As the first model took to the catwalk in a tailored, checked coat with cross-cut-outs and tube-like applications, it became clear that the design duo Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt focused on what they’re best known for; craftsmanship, tradition and precision. The winner of the 2018 H&M Award, Stefan Cooke, is known not only for exploring the facets of everyday dressing, but also for his deep love of traditional British aesthetic and culture. “It’s about capturing someone’s youth in a garment which is pretty much the opposite of the person they are now”, he explained. “I guess that’s why it’s quite sad; the restraint of having to fit in after a while, to get ‘the job’ and to get by.”
After graduating with a BA in Fashion Print from Central Saint Martins, the West Sussex-born designer went on to establish his eponymous brand alongside fellow CSM student Jake Burt. Known for his extraordinary pattern cutting, the co-creative director Burt bears a similar passion for deconstructing already existing objects in order to create a new garment. This sustainable approach was shining through every knitted vest, sliced-up leather blouson and knight-like chain embellishment on fitted AW19 coats.
Besides adding a masterfully put-together collection to their portfolio, AW19 represents the end of the duo’s time with Fashion East. “AW19 is a celebration of our time with Fashion East.”, Cooke says. “We wanted to focus on what we do best; craftsmanship injected with this idea of celebration and glamour.”
Can you explain the importance of print in your work?
Print was important in the beginning because textile manipulation allowed us to turn something really cheap into something new and beautiful. But now its grown and we can afford to push it further every season.
What is the most interesting part of putting together a collection for you?
It’s when we feel ready, after our research and gathering of source materials and primary print tryouts, to finally start on the first samples. It then goes very fast and it’s all pattern cutting and printing. We had an amazing team this season from interns to consultants (knitwear, pattern cutting and accessories) and we all talk about it a lot and get as excited as each other. It’s like we are daring each other to push it further and in those moments and discussions, the best ideas and decisions are made.
You’ve previously interned for Walter Van Beirendonck and John Galliano. What did you learn during those placements?
To constantly question myself and to make a split second decision.
Can you explain your working relationship with your co-creative director Jake Burt?
We have been together for 7 years; we met during our bachelors at university and worked separately throughout both our bachelor’s and Masters courses, then started working together on the Stefan Cooke brand. We realised over time that we had created our own design language and had been absorbing a lot of the same taste and references, so it came quite naturally to work together in the end.
You’ve previously described the research process as an “amazing journey”. What is it about the process that you find so compelling?
It’s this idea that anything can happen, every fabric choice or every technique you try will have a different outcome depending on so many variables, and that’s why it’s a journey, you’re searching for the right combination both in functionality and aesthetics.
Can you talk us through your influences for AW19?
Our AW19 season is a celebration of our time with Fashion East, as it’s our final season with their support before we move on to organise on our own shows. We wanted to focus on what we do best; technique while working around the idea of celebration and glamour.
All Stefan Cooke AW19 backstage photographs © Angus Williams