Stefan Cooke's AW21 Collection Is A Confident Reinterpretation Of The Brand's Aesthetic

Stefan Cooke's AW21 Collection Is A Confident Reinterpretation Of The Brand's Aesthetic

Stefan Cooke's AW21 Collection Is A Confident Reinterpretation Of The Brand's Aesthetic

For their AW21 collection, designers Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt look at the signature motifs of the label to create a new look.

For their AW21 collection, designers Stefan Cooke and Jake Burt look at the signature motifs of the label to create a new look.

Text: Gautam Balasundar

For Spring/Summer 2021 when designers were still figuring out how to adapt to a new reality—and many shows became experiments with mixed results—Stefan Cooke managed to put out arguably their best collection yet. "It was stronger, way more grown up," Stefan Cooke says, who's half of the design duo along with his partner Jake Burt. "It was doing the show as a fake-catwalk and really being able to look at the clothes, instead of throwing out 25 looks. It felt like we had complete control over the aesthetics." Part of the reason for that was following their AW20 collection, ominously titled 'The End,' the duo decided to rethink the way they were operating. "Basically when you start a business you literally are a fashion student," Burt says. "You have no business expertise. We needed to restructure the way we design and the way we do business."

The change proved effective. Not only was the SS21 collection strong, but fans around the world took notice, sales doubled, and the duo suddenly found a renewed focus. They moved into a larger studio and added a couple of members to their staff, giving themselves room to hone in on what fundamentally defines the brand. That's what is at the heart of the AW21 collection; rather than abandon the past, the designers sought to refine it. "'Reinforce by repetition,' Cooke says of the motto of the collection. Signatures of the brand appear throughout, though reimagined as entirely different pieces. Jumpers subtly bring back slashed-knit and argyle patterns, scarves carry their favored Fair Isle patterns, even their iconic and highly coveted button bag straps return. "It's the way we were looking at this season; it's really strange being a young brand and having those signature pieces that people know you for, and try to re-translate them every time stronger, and I think that's what we really wanted to achieve this season."

While the brand has always experimented with silhouettes—this season they offer their first trouser-less looks, contrasting strong coats inspired by the 1930's American illustrator J.C Leyendecker's masculine characters—the brand's most telling feature might be their ability to take even the simplest fashion elements and transform into intricate pieces. This season it was badges, which appear on jumpers, and more distinctly on the sleeves and backs of coats. "I think they're really instinctive," Burt says on how they choose which details to fixate on. "It's what we used to do, because we couldn't afford anything, so we used to just buy one thing that was really cheap and buy thousands of them, and then always work them into something with an incredible value because it had just been worked on and crafted."

It's that ornate and personal attention to detail that make Stefan Cooke such an appealing label, and each of those details add up to something that intrinsically represents Burt and Cooke. "Hopefully people see that it's honest design," Cooke explains, "people are buying into something that isn't just us being like 'let's put a logo on a t-shirt and [sell it] for 330 quid.' I hope that everyone can see that we put ourselves into every part of it." In that regard, AW21 isn't just a distillation of ideas, but a statement of intent. It's the attitude which Stefan Cooke will continue to operate with, one button and badge at a time. "It is just about hammering it in," Cooke says, "and really being like this is what we do, and this is how we do it."

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