When London-based designers Stefan Cooke and James Burt were designing their A/W 2021 collection from their new studio in north-east London, having taken on their first two employees, they listened to a heavy dose of alternative indie rock, which was integral to their adolescence. Looking back on the clothing they wore in teenagehood, which was translated onto the catwalk in the mid-2000s by Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, they were struck by these hard, hyperbolic shapes, such as ‘tiny skinny jeans pulled low with huge skate shoes’, and the commitment of the young to wear extreme proportions and pieces. 

‘The collection is about extreme silhouettes, looks which people have been lacking when stuck at home,’ Cooke says, reflecting on recent times.

Stefan Cooke A/W 2021: the detail

Think tweed bomber jackets layered with tiny thigh-revealing kilts, drainpipe quilted denim paired with pointy white boots, and cropped capes and sleeveless Fair Isle knitwear teamed with the most tapered of tailoring. There is also a strong focus on tactility and texture, alluding to the sense of touch lost for months when viewing clothes through computer screens. Paintbox-red Argyle knitted sweaters have deconstructed, cut-out details; leather jackets are accentuated with zig-zags of fake fur; scarves feature scalloped edging; and shoulder bags swing with sizable tassels. ‘I think clothing is going to look a lot more performative,’ Cooke adds.

‘The idea of men in skirts might seem like a gimmick,’ Burt says, referencing the short silhouette also seen in the brand’s A/W 2020 collection. ‘We kept refining the silhouette so that the final piece didn’t appear like an ironic statement.’

The collection also looks back to details of the pair’s DIY teenage dress-up years, reinterpreting the numerous pin badges worn on school blazers as a luxurious graphic detail in fabric, or hand-painted leather, festooning the shoulders and collars of pea coats or the sleeves of trenches. ‘I’m sure everybody has got a drawer full of crappy badges,’ Cooke says. ‘We wanted to transform them into a high fashion item.’ §