British denim brand Lee Cooper has a new artisan offspring– enter The Cooper Collection. Designed by revered Franco-German denim expert Tilmann Wröbel, this limited six-style affair caters for both men and women. The range was initially introduced to consumers via a pop-up shop in east London’s Shoreditch, and it’s now available via a dedicated website and select denim international retailers. We caught up with Wröbel at the launch event in London last week to learn more about his indigo brainchild.
What defines the The Cooper Collection and how does it fit into Lee Cooper’s brand identity?
The idea is to provide an artisan denim product that reflects the rich heritage of Lee Cooper and celebrate its founder Morris Cooper. Today, the brand has a very accessible side, which is super relevant for a jeans brand, but alongside the strong main offering, we wanted to create an archive-based collection designed in a truly artisan way, made to the highest standard and crafted from raw selvedge denim throughout.
Tell us more about the fabrics – and the fits you’ve used them for.
We’ve developed two authentic selvedge shuttle loom fabrics featuring a small 31” vintage-weave. The wider, tomboyish women’s fit and the straight-cut men’s style are crafted from beautifully rugged 15.3oz denim that you have to wear in properly. The second fabric is a 10.7oz natural stretch denim, which we’ve used for our slim fits for both men and women. Both fabrics are handmade made in Italy as we wanted to use premium continental product and manufacturing that you can’t find in any other destination.
What specific Lee Cooper archive elements have you singled out for the collection?
The brand’s been rooted in workwear since 1908 and digging round in the archive, we particularly drew on the higher waists and the oversized pocket, which is something of a brand trademark. Lee Copper has always designed for people leading an urban working life, walking the streets of east London – as opposed to cowboys riding horses – and the details you see in the jeans reflect this approach. Lee Cooper used to manufacture solid copper buttons and rivets so that’s something we’ve put at the forefront of our research. It might be difficult to spot from afar, but when you look closely at the jeans we’ve created, you’ll realise that they’re not modifications of anything else – they’re simply well made, super honest, super earnest product that people can wear for a generation, if not even two.
You’ve designed the jeans with meticulous attention to detail. Which are the most important features?
There are a few things I’d like to highlight – we’ve hand-dyed the hangtags and the labelling, which is woven on shuttle looms to give a nice structure, creating this tiny logo that normally wouldn’t be feasible. We’ve also created a true vintage bar tack that runs from the shelf fabric across the belt loop. The pocketing is crafted from 200 gr. twill cotton – as opposed to the flimsy 120 gr. that wears down after a few weeks – and we’ve applied the chain stitching with vintage Union Special machines. The concealed back pocket copper rivets have prongs modified to give extra resistance, and though they’re not visible from the outside, they’ll start peeking through nicely after some wear and tear.
Finally, how would you describe The Cooper Collection consumer?
These jeans will appeal to the denim freak who travels to pilgrim destinations to buy denim, wanting to touch the fabric and study detail and fit up close. It’s definitely a product for blue-blooded insiders and avid collectors. We’ve engraved the back of the rivets with 1908, the year the brand was founded, as a way of marking the collection so that collectors can easily recognise it in years to come.