Words: Darren Griffin

Photography and Styling: Chimemeka “Luce” Ugoji

There’s no debating fashion’s universal appeal or its reflection of society. In a more subjective sense, style reflects our individual experiences, like an exterior calling card that showcases personalities and beliefs. Putting on clothes is one thing, but style means using them to tell your story.

Growing up in New Jersey, Chimemeka “Luce” Ugoji began scribbling the rough draft of his story in high school. Stacking coins from his restaurant gig, which he used to purchase Jordans, Luce started to see style in a more personal way. He thought of it like language; everyone speaks it, yet some articulate it more clearly than others.

Over the years, Luce worked on sharpening his approach to fashion and dabbled in music production before becoming a model, stylist and content creator. His sharp instincts have made him a triple threat, thanks to his incredible eye for layering, tone and trends — especially with Jordans.

We caught up with Luce to have him style the new 23 Engineered collection and share the latest draft of his story. The Fall ’20 collection pushes the classic Jordan Brand design language into new territory, thanks to innovative technical details, materials, garment-dye coloring and trims.

Growing up in New Jersey, when did you first start to see clothing as a means of expression?

I’d say around the beginning of high school. I remember working at this restaurant around that time. Whenever I got paid, I’d go to this store in Linden, where I lived, and buy whatever pair of Jordans came out that week. Then, I’d buy a hat and maybe a pair of jeans. I’d do this every week, and because of that, I never had any money. I would just spend it on clothes. That was the first time when I felt like if I looked cool or creative, that I was cool.

Before you got into styling professionally, you were producing music. Did you implement any principles from music into styling?

Yes, music production is very layer-driven. There’s a drumline, and then you might add some strings or extra things to make your music authentic. Styling encompasses some of the same mechanics, as you’re continuously building on a particular foundation.

At the time, music wasn’t really getting me the results I wanted, so I started styling. It just happened. I never really stopped making music; I just transitioned my focus to styling. Styling felt more natural. It just worked for me.

You’ve previously likened style to an unspoken language, a tongue that everyone speaks, yet some speak it exceptionally well. How did you come to that understanding?

There are a lot of different languages in the world, and there are also tons of ways you can dress. When you walk into a room, you might see somebody and automatically gravitate to them, as if they speak your language, too. Then, there can be a conversation.

If we don’t speak the same language, though, we can still connect. Style is like, “What are you doing over there? What are you trying to say?”

You’re a big fan of the Air Jordan I. How does that shoe — the essence and history from a design standpoint — speak to you personally?

It’s just the cleanest sneaker ever. You can put whatever you want on it, and it would look amazing. It’s the perfect canvas. If I could wear a pair of Air Jordan Is every day for the rest of my life, then I would. It’s a very strong shoe. It’s iconic, like MJ himself.

Jordan Brand is creating a new design language with the 23 Engineered collection. What was your first impression of the Fall ’20 collection?

It’s definitely more technical than I expected. Right now, I’m trying to dress more comfortably. I wore a lot of skinny jeans growing up, and it wasn’t really comfortable. Now, I like clothing that I can wear all day. If I need to be at different events throughout the day, I’ll be fine. I can wake up, go to the park and hang out with my friends. Then, I can get a pick-up game cracking. I can go from the park to a beach or bar setting, and my ‘fit will still be fine.

Looking at how you’ve styled the collection, it’s very practical but also elevated. What do you think people will take away from this collection once they see it?

Function is a big thing for me right now, and I think this collection really embodies that. I think people will be very pleased with it. From the early pictures and mockups, you don’t always understand how the material is going to feel, or how it will feel throughout the day. Once you see the items firsthand, the materials are pretty amazing. It’s very breathable and comfortable. People are going to be surprised in a positive way.

It sounds like you definitely appreciate the fabric and texture. Based on that, what items would you recommend wearing or layering with 23 Engineered?

It’s interesting, because the pieces are weighted and light at the same time. Some of the tops almost feel like a windbreaker material. The shorts are well-constructed with multiple pockets, but they still feel super light. You can pair the collection with a lot of things; Air Jordan Is and Air Jordan IIIs are great with the windbreaker-style bottoms. I’d recommend a super light top, maybe a long-sleeve T-shirt. I’m not someone who typically wears a lot of “sets,” but the full zip jacket with the matching cargo pants is an outfit I can see myself wearing often.

Obviously, we’re near the end of summer, and in a short time, we’ll be transitioning into fall. How should people style 23 Engineered from one season to the next?

Definitely just add layers. For instance, you can wear a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, and then in fall, you can layer the parka jacket over it. There’s a bomber, too, which ties it all together. You can take things off throughout the day, as needed.

The 23 Engineered collection is also gender neutral. How do you think women may want to style the collection?

Honestly, I feel like women can wear things just like guys can. Women pull off men’s looks better than men most of the time. A lot of ‘fits are becoming more baggy and relaxed. Anyone can go for a fitted size, or they can go bigger. It all depends on personal style and preference. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Everything is becoming gender neutral. I actually look at women’s styling and reference it myself, because it’s amazing.

So would you say that the theme of 23 Engineered is somewhere along the lines of elevated comfort

Absolutely. I like clothing that eliminates the need to think about it too much. I don’t have to overthink what I’m wearing. I can pair this with that, and it looks great. I’m good to go.

The Jordan 23 Engineered collection is available now on Jordan.com. The Air Jordan III “Denim” is available starting August 27  on SNKRS and at select retailers.