The Fashion Folk S02 ep10 : Wayne Cooper, Cooper Fashion, [Sydney]

Interview with Wayne Cooper

English by birth, Wayne Cooper was a denizen of London's East End before moving to Australia in 1985. He finished law in the U.K., but decided to enroll at East Sydney Technical College to study fashion design upon his arrival down under. After a successful fashion partnership that lasted 7 years, Cooper decided to strike out on his own and launched "Brave." In 1996, he launched "Wayne Cooper," a more exclusive collection, complementing the mid-priced "Brave" label. The designer has traditionally shown at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week, but has also presented his collections in Japan, and Bryant Park during the Fall 2000 New York fashion season. Also an entrepreneur, Wayne Cooper has six boutiques throughout Australia. The company also wholesales to department stores including David Jones, Myer Grace Bros and a further 50 boutiques throughout Australia and New Zealand.


I have two collections - I have a Brave collection and I have a Wayne Cooper
collection that came after Brave and then I have a WCT collection, which are
T-shirts and denim and stuff. The Wayne Cooper is always the first collection I
design and that is the one that comes from where I am feeling.

When I left school I got the biggest, best grades my school had, ever.

KM – This is in England?

Yes in England. But at the time fashion was it for us but where I come from in
the east end of London, all my mates were bus drivers and cab drivers and it
wasn't really seen as a vocation at the time.
I went to law school and realise there was no heart in Law. But while I was
doing it I went and worked in "Jones in Kings Road" and that changed
everything for me because there I met more alike people. We had Galliano's
clothes, we had all the first collection of Vivianne Westwood, Bodymap…

So 1980 London was really an exciting time. We used to go the Blitz club with
Marilyn and Frankie goes to Hollywood because they used to come to the
store so we used to hang out with those guys.
When I went out with my friends, when I was young, they would all be wearing
their blazer and their casual shoes and I'd turn up with my rackshirt, brogues a
Cafrinanne knit, silk shirt all crushed up, diamantes, long blonde hair - I
looked… There are all my friends and there is me! - And I am a straight
football loving geaser but I had this….

KM – Dressed in a silk shirt with long hair?

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

In a silk shirt and a skirt.

KM – and high heels…

Yeh, and as long I was pulling women my friends would keep me in the gang.

And so then I went and thought before I get going (I want to do fashion) I
should better go and see the world, see everything before I start this. And so
off I went, I ran out of money when I got to Sydney, I worked for a year, I went
home, and decided I loved Australia by then, and decided that was where I
wanted to live.

KM – Why did you love Australia compared to London?

It is like Club Med isn't it. You come from a working class council estate and
then the friends you meet have speedboats and cars and motorbikes and…. It
was just fresh, and people were really nice and they weren't as jaded as


Two years into law school and two years into Jones, I didn't think about being
a stylist or a hairdresser, photographer - non-of that - I just wanted to make

When I got here I decided that I needed to know as much as I could so I went
to East Sydney Tech but I only did pattern making and dressmaking - the
actual way of physically making a pattern and sewing a garment.

KM – Where do you get your inspiration?

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

I look at movies most of the time and my little favourite people.
My last collection was about the ’City of Women'. It was about the peasants -
the women of the Ardesh - Kubrick but not particularly any movie more about
the sensibility on the set construction. I used the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
and we did a Michael Nimony / Peter Greenaway sort of haunting sound track
that we created.

They sat there glued, they were like in awe.

We like to experiment with different looks, mainly it is not what we would
usually do. We were never as romantic as we are now. I used to be a lot more
of a hard edge Helmut Newton whereas now I've become a lot more romantic,
but in a much more darker way than pretty pretty.
I am not into pretty pretty, girly girly, I like more a darker aesthetic.

KM – What are girls looking for today?

They are a much more independent stronger people and you still have your
girls who still like their tight and sexy-tarty, and you still have your more
intellectually thinking women.
This country doesn't have as much of the women you would find for those
more avant-garde clothes you will find in Paris so you got to always remember
the market you are in.

You can have that sexy aesthetic with this more edginess and combine it in a
way that the overall silhouette is still sexy but work within that.

In Sydney or in Australia they do use their clothes more so as a sexual tool, in
that they have more of that Brazilian influence…

KM – Really?

…in the way that they are. Yeah! Their bodies are their main weapon. They
use their bodies and clothes here - we don't design clothes like a Japanese
person would design clothes, as in the body isn't part of the structure. The
body is always there as your starting point and it always about what you reveal
and what you don't reveal, like our recent collection was called 'The
Temptress' and it was more about what was hidden and lies beneath. It was
not overtly sexual. You'd have this prim piece and a piece you know that
wasn't so… and there was revealing there were slight little touches of revealing
sexiness but it wasn't all tits and ass, which we are trying to get away from
because a lot of Australia, particular Sydney is very overtly sexual in a
Brazilian/Rio sort of a way..

Jewellery Theatre Elements

KM – You've got the Gay Mardi Gras…

You've got it all - there is a lot of skin going on and designing just for that overt
sexism is kind of boring.

What the seamstresses can actually do, what you know their machines can do
here and what you got behind you is about 10% of what the French have got,
so you have got to work within the constraints you have - which makes a bit
harder but it makes things a bit interesting. I don't mind that.

I find myself a much more melancholy, serious sort of person than I used to
be. I question a lot more now, I look more seriously at everything I do. And
everything has got to have a lot more meaning to me now, maybe because I
have got older and I need the meaning in things.
I need them to count. That is why I like doing a show because I chose fashion,
but I love architecture, I love film, I love music. I love all these things that is
why I use different genres of music area because I want to experiment with
things and try to give people a glimpse of what was in my mind when I made
this collection.

You used to be able to define a whole country by what people were wearing.
You look at pictures of the 70's you will pin point - it is the 70's - or the 60's
because everyone was wearing the same thing and they were wearing it for
about 4 years straight. And now in any one given year everyone is wearing

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

I really respect Akira - he has got this balance to his clothes, and the weight of
them is perfect. He is on his own little trip that boy. The women around Akira
and the women around me are two totally different crowds of women.

His women are much more avant-garde, arty - orange eyebrows, crazy severe
hair, and five layers of skirt.

Women around me do not dress like that and would never dress like that even
if I made clothes like that so you kind of end up subconsciously making clothes
for the women around you and seeing them happy in them.

I was banned from the magazines, for life, I was… Three years ago

KM – Really?

Yeah, because I was disgusted with Claudia Schiffer on the catwalk and David
Copperfield was out the back and wore her own shoes and she swore to me
she had good taste and boy did that girl has no taste and screwed up my
I went out the back screaming at them, it was all on camera, the organiser
comes after me and I said 'go away' and then I whacked him (on camera) and
then I got banned from magazines for life. Then I ripped up an Elle magazine
and chucked it on the catwalk

KM – You are kidding!

And got deep in trouble… A few big bunches of flowers to the editor and I was
back in again.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Wayne Cooper, Cooper Fashion, Sydney