24 Hours With… Stefan Cooke
Innovative textiles, forward-thinking knitwear and a structural edge - London-based, CSM-schooled brand Stefan Cooke is the new menswear name on the fashion world’s lips, and with good reason. Co-founded by Cooke and his partner Jake Burt, as part of the British Fashion Council’s guest edit of “A Family Affair” we asked the pair to take us through a day in the life of one of Browns’ most exciting new additions.
What time do you wake up and where?
We’ve been getting up a little later than usual, around 9am, and having coffee in bed. We’re currently living in an old school house in Devon. Usually some ducks sit on the roof and quack and wake us up.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
We think about work!
What does your average day look like?
Our studio is set up in the dining room so we go down around 10am to start working on pre-production patterns, research for next season as well as the knits and anything we design early in the season. Lunch is around 1pm in the garden and then we carry on working into the evening. We're staying with Jake’s family so we take it in turns to cook for everyone. This week we’re trying some of our favourite Japanese recipes. We’ve also compiled a huge list of films between some of our friends so we’re working through that in the evenings.
Do you have any rituals?
Coffee every two hours and browsing certain eBay listings every evening.
How would you describe what you do?
We try to look for the interesting within normal objects. This could mean looking for ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ items that we like and discovering a way to alter them. The alteration could be really intricate (like remaking it out of shirt buttons) or very simple (like photographing it and printing it onto a t-shirt). We like the contrast between values. Things that take a long time, things that don’t take much time at all. Expensive fabric or cheap and deadstock fabric.
Knit has become really important to us. For some reason, there seems to be such a human connection to knit pieces. Our most successful designs are the ones that get compliments from a variety of people. Peers in our industry, customers buying from boutiques and the lady serving in Greggs.
How has your background influenced who you are today?
Both of us spent our teenage years looking through charity shops in the towns we grew up in. It trained our eyes to look closely at everything and frame the mundane in a way that makes it extraordinary.
How did you get your start in fashion?
Stefan got kicked out of his first college and ended up going to another one with a really good design course near Brighton. Jake studied fine art in Somerset but got bored with the end result, then met a new friend who suggested swapping to fashion.
Who has had the most formative influence on your practice?
Each other. We don’t love the same things but enjoy watching the other define what the brand means to them. We both do completely different research for each season but will edit together to make sure it's aligned. Stefan is more focused on textile manipulations and Jake on pattern cutting and details.
What are the most important factors in your work?
We like to think about how a thing is made, with authenticity and value. Speeding up a process or slowing it down. There’s a sense of humour. We often make light of the serious nature of the menswear industry's attitude towards function. Most importantly, it isn’t really about those intellectual reasons, it’s about glamour, mystery and wearability.
Where do you look for inspiration?
We always have our eyes open and it’s pretty varied. Ebay is like an ocean of objects and if you can learn how to filter results effectively you can see some amazing things on there. Films are wonderful too. We talk about ideas constantly - by the end we can’t even remember where an idea started.
Describe the Stefan Cooke man.
It’s been really nice seeing customers become obsessed with the pieces they’ve bought and wearing them all the time. We'd say the typical wearer isn’t a fashion crazed label obsessive, rather the purchase feels really considered and respectful. We have a lot of respect for our customers and hope we can tempt them into becoming life-long fans.
If you could have anyone (alive or dead) wear Stefan Cooke who would it be?
What do you usually do for dinner?
We’ve all been cooking for each other. Jake’s whole family are trying to eat really healthily so there’s been a lot of raw fruit and veg.
If you could recommend:
Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. - Really romantic, great characters and a fantastic soundtrack
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown. Don’t agree with everything she stands for but it’s a chronicle of that crazy affluent NY society world.
Traumat by Severed Heads – on repeat.
What time do you go to bed?