.
There is an industry rumour that you’re related to Luke co-founder Simon Poole. Can you set the record straight?
That’s a bit of an urban myth. Simon’s mum and my mum have been close friends since the 1960s. My family and Simon’s family would holiday together in the caravans they owned in Norfolk in the 1970s, so we became closely entwined as families.
How did your relationship evolve into being business partners?
When I was studying at Central Saint Martins College, Simon was [head of menswear sales] at French Connection, so we hooked up regularly in London.
I had design knowledge but I didn’t have industry knowledge so I got my first job in fashion with River Island as a junior designer for shirts and denim. The plan was to get two years experience and start the business. I did four months at River Island and then left, and we started the business in May 2001 with three printed T-shirts. We always had the belief we would have our own label.
What’s the best-selling piece you’ve produced and which item are you most proud of?
We are strong in so many areas. In the early days we just sold shirts. Now I think it’s evenly spread, and footwear has done well for us over the past six months.
I’m most proud of the collection I’m working on now. Like pop music, you’re only as good as your last collection. If you produce an average product you will lose your customer. I always want to improve it and make it better.
What’s the ethos behind the Luke brand?
I’m absolutely driven to produce the best menswear in the market. That’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me stay up late at night.
Where do you see the brand in five years?
I want us to keep going down the same path with tight distribution and growing our relationship with all our independent stockists. We’re an independently owned company and we back indies, which are the lifeblood of the industry.
Who do you respect in the industry and why?
I really respect and understand what Jason Denham [founder of premium Dutch denim brand Denham] is doing. I like the aesthetic, the branding, the concept and the attention to detail.
Where do you think the market is heading in terms of trends?
Luke was historically for daywear, but now we have Limited Edition for the evening and also have Luke jeans. You could say it’s going smarter but people aren’t dressing smart during the day - it’s mostly casual.
Who is your favourite catwalk designer?
I would have to say Martin Margiela. The brand offers a clear design direction.
What was the last item you bought?
A pair of red NDC fur-lined moccasin boots from Lane Crawford in Hong Kong.
What music do you like to listen to?
It’s a mix, but I like bands such as Kasabian and Oasis.
How do you like to relax?
Of course I like to relax with the wife on holiday, but I love fishing (pictured) in France.
Luke Roper is creative director and co-founder of young fashion brand Luke, which won the Young Fashion Brand Award at the Drapers Awards 2010 last month