MR PORTER FUTURES Mentor Mr Reese Cooper On His Start In Fashion
Collage by Mr Maxwell N Burnstein
MR PORTER FUTURES offers three aspiring menswear designers the chance to break into the fashion industry – no formal training required. They will be following in the footsteps of one of the programme’s mentors, the American designer Mr Reese Cooper, who set up his label in 2016 while still in his teens.
As a 17-year-old living in London, he was “basically running four different lives for a year” – doing A-levels, a foundation course, interning at a fashion agency and hitting the Mayfair party circuit, making friends with designers Mr Virgil Abloh and Mr Tremaine Emory and filmmaker Mr Dexter Navy along the way. “That was a pivotal year,” he says from his new base in Los Angeles. “It taught me a lot about work ethic more than anything.” Since then, he’s been nominated for the CFDA/ Vogue Fashion Fund and for the Council of Fashion Designers Of America’s Emerging Designer award.
Mr Cooper tells us how he learnt from London’s seamstresses, what he wishes he’d known sooner and why he’s excited to be a MR PORTER FUTURES mentor.
On his start in the fashion industry at BAPE Store in London:
“I got an internship at BAPE Store in Soho. I was doing retail for a few weeks and moved over to intern at its distribution agency, A Number Of Names. I soaked up everything I could, moved around the different sections of the office, being like, ‘Who needs what?’ I was doing a lot of steaming and that allowed me to be hands on with all the clothes. I was looking at zips and snaps – anything possible. Then I wanted to try my own stuff, so I went to Goldhawk Road to buy fabrics and took them to the local seamstress who said, ‘What’s the pattern we’re using?’ I was like, ‘What the hell is a pattern?’ So, all of my early knowledge and training came from the local seamstresses in my neighbourhood in southwest London.”
On the advice he wishes he’d had when he started out:
“There were so many situations where there was no reason for me to spend the amount of money I did on X, Y, Z. Now, I would say, ‘OK, what is the budget for this compared to the revenue over six months?’ That’s something I had never thought of before. Now I know if I want this photographer and this model and it’s going to cost $10,000, but I’m only selling $5,000 worth of clothes, then even if the photo is going to be great, it doesn’t matter because I’m losing money. At the end of the day, this is no different from any other type of start-up business. You have to go into it with a business mind.”
On why he become a MR PORTER FUTURES mentor:
“It’s a huge honour and it’s something I’m truly passionate about, being able to push things forward and help wherever I can. I have a whole little network in LA of people who are just starting, and I’m just like, ‘Cool, go here, talk to these people, do this. Let me know if you need help with this. I got a guy for this.’ To be able to do that on a bigger scale is really exciting.”
On why an anonymous application process is important:
“That is the coolest part because people always say, ‘Let the work do the talking.’ You guys are creating a situation where that’s the only option.”
On the qualities he’ll be looking for in a candidate:
“Narrative and storytelling are my main focus. You have to know what you’re trying to say to be able to make anything emotional. At the end of the day, fashion is an emotion-based thing. We’re not saving lives out here. The goal is to try to make people feel better about themselves. We don’t need more stuff for the sake of just making stuff and wanting to start a business. What fashion needs is people who have something to say.”