GENERATION NEXT: Stefan Cooke, MA design student at Central Saint Martins, was named winner of this year’s H&M Design Awards, which took place on Thursday at the company’s London showroom.
Cooke was selected from a judging panel, which included the photographer Michal Pudelka, the up-and-coming British designer Richard Quinn who won last year’s award, Floriane de Saint Pierre who runs a namesake consulting and executive search firm in Paris, stylist Sarah Richardson and H&M’s creative adviser Margareta van den Bosch, among others.
Cooke will be awarded a prize of 25,000 euros and will also have a choice between receiving an additional 25,000 euro grant or participating in a six-month internship at the company’s head office in Stockholm.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M creative adviser who also chaired the jury, said that the judges were drawn to Cooke’s imagination and innovative approach in terms of both design and textile production.
“More than anything else, he struck us with his forward-thinking attitude, his invention and wit, which provide seemingly endless possibilities for the future. The collection is very of-the-moment; contemporary men’s wear is now equal in newness and creativity with women’s wear,” Johansson added.
Cooke’s work subverts wardrobe staples by recreating them using digital and sublimation printing.
“The way men dress is very regimented, so I wanted to reinvent some of those classic pieces using new fabrics,” the designer said. He pointed to knits, which were created by pulling the threads out of polyester fabrics and acrylic pieces featuring prints of traditional denim pants or shirts. “There’s a sense of nostalgia and excitement because there’s still jeans or leather jackets in there.”
Cooke plans to use the prize money as a springboard for his own label, which will launch as part of London Fashion Week Men’s in January.
The remaining seven finalists will also receive 5,000 euros each.
They were chosen from more than 550 applications received from 42-plus schools.
The judges spoke of the increasingly high standards of the students’ work, which are becoming more and more concerned with issues of sustainability, diversity and gender.
“There’s a lot of thought behind the collections, students want to do something positive in their community, they want to give back and looking beyond just design. Another trend is that almost nobody is talking about women’s wear versus men’s wear, it’s very gender fluid. They just talk about fashion and great clothes,” Johansson said.