Wednesday 22nd September

| BY Paul Toner

Stefan Cooke: Menswear SS22

Fashion has long declared the high street dead. Though it wasn’t until the Topshop empire came tumbling down earlier this year – leaving thousands of store spaces boarded up and desolate across Britain’s busiest shopping spots – that it started the feel that the final nail might’ve well and truly been buried in the coffin.

While fast fashion empires like Boohoo have learned their tricks of the trade from their brick and mortar predecessors, the high street has long been a place for teenagers to find themselves here in the UK. “Our first idea of fashion is actually, like, a Toni & Guy shop window,” explained Stefan Cooke alongside his partner Jake Burt ahead of their SS22 collection, which paid homage to fleeting ’00s British trends in all their unfashionable glory.

The pair both come from small towns, growing up not engrossed in Vogue but just doing what normal suburban teens do: basically nothing at all. “My group of friends, we had massive fringes, giant jackets and really skinny jeans – we were really intense in that way. Being British, those kinds of subcultures are so prevalent,” adds Cooke.

Sidestepping “the traditional tropes of wealth and luxury”, the duo (un)ironically pastiche all the New Look gems you regretfully bought back in the day, from baker boy caps to bandage tops. Trompe l’oeil shirts – a Stefan Cooke signature – came stamped in ghostly sketchings of military uniforms (a nod to when everyone dressed like army cadets post Cheryl’s “Fight For This Love”, perhaps?) and rugby jerseys were finished with exaggerated collars. Traditional knits were repurposed, now with exaggerated cuffs and ribbed waistbands, and the sort of paired-back trackies and short shorts that might’ve once been stamped with a Jack Wills logo were adorned with Cooke’s own insignia: a group of dancing ladies.

Cooke and Burt skip the faff when it comes to their fashions. They’re not interested in reinventing the man’s wardrobe, and instead, let the cut of a trouser, or the finishing of a knit, do the talking. A Union Jack jumper that appeared in the show could’ve easily read as a symbol of divisiveness, yet the mind was instantly cast back to Geri Halliwell at the Brits, or Liam and Patsy cuddled up in bed on the cover of Vanity Fair. That’s the power of British fashion, and ultimately, the power of Stefan Cooke.

Photography courtesy of Stefan Cooke.