In conversation with Stefan Cooke

We talked to Stefan Cooke about his debuting AW18 men’s collection, awards, and how was growing up in the family of nine like.

by Lillie Eiger

London-based designer Stefan Cooke founded his brand right after graduating from Central Saint Martins, MA Fashion Textiles in March 2017; soon after completing, he was awarded H&M 2018 Design Awards. During studies, Cooke was also a recipient of the L’Oréal Professionnel Creative Award at the CSM MA Fashion Show at London Fashion Week in February 2017. During his time at CSM, Cooke spent a season working with Walter Van Beirendonck in Antwerp, before heading to Paris to assist John Galliano; right before his appointment at Maison Margiela. Cooke also gained experience interning for Craig Green, with whom he continued to work for a few back to back seasons. Cooke, just recently, debuted at London Fashion Week Men’s AW18 as part of MAN show.


Stefan, how are you feeling after showing at your first London Fashion Week?

Excited about everything, but mostly about taking the collection to Paris, and showing it to buyers. We are so happy with the show; the press and reception were amazing. Now its a matter of proving ourselves by selling it too.

How come you choose to go into menswear?

Menswear seemed most natural in a way how we work; try pieces, wear them, edit them. Also with the whole fluidity in fashion right now, menswear is not only menswear, it is/can be everything.

How has the brand evolved – first after completing your studies and then after winning the H&M award?

Most significant improvement comes from the involvement of my partner Jake Burt – we studied together, but then both started working solely on the Stefan Cooke brand. We found an amazing studio in south London where we work together every day, and it feels, for the first time, that there is enough space to do what we want. We now only answer to ourselves, and I think we have proven that works.

That said, the H&M Design Award changed everything.We gained freedom after winning. We were utterly penniless before, but once the prize was won, we could start on the collection. We had only five weeks, but we worked with an incredible knit designer; Kate Brittain, so we all made it happen.

Where does the process begin four you?

We start at the core of the brand: in our closet. We look at our own clothes, that of our friends, and then figure out the key pieces that we love and want to bounce ideas off. It’s very much about creating something original, but entirely familiar.

You worked with some pretty iconic men in the business: Walter Van Beirendonck, Galliano, Craig Green. What did they teach you? What did these experiences give you?

Being around such amazing designers was incredible. With each of them being such a pioneer of different kinds of design, really gave me an insight into how different people work, and how to apply that to the process we have. These experiences also gave me the understanding of freedom within design; everything can be explored and translated. Though most significant thing I got out it, is the importance of having your own identity and signature within work.

Do you ever want to helm a larger/commercial brand or your goal, for now, is to evolve as an own brand?

Right now we definitely want to take it slow; we want to grow and develop ourselves. When you are showing at LFW, and on an international platform like MAN, a year after graduating, you really have to develop quickly and learn as much as you can. We don’t want to overshadow the process by being available everywhere too soon. It would be amazing to work on other projects while we are doing this also, but for now, we want to refine what we have and create collection we are genuinely proud of.

What kind of reaction do you want to get from people? Do you want to do clothes that are completely wearable at all times or? I mean, how does one connect the bridge between wearable and conceptual?

For me, the reaction of surprise is always best. When people think a garment is something but in reality it is something completely different; like with the jeans or leather jacket, that to me is the most exciting thing. When someone has a sense of familiarity, but also total strangeness. I guess the bridge we have found between wearable and conceptual comes from our usage of print; simple, wearable t-shirts are transformed into conceptual pieces through the technique of shredding and printing.

What is good taste to you?

Knowing when to stop.

Can you imagine one day leaving the fashion world behind and pursue a different career?

Absolutley, I don’t think we will enjoy this forever.

You are the second youngest of a family of nine: how is that like? How did that shape your aesthetic, work routine, etc.?

I feel really privileged to have such a solid support system. We are all very creative and support each other 100%. My family has really shaped how I work and interact with people. I try to get my best with everyone and treat everyone with respect. My family will always bring me back down to earth.

Interview: Katja Horvat

Photos: Lillie Eiger and courtesy of Stefan Cooke