Inside Luka Sabbat’s Recent Stint in Japan And His Consequent Love For Car Culture

It’s Luka Sabbat’s world, and we all just live in it. One moment, he’s in Paris, sharing dinner and swapping stories with his expansive circle of high-profile peers. In the next, we observe him sitting front row for your favorite designer’s latest collection at NYFW, clad in attire fit for the occasion – one that signifies a confident familiarity with these sorts of things.

For someone as occupied as the 25-year-old contemporary aristocrat, it can be especially daunting to find one location that resonates. But recently, it seems that Luka’s struggles have been relieved.

I connect with Mr. Fallback via Zoom. He’s in Japan – Tokyo, to be exact – his quasi-home for the past eight months. It’s 7 a.m. in New York City when we begin our conversation; a 13-hour time difference separates us. Just as my day begins, Luka’s is drawing to a close. Still, he maintains his classic articulate and low-key personality as he is no stranger to conversations like the one we are about to get into.

For Luka, Japan just feels right. Despite its distance from NYC, he finds relative ease in fading away from it all, going up about his business as usual. The country, and its diverse cities, have allowed the subdued globetrotter to slow down and appreciate the details of things on a deeper level.

To complement the island country’s romantic imagery and distinct cultural quirks, the modern-day beatnik leveraged his time abroad to explore further some new interests of his, specifically, a developing admiration for cars and the subsequent culture derived from them. Citing good friend and mentor Arthur Kar as the catalyst for his latest avocation, Luka draws parallels between his varying preference for automobiles and the curatorial nature of fashion.

“To me, cars are a lot like style and fashion. It could be a form of self-expression,” Luka shares, “The way that they’re designed and how people are attracted to certain kinds of cars might say a lot about who they are.”

Ferrari Enzo, Pontiac Firebird, anything Aston Martin; there’s an open appreciation for it all as Luka begins his journey down the vehicular rabbit hole, willingly stepping into the role of novice enthusiast as he gradually consumes his fill of lore.

Going all in on his new hobby, the aspiring automotive aficionado even recently teamed up with Germany’s preeminent luxury manufacturer BMW to bridge his budding interest with his love for Japan. As a culture known for its intentional design, Luka leans on his respect for attributes that have become synonymous with the country, like meticulous efficiency and refined taste, to translate a unique aesthetic representative to the collaboration.

“I could tell that people [in Tokyo] really like their cars because people here have great taste. And that’s also another thing about Japan that I appreciate. There are so many sub-sectors, subcultures, and different pockets to draw inspiration from,” says Luka.

Using BMW’s idea of bridging the gap between past and present to debut their latest XM model as a template, Luka created a capsule of t-shirts and hats that feel authentic to the established creative. The iconography utilizes symbolism that is representative of evolution through time and draws inspiration from Japan’s forward-thinking cultural mindset–progress for the sake of innovation.

Read more about Luka’s time in Japan, his burgeoning interest in cars, and more below:

You’ve been out in Tokyo for a while now. How has your perception of the city changed since arriving?

I’ve been coming here for seven years or something like that, but for the past eight months, I’ve visited once a month. I love it here. It’s kind of out of the way; you know what I mean? There’s so much shit going on in America and Europe, especially for the type of life I live. I spend a lot of time moving around. I like coming back here because as much as it’s fun, it’s also really easy to disappear, which is cool.

Have you picked up anything new from your time spent out there?

Japan has taught me how to be patient. People here just wait their turn. It takes time. Everybody, everywhere else, is on some instant gratification type shit where they feel like they deserve everything. But here, it’s all super relationship-based, much more genuine. I’m just in less of a rush to do things.

Was that an adjustment that you had to make? Or is that just kind of normal for you to take things slow and build these relationships?

I wouldn’t say it’s an adjustment because I didn’t have to change who I was; it’s just something that I just got used to.

You mentioned how you started coming back a lot more frequently in these last eight months. Was there something in life that motivated these frequent trips?

Nothing in particular. I just have always had a connection to this place. And I came here for work a few months before the border opened. And it was my first time seeing Japan really empty. It felt nice. I experienced a very different version of this place. After that, I just wanted to be here more.

We’ve all noticed your developing love for cars and the lore around them. What significance does car culture hold to you? What aspects do you find most interesting?

You know, it’s funny. I’ve had little to no interest in cars for most of my life. I’m actually the first out of my family to get a license. And I only got that shit a year ago.

The person who made me appreciate vehicles is Arthur Kar. I met him a while ago, and every time I saw him, he’d be in a different car. And they weren’t always even supercars, but there were always cool. He was also one of the first people to let me drive a car before I even got my license. Our friendship over the years is mainly the reason I appreciate driving, the lore of cars, and why I’m even interested in vehicles.

So does your interest lie in the diversity of the cars? Is that what draws you to the culture?

To me, cars are a lot like style and fashion. It could be a form of self-expression. The way that they’re designed and how people are attracted to certain kinds of cars might say a lot about who they are. So I see the parallels between the shit that I’m into and cars. That’s what I find cool about it; there are so many different kinds of vehicles. And it’s so hard to say which ones are sick and which ones are not because it really comes down to personal preference. There is a car for everybody out there.

So where does BMW sit in this newfound love for vehicles? What’s your experience with those kinds of cars?

I just love all the M1s, and the M5s. I love the shape of them and how boxy they are. And some of them never even looked that aerodynamic, but they’re actually super fucking fast. I also like the history of all of their race cars. I’m still learning so much, though. I could tell you cars that I like visually, but I don’t even know that much lore. And that’s why some of my answers, I guess, would be pretty surface. It’s like, “I don’t know, it just looks cool.”

Is there any overlap between your love for cars and your love for the city of Tokyo?

There definitely is a car culture out here. A lot of people have really nice cars. I see a lot of nice vintage BMWs, actually. I could tell that people here really like their cars. Because people here have great taste. And that’s also another thing about Japan. There are so many sub-sectors, subcultures, and different pockets. And every vintage car out here is the best. People really come out with the cleanest shit.

Let’s talk about the collab with BMW. What kind of inspirations did you pull from to bring that thing to life?

[BMW] already had a general aesthetic when they came to me. They were on some shit where they wanted to represent bridging the gap between the past and the future with the M1 and the new XM. And so my inspiration was something old and something new.

The back graphic of the shirt is this engine with a bunch of electricity because everything is going electric now. And then there are these weird dinosaur-looking things on the top that look like cyborgs. So it’s these old artifacts, such as gas-powered engines and dinosaurs, and then electricity and cyborgs, and I just wanted to make those two things meet.

As for the hats, it was kind of the history of all of their logos, from the first one to the newest one. And then obviously having Bavarian Motor Works in German on the front and then the American version on the back. It felt like a history lesson on the hat. Plus, I just love leather and anything vintage.

After you leave Tokyo, What’s next for you? What new territories are you looking to break into?

I’m diving into some new waters. Over the past 10 years of being in fashion, people have always asked me to make a brand or do something like that. So I actually just finished my first collection and collaboration with this kid, James Pierce, who I’ve been working with for the past six or seven months. There’s a lot of upcycling and giving things a new life, from different treatments to adding things or stripping things away.

And so I came [to Tokyo] because the stuff that we’re making is at a pretty high level. It really is all about textures, fitting, and tailoring. And I understand that Japan has really great artisans. And for the level of clothing that I want to make stuff at, I just feel like this place is the most fitting.