Effortless chic, African emerging designers and the Caribbean
Entrepreneur, fashion editor, stylist and digital influencer, multi-faceted fashion talent Geoff K. Cooper is someone really special to us. One of the first insider to reach out through Instagram a few weeks after our March 2016 launch, he showed immediately strong and real support to Les Belles Heures. A few calls later we knew that we had much more in common than (supposedly) good taste. It was a certain vision of what does style mean, how it should be approached in today’s fast-fashion environment and how we could contribute to it.
On the verge of launching his most expected Sagaboi project - a men’s fashion destination inspired by a Caribbean concept surfaced in the 1930s as a form of masculine emancipation through fashion - he sits with us for a style talk and share his thoughts on his unique take on effortless cool.
First and foremost, thanks a lot for sitting with us. It means a lot.
You are most welcome! I am always up for a good chat.
You’re originally from the Caribbean, where exactly did you grow up ?
Indeed, I am. I am originally from Trinidad and Tobago and I grew up there. In an bucolic and idyllic village called Moruga, which sits at the southernmost point of the Trinidad. It’s actually where Christopher Columbus discovered the island.
What are the most vibrant aesthetic memories you kept from that time ?
Awe man, so many. The most vibrant though, has to be the flora, and equally, the people. The many different colours, and shades of people. Growing up in the village of Moruga was scenic. On one side you have what we call an abundance of ‘bush’, the lush was and still is unending, offering a visually textural extravaganza. And on the other, you have a multifarious denizenship, people of every creed and race, and mix thereof. All coexisting wonderfully in this small village. Fantastic really. The stuff of stories.
Later on, what are the places that inspired you the most ?
I have always been fascinated by New York, having read books and magazines, and seen and heard a lot from family members and the media. I vacationed in New York in my adolescent years and have lived there for more than 10 years. A couple years ago my fascination with London engulfed me and I decided to cross the pond as they say. Now I’m between London, New York and the Caribbean. These three places inspire me greatly, the Caribbean’s ease, and the cosmopolitan city nature of New York and London is intoxicating. It’s an interesting balance.
How does it translate into your personal aesthetics ?
It’s interesting you ask that as being from a different and ‘colourful’ place has meant that I am colourful and different. My personal aesthetic is an amalgamation of my multi-ethnic heritage, the visually variegated places I have lived in, the media I consume, all refined in a very ‘Geoff’ way. A flair buoyed by environmental and cultural miscellany.
You seem to be very at ease with colors and patterns. Is it just a matter of instinct ?
Haha. It certainly does have a lot to do with instinct. I have learned to and continue to depend on my intuition but there is some science to wearing colors and patterns. My inclination to both is instinctively dependent on my interpretation of color theory; mixing, matching, clashing, and of course building on a foundational or around a binding color to bring a visual together. Beyond that, it is truly one’s ability to confidently commit. This past fashion week, I had so many people say to me, “you’re able to wear what so many can’t.” I am not certain this was said in a complementary manner, (haha) but it is true, I take risks with my style and wear what most can’t or won’t. As for what other’s think, I am not too concerned.
What’s your definition of effortless chic ?
For me, it is the ability to nonchalantly carry clothing with confidence and grace.
Do you have your own tricks to achieve it ?
Hmmm. Where clothing that accentuates you. Your body, your skin tone, your hair, your weirdness.
What’s your all-time style icons ?
That’s a good question. I try to be original with my style but certainly others and many things influence me. If I were to list some style aficionados that have inspired me over the years, they’d have to be Bob Marley, Steve McQueen, Mick Jagger, Pharrell, Haider Ackermann, Kanye, Oswald Boateng, Ouigi Theodore, Paul Newman, Alain Delon and Amitabh Bachan.
And the ones you find the most inspiration from in today’s fashion scene ?
Beyond Oswald, Kanye, Ouigi, Pharell and Haider, I would say Nick Wooster.
Let’s get back to your personal style. I assume that it evolved a lot through the years. Could you tell us more about this evolution ?
I tend to feel like I had no style as a kid… it was my family’s style, my mother’s, my sister or brother’s. My teenage years is when I started to explore my point of view, search for it really. However, when I got to New York I went all-in. I was bombarded by stylish people and it was do or die. I started to play with color, and loved it; I kind of feel like it loved me – I could wear outlandish colors and it just worked. Having to now deal with the cold pushed me to find a common ground with winter-wear. Unique textures was my desire, and the many boutiques and Daffy’s (a US-based retailer that closed in 2012) satisfied that need. The basic components of my personal style are quality basics that make a statement. That statement could be color, fabrication, patterns, cut or silhouette.
