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The 23-year-old fashion designer Reese Cooper is an intuitive creator. Born in Atlanta and raised in London, he got a look at the business of fashion by interning at BAPE’s marketing agency, A Number of Names. That experience helped him envision his own label, and he forewent college by moving to Los Angeles in 2016 with a dream and a DIY approach.
He launched his eponymous label by first showing the capsule collections “Spoiled Children” and “Seneca Arts Club.” Those were followed by “Water Is More Precious Than Gold” in 2017—a line of screen-printed T-shirts and hoodies that benefitted the Flint Child Health & Development Fund—and his first full collection, “Lone Pine,” in 2018.
All the while, Cooper’s clothes are designed with a DIY spirit and an activist mindset. Most recently, his Spring/Summer 2021 collection featured a T-shirt to benefit Create Now, an organization focused on generating art programs in underprivileged areas in L.A.
Whitewall spoke with Cooper to hear how he’s furthering change and staying inspired by friends.
WHITEWALL: How have you been inspired by workwear?
REESE COOPER: Functionality is one of the main things for me. Vintage workwear was something I always grew up around. My grandfather was oneof those classic stories who built his own house. He always had stuff lying around, like a Carhartt jacket that he got at a tractor store 40 years ago. I was super into those things and never really saw anything in stores that looked similar. So I fell in love with that aesthetic. Turning that into something that Ican wear every day is just function. I wear cargo pants almost every day just because I’m carrying a lot of stuff. I have keys hanging off me. I literally have three library books in my cargo pants right now. Functionality is a necessity.
WW: Tell us a bit about your Fall/Winter 2020 collection, “If a Tree Falls,” presented at Palais de Tokyo.
RC: It was special because that was the frst time I was comfortable enough with the design to think it could be runway. But then I didn’t get on the calendar, and said, “Fuck it, let’s just do it anyway.” That’s what the clothes represent to me—that whole week in Paris with my friends from L.A., going to do some shit that we didn’t technically get permission to do.
I did some videos before that mimicked the runway style of shooting, just in the woods and stuff, and I thought it would be really funny to take those things and build a fake forest set—that looks like a bad movie set—and put it in one of the most prestigious places. That was the goal going into it.
WW: And your next collection, “River Runs Through” for Spring/Summer 2021, was presented in an actual forest in Thousand Oaks?
RC: Yeah, it feels like I did a complete 180. What’s also great is the landscaping we built for that show. We actually got to create the real-life version of what the mood board was. During the first trip, we looked at locations, and I already had one picked out for the second show. I thought we’d have these fake leaves, put a river down the middle of this private school courtyard, and build it up that way. But we actually got to go to a forest and just do it for real, and I’m so much happier than I would have been if we did that in Paris.
WW: At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you debuted a DIY at-home
chore jacket kit so that customers could make their own. Do you feel you
embody a DIY approach?
RC: I feel like it’s kind of always been there. The obvious answer is that I didn’t go to school for this, and that I kind of figured everything out, so that philosophy transfers into almost everything that I do.
Putting that kit together started at the beginning of quarantine, feeling like I was going to lose my mind if I wasn’t working on something. It took about four to five weeks to put the instructions together and shoot the whole thing. I put it out thinking, “If something happens, that’s cool. If not, I didn’t waste 12 weeks.” But people really connected with it, which was inspiring.
I attached an e-mail address and asked people to send in photos after they were done because I really wanted to see them. I saw three to four hundred different ones that people made, and none of them looked the same. It was incredible.
WW: Who are you inspired by right now?
RC: People around me who do their own form of art. Watching everyone else do cool shit around me makes me want to pump the gas a little harder. We’re not in competition—we’re all just going at the same speed.