London Fashion Week is really the best, especially when it comes to spotting new talent. Between the legendary shows from Central Saint Martins students and design incubators like Fashion East, London showcases the highest echelons of emerging talent — consider Molly Goddard and A Sai Ta's recent meteoric rise, or exciting young designers like Matty Bovan and Marta Jakubowski. And there's a new rising designer (and CSM alum) we really love: Tolu Coker.
London native Coker just completed a residency in Shanghai, only to turn around and show at LFW just days after returning to the UK. "Jumped off a plane from China, ghosted and got to work with basically no cash or studio, but a bunch of people with open hearts who worked tirelessly to support me and see me win," she wrote on Instagram. "So many things went left but it brought me to so many beautiful people and everything became everything I wanted it to be and more."
The designer, who often takes inspiration from aesthetic signifiers of her Nigerian heritage, has won a number of prestigious fashion prizes, including Fashion Scout's Merit Award and three prizes at International Talent Support's event in Trieste, Italy. Pop stars like Rita Ora, Rihanna, and Demi Lovato have sported her work, which tends to feature sustainable materials like reworked denim and upcycled leather. Coker's label is unisex, catering to people of all genders.
"When I design I try and strip back social preconceptions and just look at and focus on the individual," she told Hunger TV. "I don't worry too much about gender conformity or trying to represent everyone in one collective vision. I struggle to see the relevance when we focus on fashion as a statement of one's identity, as opposed to a commercial commodity. Society loves to categorize things which cannot really be categorized. Identity is so unique to the individual, so we need to just focus on that."