What’s your approach to shopping ?
It's basically informed by my likeness of things that help tell a story of who I am and what I like. It is all about the search for quality and timeless pieces that accentuate my personality by the statement they make. And statements can be subtle. As for where I shop, there isn’t a retailer in the Caribbean that I frequent. I tend to shop directly from the brands and designers there. As for New York, London, Milan and Paris, my go-tos are a mix of high street and department stores (Barneys, Saks, Selfridges, Zara, Mango) to online, SSENSE. I have been shopping a lot of African designers of late. There is so much happening in Africa, I love it.
A few names to give us ?
My main obsession has been accessories, Michael Soi Studio has some outlandish hand painted bags and I praise the jewelry work of Adele Dejak, both brands are based in Kenya. I met Laduma Ngxokolo at Pitti Uomo, and his brand Maxhosa by Laduma is amazing. You have probably seen my sock game with traditional South African Xhosa designs on Instagram, that’s Laduma. As seen on my IG, I am also a big fan of Orange Culture, a Nigerian menswear brand that’s really pushing boundaries. Other brands that I am soon to procure pieces from are Tokyo James, Rich Minsi and Chulaap… all incredibly dope!
What’s your go-to looks that always make you feel fantastic ?
My love of mixing sartorial and street wear is immense. A go-to look of late has been a tailored white tee, slightly oversized, cropped slacks and white trainers. This paired with a light statement over coat and some statement element, a scarf, necklace, crazy trainers or a hat. Any iteration of this seems to be my go-to. I can live in a white tee, though.
When you travel for work, what do you always pack in your suitcase ?
White tees and cropped slacks. Just kidding. In our line of work, how you show up is of importance. What you show up in too. Packing for work trips is always about garments and pieces that can be styled into various looks. I always pack, seriously, at least 4 different tees (white predominantly), a pair of white trainers, at least two pairs of denim jeans, basic slacks and statement shirts (be it in pattern, color, style or fabrication).
Do you have a daily accessory you take everywhere you go no matter how you dress ?
I do. My wrist game is consistent. I have a set of jewelry that I wear everywhere I go. Silver bracelets, a white beaded bracelet with one charm (which has the word ‘joy’ etched in). A small yellow beaded bracelet. My most recent addition is a brass bracelet from an African brand called Adele Dejak. My mom gave me a gold chain a long time ago, I always travel with it. Although it is rarely seen, it is always with me.
What is scarf meaning to you ? How do you approach it in terms of styling ?
A scarf is one of the most essential forms of neckwear. It is an intimate and versatile fashion accessory that serves either function of fashion (or both) based on the wearer. In terms of styling, it is for me an accent element that is the cherry on the top. It signals a man of taste and style.
We know you’re a happy owner of a few of our scarves. How would you describe Les Belles Heures in three words ?
Stylish, chic, magnifique.
Any piece of advice for our young Maison going forward ?
Stay true to the feeling, the vibe, the unique intangible contribution that brings joy to us (your customers) and ultimately to you. That can be a few things, such as quality, style, elegance, but needs to be encoded in every item you present to the world.
Speaking of which, would you tell us more about the soon-to-be launched Sagaboi project ?
Sagaboi is a men’s fashion destination infused with contemporary multi-cultural sensibilities. Curated by me, it is a space where international men’s style and distinctively diverse cues will convene. I am multi-ethnic, diverse and different and my main interests in men’s fashion are the things, people and places that also have those attributes. The term Sagaboi is a deep rooted and sensual reference (to the concept “saga boy”) originating from 1930s Caribbean that symbolizes the intelligent, confident and very stylish rebellious man whose worldly lifestyle and ever-expanding mentality hold no compromise to the status quo. I am a Sagaboi, so are you Sylvain and also millions of men in the world. I am creating a multifaceted brand that would have an offering to this audience.
In a week or so I will go live with the media side, Sagaboi.com, which will house my blog and amazing editorials and in the coming months, other elements of the brand will be unveiled. It’s been so much work but I am excited.
Thank you so much for your sitting with us Geoff. We wish you the best for your Sagaboi adventure.
It was indeed my pleasure. Thank you so very much and you are coming along on this adventure with me. We will have fun.