Everyone wants a piece of Luke Edward Hall. Take your pick: his ceramics with Alex Eagle, his recent collection for the Royal Academy, his campaign with Burberry. If novelists write what they would like to read, Luke Edward Hall draws what he would like to see: “I make things that I would like to own; I enjoy living surrounded by my objects and my collections of things that inspire me. I'm particularly drawn to vivid colour.” His look — a spry crop of blonde hair, offset by his orb-like glasses — has become almost as recognisable as his designs. His profiles are like the chiselled gods of ancient Rome, made to pose for a 50s school photograph; think Zeus as a matinée idol, brought to life by pastel pens, and you’re somewhat there.
This summer, Luke and Semaine plotted their pop-up shop at Le Sirenuse, a chance for his many styles and influences to swirl satisfyingly together. To celebrate, Luke invited Semaine to his flat that he shares with his fiancée, designer and creative director Duncan Campbell, to speak about bedtime stories, Cecil Beaton, and why he’s pleased that “currently there seems to be much more room for storytelling and romanticism.”
Many (almost 50,000 at time of writing) are familiar with Luke from Instagram: his feed is a maelstrom of colour, of Ganymede vases, string-bound poetry, and lute-playing boys from his sketchbook. If Wes Anderson were to mythologise Hockney as a 1930s-obsessed designer (with slightly different specs), this might be the mood board. Woven into Luke’s taste and inspiration is a fondness for the Bright Young Things, the London’s 1920s circle of writers and performers, with their madly rococo flair. Whether reinterpreting Stephen Tennant’s journals for an exhibition of drawings and paintings, or sharing posts of Cecil Beaton, the appeal is clear: “I’m a romantic at heart; those stories really speak to me.”
In person, Luke is not the fully-whimsical character you might expect; he speaks at a neat clip, clever and quick, (even though when we meet, it’s barely 8am, and he’s not yet had tea). While chatting, it’s easy to be distracted by his neon-orange hanging lamp, or the lacquered trays on the side table. Like his online and design projects, chatting with Luke throws up his many inspirations. We touch on Gucci (“I adore the mishmash of historical references, it’s like entering a magical world”), Call Me By Your Name (“my dream dinner party would be Luca Guadagnino, but also Cecil Beaton, David Hockney, Piero Fornasetti, Ruth Rogers, Denton Welch, Vita Sackville-West, Duncan Grant and Luisa Casati”), and biographies ("One of my recent favourites was about the fantastic artist Rex Whistler and his friend Edith Olivier — she lived in Wiltshire — it describes their special friendship up until Whistler's untimely death.”).
As the “young designer to watch” narrative has played out, he’s been described a ‘phenom’, or a ‘wunderkind’. What’s satisfying to witness, though, is Luke riding this cavalcade of praise to an even more exciting phase of his career — with menswear, exhibitions, and furniture on the horizon. For his collaboration with Semaine hosted in the idyllic backdrop of Le Sirenuse, Luke “liked the idea of making their towel and other items look like retro holiday souvenirs… but still graphic and contemporary.” The profile adorning the towel belongs to the young Antinous, Emperor Hadrian’s lover circa 130 C.E. Antinous drowned in the Nile, and, according to Luke, “Hadrian founded a kind of cult in his honour, commissioning statues of Antinous and coins and other souvenirs emblazoned with his image. I really enjoy the idea of continuing this tradition.” The throbbing red, the gorgeous profile, and the backstory; reclining into the towel is like sinking back into this chapter of history. The choice of Ti Amo was simple — “I wanted a big, chunky phrase” — and Luke has always had a fondness for typography, enjoying simply “playing around with fonts and colours.” As for Sleeping Fruity, while Luke “doesn’t exactly love being filmed”, he found the “idea of retelling a fairy tale interesting, and the idea of making the two principal characters male naturally quite thrilling.”
Luke has crested into fame during the same arc most of us crest into adulthood; perhaps easier for him, as something of an old soul. Over summer, he’s trading the mania of Masterpiece London for the azure blue of Greek and Italian islands, before projects and exhibitions that will take him to the US, Dubai and Seoul. The worlds of Luke Edward Hall — at Le Sirenuse, at home in London, or online — all offer an escape, or respite, from our own. This is perhaps the reason everyone wants to look at Luke: “The world can be pretty ordinary and grim — and people, including me, need the opposite — we need to escape, we need a bit of fantasy and magic.”
By Jonathan Mahon-Heap for Semaine.