TOLU COKER WINS THE 2019 Coveted Merit Award
Fashion Scout announced that the London based Eponymous brand Tolu Coker, as the winner of the AW19 coveted Merit Award. Created in 2009, the new talent initiative is worth £20,000 across three seasons and has been created to support and develop new designer businesses on a global level.
In winning this season’s Merit Award, Tolu will receive a fully sponsored catwalk show with Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week with space to host press and buyers. The prestigious Merit Award provides a unique platform for the brightest new designers, with many going on to become established labels within the international fashion industry. Tolu Coker follows in the successful footsteps of past winners including; Eudon Choi, Phoebe English, David Koma, Roberts Wood, Han Wen, Xiao Li, Katie Ann McGuigan, EDDA and SS19 winner i-am-chen.
Selected from hundreds of applicants by a judging panel, the youthful urban aesthetic of Tolu Coker, drew attention to from industry experts including Martyn Roberts - Fashion Scout’s Founder and Director, Contanza Lombardi - Next Gen Buyer at Browns, Kendall Robbins - Senior Programme Manager at British Council, Lizzy Bowring - Catwalk Director at WGSN and Scarlett Conlon - Deputy Fashion Editor at The Guardian. Using their expertise, the judging panel gathered in November 2018, spending the day looking through designs and portfolios to establish this season's Merit Award Winner.
Tolu Coker is a unisex fashion brand centred around inclusivity, diversity and social responsibility. More than just a fashion label, it serves as a creative outlet for the youthful expression of political reform, changing social and economic climates and new emerging identities. The brand explores and acknowledges hybridity and fluidity in societies and cultures, translating this into forward-thinking fashion and environmentally conscious clothing, shoes and accessories.
Tolu aims to showcase her identity throughout her work by embracing dual heritage and cultures. She does this by reconstructing the black identity within the western world by adding personal prints, embellishments and personal old polaroid photos of her family. Her work is a fusion of generational experiences, with some pieces being inspired from extracts from her Father's diary. The brand ethos is all about identity.
Her previous collections focused on giving social 'outsiders' space within the community by representing their stories and challenging conventional perceptions of power, aesthetic beauty and stereotypes. This development of unique and innovative design techniques, which utilise both traditional artisan craftsmanship and modern technology, is integral to the brand's conscious consideration for sustainability and the advancement of technology in the forthcoming AW19 collection.
Reworked pieces of denim, recycled leathers and re-used plastic and lace scraps are paired alongside striking and daring silhouettes, bold illustrative prints/embroideries and a playground of textures to add a youthful, contemporary and luxurious flair to each piece. Black and white feature heavily within the new collection, reflecting her photo inspiration, whilst primary colour pops and brown tones provide contrast. The collection gives a youthful freshness, with many outfits containing being classic casual silhouettes of hoodies and jeans but also with Nigerian tribal headpieces.
The brand is a catalyst for acceptance and freedom in fashion, as well as a tool to urge consumers to move towards buying more investment clothing pieces - clothing that is timeless and, in its longevity, reducing carbon footprint.
Tolu boasts a global client base, with her roster including high-profile names such as Rita Ora, Rihanna, Emily Sande, Demi Lovato, Ms Banks, AJ Tracey and Tiwa Savage. Her work has also been internationally recognised by publications and platforms such as Vogue, Love Magazine, Dazed, Hunger, An0ther, WWD, NME, LVMH teams and even the Tate!
Originally from Nigeria, Tolu is a Fashion Designer, Textile Designer and Illustrator and has lived in Spain but currently resides in London. Whilst studying at Central Saint Martins, Tolu undertook several successful stints at Maison Margiela, J.W. Anderson and Celine and gone on to have many collaborations with established labels such as Dr Martens, Swatch and illy.
The young designer was recently shortlisted as a finalist in the ASOS Fashion Discovery 2018 and is a triple- award winner of the globally-acclaimed ITS 2018, where she took home a hat trick of awards across both Fashion and Artwork categories - The Diesel Award, The Vogue Talents Award and The ITS Time For Coffee Award.
On hearing she had won the Merit Award Tolu said, “Finding out I’d won the Merit Award was the perfect end to a fantastic and very busy 2018! I’ve been working on projects in China the past couple months and since I got the call all I’ve been thinking about is getting back to London and getting things done. It came as somewhat a surprise and it’s also a challenge, preparing for a debut show because I’m a one-woman band. But I’ve been ready for a new collection since graduation and I have new stories to tell, so while it's nerve-racking, I’m very excited! It’s such an honour and it’s come at such an important time because storytelling is such an integral part of my brand and my artistry - I’m passionate not just about design, but also about how I communicate my design and use my voice. That freedom of expression requires financial and logistic support, so this definitely feels like a step in the right direction. I’m really looking forward to the mentorship, PR and business advice too, it’s such a necessary resource.”
Fashion Scout’s Founder and Creative Director Martyn Roberts comments: “We are extremely excited to award Tolu Coker the Merit Award following her exceptional collection showcased at the Selection Panel. Her brand was an easy decision for the judging panel to award Merit to, due to her originality and exciting concept of implementing past generations and dual cultures into her work. Fashion Scout is excited to give Tolu Coker the opportunity to continue building the brand and profile here in London.“
Check out her collection at Fashion Scout -Freemasons Hall 15th -19th February
Words: Ash Allibhai