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Everything from battered watches to brilliant cigars: A conversation with Luke Alland

This month, we had the opportunity to talk to Luke Alland, London based Cigar enthusiast working with EGM cigars, incredible photographer, writer and fashion icon.

Sam and Jacob: Hi Luke, fantastic to see you again. Straight off, what do you think sparked your initial interest in cigars and to wanting to work in this world?

Luke Alland: Hi guys, well my first real contact with cigars came quite early on at about 18, I started smoking quite young and experimented with pipes, cigarettes, cigarillos as well as cigars. I think cigars took a while for me to really get the hang of and actually appreciate as well as understand, but once it clicked it was fascinating to me. Work wise, my first touch point was with Rikesh Chauhan who first introduced me to a number of brands and most importantly to EGM.

S&J: Now working with Swiss brand, EGM Cigars must be fascinating. Can you share some behind-the-scenes insights about what you love about your role and the culture there?

LA: I’m very lucky that through working with EGM I am exposed to quite a number of interesting characters within the world of cigars, and through the work that we have done to try and make the world of cigars online more varied, we try to create some really interesting content. 

I think the thing I enjoy the most is the amount of experimentation that we allow ourselves to try and seeing what resonates with our audience, therefore leading to quite a varied work life.

S&J: Brilliant! Now you're known for your great style, what sparked your initial interest in fashion, and how has your style evolved over the years?

LA: For me it started when I was about 14/15 when I was in the air cadets. Some would call it the ‘chore’ of looking after the uniform really sparked an interest into how clothes are created, looked after and then from there it lead to a stage of experimentation of what worked and what didn’t for me. I think everything is a journey and ultimately what I like now I might look back on in years to come and find ridiculous, however ultimately if I’m comfortable in what I am wearing now then that is what makes me feel good.

S&J: Completely understandable, we're big advocates of feeling good in your own skin. From that, who are your fashion icons and how have they influenced your personal style?

LA: I wouldn’t say I have icons per se, a lot of my knowledge of menswear - rather than fashion - has come from being exposed to it through all my friends within the industry, learning from them, seeing what they throw together is a much more interesting facet of the culture than seeing what certain stylists decide to put people in.

SA: So how do you see the world of fashion intersecting with cigar culture?

LA: I definitely think there are a lot of characters in both! However, especially from a UK perspective, since the smoking ban there has been probably slightly less of an overlap than there would have been before. Having said that, I definitely feel that the summer months allow for more expression and with more and more outdoor events being permitted with the weather, that then tends to allow people to lean into it more. Naturally people gravitate to more lavish and extravagant pieces of clothing rather than practicality therefore the two when combined can sometimes feel a bit ‘flashy’ even if that’s not really the case.

S&J: Now, as a photographer, how do you capture the essence and beauty of cigars in your images?

LA: Most of that is quite easy, as the products really do speak for themselves! A cop out I know haha!

S&J: Not a cop out at all! Beauty and inspiration can come from anywhere or anything. Especially clothing or cigars. What is your most prized item of clothing, and why?

LA: My grandads old, pretty worthless battered Seiko is the thing I most covet. Even if there is no intrinsic value, the fact it’s the only thing that really got passed down means a lot to me. 

S&J: Now with so much going on, creatively and professionally, how do you balance your various interests in cigars, fashion, writing, and photography?

LA: Honestly, I don’t know. Thankfully my mind works at about 500 miles an hour which enables me to multi-task, but I am still getting the hang of it.

S&J: I can imagine you're always striving for new beautiful shots, but to you iss there such a thing as the perfect photo? Or are you in a constant state of growth?

LA: I don’t think there is, and to different photographers perfection will mean something very different. To me, it’s whether a photo matters. If it matters then it’s important.

S&J: Now to those who know you, its well known.. but you're a big football fan. Which football team do you support, and what’s you most memorable moment as a fan?

