Label Profile - Lee Cooper
A century is a long time by any standards but in the world of fashion, surviving 100 years earns you more than a telegram from the Queen, it gets you into icon territory. Lee Cooper is one such survivor, a stalwart of international denim heritage and a brand that has arguably been largely responsible for putting Britain on the international, and highly competitive, denim map.
Founded in 1908 by Morris Cooper in London’s East End, Lee Cooper was originally known by the slightly less jaunty label ‘M. Cooper Overalls Ltd’. Doing exactly what it said on the tin, work wear was the name of the game and as such sturdy, home spun denim was the fabric of choice. Come 1914 Cooper upped his game, producing fatigues for the war effort and boosting his company’s already burgeoning fortunes.
Following Coopers death in 1940, his son took over, introducing his wife’s maiden name in to the mix and re-branding as Lee Cooper. With the post war mood swing from rationing to rock ‘n’ roll and the Americana influence of denim as casual wear came a ‘bold new world’ for Lee Cooper and the dawn of the fashion label that clothed ‘cool Britannia’.
The Sixties saw Lee Cooper make their big impression, branding the behinds of the players that brought London to the top of the pile in a cacophony of rock and roll, and staying there through punk, ska and grunge. As Sarah Feeney, Lee Cooper’s International PR says:
“Britain has a unique sense of style because it is born out of music. Here, as well as in New York, music and fashion go hand in hand. It’s usually so simultaneous it’s hard to work out which came first, the fashion or the music.”
Recent years saw Lee Cooper’s presence in the international denim wars wane under the ownership of chain giant Matalan. LC’s exclusivity to the company dealt the brand a blow as recognition on its home shores dwindled next to the plethora of denim brands with pretensions towards being the ‘next big thing’.
Despite a slight stumble from grace, there’s good news for fans of the classic brand, as a year on from freeing itself from the shadow of its budget oppressor, Lee Cooper is returning to form. The granddaddy of British denim will be approaching autumn with a secret weapon, set to reclaim its place among the giants of authentic jeanswear: Lee, Levis and Wrangler.
September will see the launch of Lee Coopers‘Platinum’ collection. The range will incorporate LCs ‘revolutionary’ new ‘X-fit 360 Degree Stretch Denim’. Made from LYCRA and sure to attract the nation’s notoriously fussy jeans addicts, the exclusive system will allow the denim to stretch with complete freedom in any direction, eliminating saggy knees and other pitfalls of the partial stretch.
To accompany the launch, Lee Cooper have drawn on their roots and musical heritage.
Newly signed London boys The Rifles will strut their stuff in the Lee Cooper autumn/winter ’06 season campaign to be shown across the world. To cement the relationship the dashing young rockers also sport Lee Cooper in the video for their tune ‘She’s Got Standards’. “We want to clothe more unsigned bands, work with them on what they like to wear and how they like to wear it,” Sarah says of the virgin collaboration. “We want to develop ranges with them and bring out quick, one-off limited edition styles that reflect what’s happening in music, plus make ranges that are exclusively for their videos or tours or a photo shoot.” So, for Lee Cooper, the future’s bright. With a centenary only two years away they have reclaimed their independence, and are already planning the celebrations.
“A 100th anniversary collection,” Feeney reveals, “and a big party with all our friends from The Buzzcocks to The Rifles in one huge super-band!”
LEE COOPER FACT FILE:
• Lee Cooper created uniforms for the British army for both World Wars.
• Lee Cooper didn’t undergo the transformation to ‘fashion’ brand until the late 1940s.
• Emerging London band The Rifles appear in Lee Cooper’s Autumn ad campaign (you canview the video on LC’s website).
•Matalan owned Lee Cooper for 5 years until LC bought the brand back a year ago.
• This autumn will see Lee Cooper launch in the States, and by their centenary in 2008 they will also be available in Japan.
• Lee Cooper is the third biggest denim brand in France, second biggest in Belgium and Switzerland and number one in India and the Middle East.
• Lee Cooper have over 450 shops and concession in stores across the world.