In bustling Johannesburg, Luke Radloff is crafting his quiet, refined vision of South African style. UNI FORM leverages the longevity of workwear to create wardrobe staples that transcend genders, trends and seasons. HOMEY curates key pieces from his collection archives, and receives a guided tour.
 AESTHETICS / 31.01.23
Read time / 5 mins
The Big Shirt embodies UNI FORM’s signature relaxed, oversized silhouette. The ample cuff, though aesthetically pleasing, can get in the way when it comes to practicalities like dining or dish washing. “We add extra buttons so that you can bring the cuff in around your wrist,” says Luke. “It’s all very considered.”
 The Big Shirt and Paperboy Bag, Project 6 SS22.
Pilot Shirt and Dinner Trouser, Project 6 SS22.
Luke leverages timeless design elements from various professions, creating ready-to-wear that doesn’t rely on trend cycles. The Pilot Shirt, with its large pockets, epaulettes and wrist-skimming sleeves, “is a key piece where I’m trying to really push and solidify UNI FORM’s aesthetic.”
V-Neck Dress and Security Trench, Project 6 SS22.
“I’m a flat pattern maker, and my training was experimental pattern making. That always comes across in the silhouettes which tend to be more architectural,” says Luke. “I’m also obsessed with textile and fabric, so for me it’s like, the more the better.”
Utility Jacket, Project 5 AW21.
This wool gabardine jacket is one of Luke’s favourite pieces. It’s constructed, as all his clothes are, in a way that validates various body shapes. “We removed the shoulder seam so that it falls on anyone’s shoulder. People respond really well to it.”
Wrap Dress, Project 4 SS21.
The UNI FORM take on a wrap dress is a standout for its varied styling capabilities. Button placement allows you to bring it in on the waist, wrap it like a towel, leave it loose, or create an avant-garde shape as in this story. “I’m seeing people wearing it over a bathing suit in summer,” adds Luke. “Kind of like a modest sarong.”
Striped Shirt, Project 6 SS22.
“The starting point for this was the textile,” says Luke. “It’s just the most incredible classic soft men’s shirting. We got such amazing feedback from it that we’ve introduced a new striped set with each season.”
Striped Shirt and Pants, Project 6 SS22.
“You wear it out with a heel, and then you get home, take off your heels and you’re already in your pyjamas,” Luke muses. “I wish I was this girl. I wanna run around like that.”
The Big Shirt, Project 6 SS22.
Designs are streamlined down to the cuff: “It doesn’t have the traditional menswear vent and pleat most shirts have. We’ve been creating the opening on the seam and it’s a lot less fussy.”
V-Neck Dress, Project 6 SS22.
Luke draws a direct line between sustainability and multi-functional pieces. “It could be a shirt, it could be a dress, it could be a great dust coat,” he says of this long-line piece in a taupey mushroom cotton poplin. “I wanted to do a deep V, and I wanted to eliminate the collar here because sometimes it’s great to just not have a collar.”
Linen Trench, Project 6 SS22.
“There’s a time and place for all different weights of linen, but nothing gets me more excited than a super robust heavyweight linen,” says Luke. This trench is an elaboration on his Pilot Shirt from the same collection. “Like, imagine your pilot rocked up like that because it’s raining or something.”
Twist Shirt and Lemon Trouser, Project 6 SS22.
“A classic white shirt is such an integral part of a UNI FORM wardrobe, so every season we try to reinterpret it in some way.” With the Twist Shirt, “the front is twisted around onto the other side rather than being a traditional open shirt.” The resulting drape effect differentiates the piece and gives it day-to-night versatility.
  Lemon Shirt and Trouser, Double-Faced Tote, Project 6 SS22.
Luke has been designing from his apartment since lockdown, often drawing inspiration from objects in close proximity. He cites a Lucy Jane Turpin painting as the source of his obsession with lemon yellow.
“The inside of the lemon, that very soury yellow” materialises in an Egyptian cotton shirt dress and substantial twill trouser. “I spend so much time sourcing to find the perfect textile, or the perfect colour. When you end up finding that combination it’s like Christmas.”
Long Polo Shirt, Project 6 SS22. Belted Trouser, Project 5 AW21.
This trouser with matching belt is cut from a heavy twill. “Bordering on denim, but not,” says Luke. “I think it’s quite special to receive a trouser and a belt in the same fabric.”
“This is what I call the UNI FORM blue because it’s just such a formal, scholarly blue that’s so classic in menswear. I think every collection has had at least one of these UNI FORM blue pieces.”
  Long Polo Shirt, Project 6 SS22. Belted Trouser, Project 5 AW21.
“Here I wanted to try and marry a corporate shirt with those part-caftan long-line shirts you see in many different cultures in Africa,” says Luke. “I love the way that they’re such extremely different references, and then to mash them up and get this. It’s so interesting to me.”