LA: Although I don’t have the accent, Newcastle United. As a fan, watching us beat PSG last season in the Champions League was phenomenal, however I think the feeling after beating Southampton in the League Cup semi-final was probably the happiest. Getting to see Newcastle in a final, in living memory, was beautiful.

S&J: Arguably one of the more divisive questions.. are you a Lighter, match or cedar sort of man?

LA: Haha even if I get slated for it, I love vintage lighters, so it’ll have to be that for me.

S&J: Great choice! Back to your photography, what topics do you find the most inspiring to photograph or write about?

LA: As I mentioned before, anything that is important or a story that is worth telling is fascinating to me. Because it is raw, it is life. I like being able to document certain times, and it just so happens that that time is now. I hope in years to come when I look back on how the world has changed, the photos that I’ve taken so far will provide a window to now.

S&J: Now can you walk us through your creative process when approaching a new project? Does inspiration come to you, or do you go out and seek it?

LA: I’m quite lucky that most of the time I don’t go looking for inspiration. Sure there are many times where you feel like you’re in a creative lull, however with the fluidity of my work and my life I am able to balance that out naturally and just allow myself time to think. All it could be is a new song coming on in my headphones through shuffle and that can set me off. 

S&J: What’s one piece of fashion advice you’d give to people looking to change their look, or struggling to find their style?

LA: Don’t go for bloody trends! Find out what you like and then go from there. 

S&J: Now you travel quite a lot, but having recently been to the Azraq refugee camp in Jordan to interview and photograph the people there, what sort of impact did this have on you?

LA: When I had a 9-5 I worked within health and social care across London and the South and I think it gave me a grounding, perspective or even a certain hardness to situations like that. Obviously it can be quite upsetting to see certain things in the world, however the job that I was asked to do when covering this allowed me to almost take a step back and view it in a slightly different light. Naturally there are things that will happen or that you will see that might make you think twice about taking this mindset, however I’ve found it is the easiest way to approach it. 

The thing that struck me most, was the hopelessness off a return back their previous lives. Speaking to the team on the ground, they mentioned that over the years the hope and almost expectation that the refugees could return home has almost dwindled to nothing and that for me is the biggest shame.

S&J: So for those who don't already know, you spent some time living in Mexico. Do you feel this has influenced your take on life, fashion or cigars? How?

LA: I definitely feel it impacted my fashion sense. I love old Mexican ballads, and listening to those immensely increased my love of the language as well as helping me learn it quicker, therefore I was naturally drawn to the 60s/70s/80s aesthetic of Mexico City, be that fashion, interior design, cars anything really. Thankfully there is quite a lot of reference imagery as well as nostalgia around it, so learning about the culture through that lens became a favourite pastime of mine. 

S&J: Sounds like an incredible experience. Have you travelled to anywhere else of interest for cigar-related events or research? Any favourites?

LA: Not yet! Aside from Pitti Uomo, I should be at the InterTabac expo in Dortmund in September, so I am looking forward to that! 

S&J: If you could create a fantasy football team with players from any era, who would be your top five picks?

LA: Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Paul Scholes, Paolo Maldini and R9. Don’t ask me how it would work… 

S&J: As a man with a lot going on, are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about and can share with us?

LA: Potentially, however, I don’t believe anything happens until it does. In this world everything can be topsy turvy so I prefer not to tempt fate! 

S&J: Having started some major viral trends in the cigar social media world, with your this or that? Posts - How do you see the world of cigars changing in the next few years?

LA: haha I would love to take full credit for it! However it is very much a team effort! I think it will become more accessible and as the trend in almost everything is shifting to the enjoyment of an experience, we might see a bigger uptick in people moving away from smoking cigarettes or vapes for a quick fix and turning to cigars as a form of enjoyment of smoking rather than a necessity. 

S&J: Fantastic, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us Luke - It's been great to get inside your head for a minute! As always, brilliant.

LA: Great to chat to you guys too!

We'll be catching up with Luke again soon, over a drink and of course a delicious

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