Coker is already building up a celebrity fanbase including Rihanna and British actor Thandiwe Newton. This year, Coker joined Net-a-Porter’s Vanguard scheme (the e-tailer is currently her exclusive stockist). Prices range from £270 for a polo shirt to £960 for a double-breasted cotton-blend twill blazer. “This is where I envision the brand sitting — a Black African-owned brand sitting in the luxury heritage space is really powerful.” Coker declined to share annual sales, but says the brand has topped £100,000 in overall sales to date.
Mentors have been a valuable source of support. A key mentor is Felita Harris, founding member and executive director of Raisefashion, a non-profit organisation that supports BIPOC brands and individuals in the fashion industry. “These [BIPOC] brands operate with minimal resources hindering their ability to adequately staff and expand their businesses,” says Harris. “Advisory support is just as critical as funding.”
Coker is learning fast. “When you’re a young designer, you’re wearing all the hats in your business. Just being able to speak to people who have done this before, they’re seasoned in it and give insight into things that you’re not really aware of — that is a real changer,” she says. “It really allows you to focus on the creativity and story you want to tell.”
A sustainable debut
Coker believes in continuity in her design message. Silhouettes and garments that have featured in previous collections will make a reappearance in her LFW show. “You’ll see things that have featured in previous collections because it’s also a continuation of a story from before,” she says. “The messaging is really about building on our existing wardrobe, it’s about finding new ways of reimagining what you already have.” The clothes are made locally in London and in three factories across the UK.
As with previous collections, Coker also works with waste and deadstock material. Around 90 per cent of the fabric is deadstock, she says. Sophie Hallette, the industry’s go-to lace producer, is a sponsor and sends her old and damaged bits of lace that are upcycled, dyed and reworked. “A lot of the time I don’t know what I’m getting but they will send me odd bits of lace, damaged bits of lace and we just give it a new light,” says Coker. “We dye it, cut it and assemble it in a new way to create something new.” The remaining 10 per cent of the collection is made up of pre- and post-consumer waste.
Coker secures deadstock from multiple brands and suppliers. She’s leaning on relationships formed during her time at Central Saint Martins, where she benefitted from work experience placements at fashion houses. “I used to see how much stuff went to waste. At the time, as a student, I thought I could probably use this scrap in my collections,” she says. “I just continued the relationships. It’s like ‘what have you got for me this season?’… I think they also love seeing applications of how their product and waste can be used.”
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