Raf Simons coat, $1586, sweater, $296, and scarf, $386, rafsimons.com.
Photography by Matthew Priestley. Styled by Sam Walker.
On the Verge
People

Luka Sabbat’s Insta Stardom

The seventeen-year-old model talks social media, prom, and working with Kanye West.

“I got you!” The seventeen-year-old model Luka Sabbat is speaking to his all-black Apple Watch. Holding a lit cigarette between his middle and index finger, he uses his thumb to send a text message to his agent. With a few more deft taps, he turns the volume down on his iPhone, which is synched across the photo studio blasting Future’s new song, “Where Ya At.” He wears a graphic neoprene shirt by “some new designer” that he found at VFiles, black skinny jeans, and worn-in Margiela sneakers. As adults swarm around him, Luka is neither nervous nor affected—he’s a pro. He’s been crying front row at fashion shows since he was three—long before North West hit the scene.

“I was in the Adidas show when North West cried,” Luka reminds me. It was the model’s first real fashion show, although he’d already starred in ad campaigns for brands ranging from Hood by Air to American Eagle, editorials for Vogue (they direct messaged him via Instagram) and even dabbled in acting.

Off-White designer Virgil Abloh introduced Luka to Kanye West just days before the Adidas show not as a model but as a “young creative.” He was cast on the spot. Luka has since brushed shoulders with other young creatives including Rihanna, Zoe Kravitz, Jaden Smith, Lorde, and a crew of Instagram influencers who, like him, grew up on selfies and Supreme.

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Just a few months after the Adidas show, Luka was at his high school prom in a Tom Ford suit. Did it take a fashion-forward young man such as himself a long time to find the right one? “No, because Tom Ford gave it to me and I was like, fuck yeah.”

The first thing he bought with his modeling money, however, was a pair of Rick Owens Geobaskets. When I ask if he still has them, he looks at me as though I’ve just asked if he still has a MySpace profile. It’s all about silver Saint Laurent boots now. “I basically collect that shit,” he says. “I would say that a solid eighty-percent of my closet is Saint Laurent.”

Luka wasn’t always a fan of fashion, despite being raised in Paris surrounded by it. His mother worked as a stylist for Galliano and Dior (full disclosure: she’s now at Condé Nast) and his father is a designer himself. “I would be front row at Galliano and crying because the music is loud and everybody is clapping,” Luka recalls of his early childhood. “I was just so confused. And then I would go backstage and all the models would hold me. That was the best part. I’ve always liked beautiful women.”

Despite his unwavering affection for models, Luka never thought about pursuing it as a career. He was discovered accidentally while leaving an internship in Soho, where Kevin Amato, the casting director for Hood by Air, asked him to be in the brand’s first shoot, which was happening just around the corner. Shortly thereafter, the owner of Request Model Management also spotted Luka in Soho as he was walking to buy a new video game. “I just wanted to play video games, yo!” He says with a laugh.

Today, Luka will drop Call of Duty for casting calls and has plans to study at the London College of Fashion next September. “Hella people are telling me to do a collection now, but I don’t want to do anything until I feel like I’m ready,” he says. “I have sick ideas for clothes though, like stuff that no designer has ever even done and cuts that haven’t been made yet.” Despite his fast-growing fashion fan base (he has over 150 unopened Instagram direct messages on a weekly basis), Luka wants to keep his title of “young creative,” rather than social media star.

“Everyone wants to be Instagram famous now,” Luka laments. “They want so many followers and to hang out with this person and that person, and be seen. I feel like so many designers—and I say that with heavy air quotes—just release a few t-shirts or a few hoodies and they’re like, ‘I’m a designer!’ It sucks. So many people are famous for the wrong reason.”

It’s this mixture of beyond-his-years wisdom and unfiltered youthful confidence that makes Luka so interesting to follow. All one has to do is scroll to the bottom of his Instagram feed to see his transformation from a Supreme-obsessed young boy to a handsome Saint Laurent-wearing young man.

In a recent post, Luka delicately holds his high school diploma with two fingers, like he would a cigarette. His silver Saint Laurent boots match his traditional cap and gown, under which he wears an Off-White T-shirt that ironically reads: THE END. For Luka Sabbat though, this is just the beginning.