Luke Adams, Valet
Luke Adams and Kirill Savateev work together as editor and creative director, respectively, of coffee magazine Standart. They’ve also just launched a men’s magazine, Valet, promising an approach to fashion that includes the, ‘historical, philosophical, ethical and literary.’ We hear from Luke about his week ahead as the first issue of Valet hits shops.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work.
Ordinarily I work from home in Oxford, or more specifically from its exemplary and manifold libraries, or more honestly from one of its exemplary and manifold pubs. The latter two destinations have seen far less of me this year, and so my Monday commute is too boring to dwell on.
But to speak of pleasanter times, I often work and arrange meetings at pubs or bars. This surprises some people. I simply see it as a carry-over from my student days, during which the libraries were always too busy in the morning.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I am a horribly slow writer by disposition, and so I have about a thousand index cards with crossed-out or otherwise expunged notes spread across my tiny desk, which is situated within my tiny ‘study’ which used to be a guestroom.
On the top shelf of my little writing bureau are a few early copies of Valet which have been maimed, menaced, and thoroughly disembowelled in order to establish just how many pages we could squeeze into a volume before the cost to ship it became prohibitive.
Sum up your 2020 – highs and lows
The high was quite naturally releasing the first issue of Valet, the culmination of a year-long journey which was not without its struggles. The low, in a strong field, was probably the realisation that drinking with friends and generally socialising was not going to be possible for quite some time. Apologies for my lack of originality!
Which magazine do you first remember?
First? My goodness, probably something like Reader’s Digest. I, like my father before me, made use of their heavily abridged fiction in the composition of school reading reports.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
We are big fans of The Skirt Chronicles, for its obtuse editorial slant and literary inflections. If I’m permitted one more choice, MacGuffin has been a team favourite for its heroic focus on and broad expression of the inspiration to found in everyday objects.
Describe your magazine in three words
Style, detail, nostalgia.
Following coffee mag Standart with a men’s fashion mag is quite a jump. Tell us more!
Valet is actually the creation of not one but two members of the Standart team. Kirill Savateev (above) and I have been friends and colleagues for the better part of the last decade, and have similar aesthetic interests, so we decided to start a title together, with the help of our exemplary graphic designer Dasha Brazhenko.
In terms of subject matter and tone, the magazines differ considerably, but in terms of editorial approach, there are also many similarities. The differences are rather easier to spot; among the biggest ones are form-factor and layout design, which are of course important aspects of any unique publication.
Though the chief difference is probably the length and literariness of Valet as compared to the slightly shorter and more general Standart (which gives rise to an intriguing thought: Standart’s subject matter is, on the surface, perhaps more niche, yet I see Valet as being aimed at a smaller audience even given its classic genre).
That being said, Standart has long incorporated literary and perambulating texts in its contents, but in Valet these are unrelenting and make up the majority.
You refer to your readers as a new cohort of fashion-interested men. Describe these people in more detail.
I wouldn’t say our readers are concerned with fashion, or at any rate with what it has become, which is a rampant riot of seasonal trends and replaceable, low-quality offerings. For our readers, this approach to style will not do. They require more depth, more precedent—historical, philosophical, ethical, literary. This is what Valet tries to offer.
Men’s glossy magazines rarely portray men with taste. Some stylist or other is hired to create images by draping the latest pieces of gaudy fashion over the contours of models and actors (who are, remember, professional chameleons), but this is not taste; this is the painstakingly manipulated illusion of taste.
Though men’s glossies sometimes contain interesting editorial content, the overarching message they convey is that taste and style can be bought easily and quickly, and must be torn down and constructed afresh every spring/summer and autumn/winter. This is, of course, nonsense.
A sophisticated and refined sense of taste and style cannot be bought; it must be cultivated. It requires experimentation, experience of failure and success, and the accumulation of the capacity for discrimination. Taste and style are an expression of character, which is a product of individual experience—unique, intimate, and wholly personal.
It is not something that changes with the seasons, nor is it something that can be washed away by the tides of fashion. Style is a product of one’s personal history, and as such cannot simply be expunged and refreshed, but must be built upon and refined.
Valet has been on the shelves for a few weeks now; how has it been received?
As with any new title, it is difficult to gauge precisely how well, seeing as we don’t see how customers engage with it on the shelf. Nor do we see real-time sales from newsstands or stockists.
What I can say with confidence is that stockist interest and support has been fantastic: we’ve found our way onto the shelves of the best print magazine stores in the world, who welcomed us with open arms. From those readers who have given us direct feedback, the reception has been very positive indeed, mostly on account of the sheer volume of content and the distinctive tone.
Readers have also been surprised at the range of subjects we’ve covered and how we’ve managed to tie it back to style (e.g. from historical and philosophical articles to literary criticism and poetry analysis).
Well, it’s been a strange time to launch a new title. We will no doubt be able to gauge the reception better when we can organise events and meet our readers face-to-face. Fingers crossed that comes sooner rather than later.
How will our new work contexts affect what we wear?
I hope very much that it inspires a richer appreciation for social gatherings and events, and that people no longer restrict their Sunday best to Sundays.
Once this pandemic chaos has subsided, I hope for people to dream of attending glamorous parties where everyone is beautiful and strange. Perhaps during the various lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, they happened to watch a classic film, and saw how great people used to look in hats and tailored dresses and flannel suits. I hope they think life is worth dressing up for.
What’s going to be the highlight of the coming week for you?
Aside from seeing this go out? I think probably, as it always tends to be with me, settling into and being startled by a beautifully wrought image in a good book by some obscure between-the-wars author while I wait patiently and wistfully for the pubs to open.
Photograph of Luke Adams at top of post by Joel Smedley