The multi-disciplinary creative fills us in on his latest offering.
“My university of informal education” is how Reese Cooper labels his latest offering, a capsule collection called Seneca Arts Club. With an established career in fashion by 19 (when we talk; Instagram informs me he’s since left his teens behind), living between LA and London, the multi-disciplinary creative was previously behind Water Is More Precious Than Gold, a collab with Flint Child Health & Development Fund, and his new line-up follows a similar aesthetic, as far as graphic tees are concerned.
Produced with an innovative and thoughtful mindset at its core, Seneca Arts Club will soon see Cooper arriving in Paris, as he presents his pieces at Fashion Week in January. Ahead of this, we caught up with him to discover more about the above and beyond.
Online you refer to yourself as a storyteller. What’s the story behind Seneca Arts Club?
For me when it comes to storytelling, I just want to share my life experiences. Being 19, it’s interesting to me, because I’m the same age as everyone else starting to find their voice in fashion or art, etc. That’s what this collection was focused on. Seneca Arts Club is about figuring out what you want to do and making it happen. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for the past year working on clothing everyday and it’s been just as valuable as a college education; I never want to settle for less. I could’ve made money from printing blank T-shirts but I knew I could do so much more if I just focused and took the time to learn these seemingly impossible tasks.
“Seneca” comes from my grandfather. My family had a business on Seneca Ave in Brooklyn a long time ago. My grandfather never went to college and I don’t know if he even graduated high school—but it doesn’t matter. Seneca represents hard work and learning on the job just like my grandfather did and just like I’m doing. Back then he didn’t have the option to go to college. I did but chose not to because the modern education system isn’t fit for everyone. I just want to highlight that you don’t have to go into student debt to learn everything you need to get started, you just need the passion and focus to do whatever it is you want to do.
What inspired you to become a designer? Are there any specific brands that have influenced you?
When I was younger all I would do is draw and watch how things were made. I’m fascinated by the process of everything. So, when I developed an interest in clothing all I wanted to do was know how they did it. When I started learning more I had the realisation, “Oh I could do this,” or “what if this was different?” It stemmed from curiosity of the process and with the excitement that comes from learning how it’s all done, I’m involved in every step of the process of my manufacturing i.e. sourcing the fabrics and trimmings, I’m on-site at the factory daily overseeing, tweaking and adjusting through the process of the collection. I spend hours at the dye-house, the wash-house, and the printers and have learned how things are made. As far as inspirations from brands go I think my biggest inspiration is Virgil Abloh purely for his work ethic.
And the design process. How do you find your inspiration and then bring it to life?
My inspiration comes from conversations. I talk to as many people as I can throughout my day. Everyone you meet knows something you don’t. I’m inspired by a lot of movies and art but it’s mostly the conversations I have about them and figuring out what I like about certain things. It starts with an idea and then moves to drawings and materials. I try to give everything a point of view or opinion.
Do you have a favourite garment within this collection?
My favourite piece from Seneca Arts Club is definitely the collegiate sweatshirts. To me, it’s labelling Seneca as my college. My university of informal education. Every piece is different so each sweatshirt is unique to the person who has it. It’s so simple but so much work goes into them. Custom labels, printing, sewing and not to mention the actual sourcing of all the vintage Champion reverse weave sweatshirts.
We see you’re also a passionate activist, when designing each collection is that something that’s at the forefront of your mind?
I wouldn’t consider myself an activist, I’m just a passionate person. The Water Is More Precious Than Gold project for me was really just a way to use the platform I have to help out. The response was more than I could ever ask for and it was really inspiring to see people actually care about stuff with meaning. I’m working on continuing this project on a bigger scale. It goes back to storytelling. This is just a story people seemingly forgot about that I wanted to tell to reiterate that the crisis in Flint is still there.
Can you tell us more about Seneca Arts Club and how we can become members?
Seneca Arts Club is the school of informal education. There’s no campus or curriculum. It’s just about learning as much as you can and using all the resources you have access to, to create something. To be a member you just need to go out and do something. Do the best you can. The clothing is the tangible version of the mindset. The collegiate sweatshirt to me is a reminder that I’m still learning and happy to be here. I’m learning as I go and wanted to spread that message.
We hear you’re off to Paris Fashion Week in January – super exciting! What can we expect to see?
It’s the first full collection I’ve done. It’s my metaphorical final presentation; this is the one I get graded on. All my time learning and creating leads up to this collection. I’m almost done sampling it now and what’s keeping me motivated is just showing my mom what I’ve done each day. The personal growth and progress shown in this collection is super exciting to me. I’m using the best materials I have access to and not cutting any corners. I’m so proud to have my name on it! Without giving too much away, I’m calling the collection “Lone Pine.”