Lee Cooper’s artisan offshoot The Cooper Collection marked the return to the brand’s East London heritage when it launched for FW16. We caught up with Mark Strachan, TCC’s Product Director, to discuss the evolution of this locally produced line and find out about the SS18 collection.
How has The Cooper Collection developed since the start?
The Cooper Collection launched for FW16 as a highly collectible, artisan selvedge denim range, focusing on premium fabrics, trims and quality detail. Primarily inspired by the label’s East London workwear roots, the collection features distinct styles created from high quality denim, using traditional techniques with contemporary details, allowing us to achieve a look that is both innovative and classic. The SS18 collection is super exciting – we’ve scoured our archives and found some stunning pieces to influence the collection. Specifically pieces from the 1940s and ’50s, which epitomize what was going on in London at that time.
Please define the SS18 collection and the pieces that convey its spirit.
The SS18 range embraces the workwear details, but they’re always applied in a wearable and contemporary way – in women’s you’ll see this in our denim shirt-dress Florence, which is inspired by what was actually worn by the women who cleaned the windows in Mayfair and the West End in the 1940s and ’50s. It’s manufactured in East London and made from premium Italian cotton/linen raw 10oz denim; it has half-length sleeves, full front opening placket with 100% copper shank button closing and two front patch-pockets. On the inside of the dress, there’s of course the exquisite red and white selvedge detail.
One of our favorite men’s styles is Ernest, an authentically detailed wide leg, which is perfect for the current trend of the wider leg silhouette. Again, it’s made in east London, and using premium cotton/linen raw selvedge it really earns its place in the range. The style has 1940s side cinches, a front thigh patch-pocket and a grown-on waist band.
The women’s range has really come into its own. Tell us about the thinking behind it.
It might sound biased, but I’d say it’s the perfect denim capsule for women!
Generally, our women’s inspiration draws on our history and archive pieces and then we blend these influences with contemporary details. We have a permanent offer of balanced fits, including the Pearl skinny fit – our traditional skinny leg jean; the Avril, a flattering mid-rise straight leg; and the Ivy, a high-waisted, tapered fit that brings a sense of heritage into the modern day.
But it’s our seasonal trend-led styles that really drive excitement in the range. For SS18, these pieces include our beautiful dungaree, inspired by an original Lee Cooper design; a clean high-waisted 1940s selvedge wide-leg jean, and the raw selvedge denim shirt-dress I described earlier, Florence.
What’s your take on local production, which is an integral part of TCC’s DNA. How important is it to you?
We have strategically developed our sourcing-route to be predominantly East London – we have an amazing manufacturer there, Black Horse Lane Atelier, who shares our values and passion for providing traditional, high quality workmanship. Our manufacturing history is deeply rooted in East London and we feel very passionate about this legacy – manufacturing in this part of town is a key part of our heritage, history and DNA.
Who is the consumer for locally made, artisan denim? Would you demand is on the up for artisan denim made in London?
Over the last few years, there’s been a wide range of organizations publishing market research and consumer surveys that illustrate consumers would be more likely to buy products made in UK than from off-shore, and even that they would pay more for it. This depends on the demographic and the complexities of consumers’ preferences and buying habits, however there’s enough research out there that shows there’s some level of consumer demand. The Cooper Collection customer is definitely passionate about the fact that the product is made in the UK and is this is a genuine selling point of the range. As an organization, we also want to do our part in encouraging consumers to buy products made in the UK, consequentially helping to reskill people in jobs that have since gone off-shore and rebuilding some of UK’s lost textile industries.