Los Angeles designer Reese Cooper used a bridge in Southern California’s San Gabriel mountains as his back-to-nature runway continuing his exploration of the outdoors as part of a five-year partnership with the USDA Forest Service that began last season.
“Fresh Air” was the title of his collection film, but it’s also big business in pandemic-era retail, when record numbers have been buying gear for hiking and camping.
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Cooper, who launched his label in 2016, was ahead of the curve. And because he orients every collection to an actual compass point, and designs into that — this season’s being the Crystal Lake Recreation Area dating back to the 1930s — his take on the lake-and-lodge look for men and women feels authentic.
For spring, he went deeper into core silhouettes, launched his first collaborations with Levi’s on denim and Merrell on trail runner shoes, and broadened entry-level accessory offerings, including a new Azusa leather handbag hand painted by artist Juliet Johnstone, and his popular Wilson hiking boots in bright colors.
It added up to a big lifestyle statement for the brand, which feels ready to come alive in a significant way at retail, and Cooper poised for a collaboration with an L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer, perhaps.
Working a trail running theme, he incorporated racing motifs, including flag details and winged foot graphics, into the earth-toned collection. What set his cargo pants, bombers, work jackets, plaid work shirts, Cowichan-style cardigans and knit vests apart were personal details, like the sleeve patches printed with his “Hooked on the Highway” ode to nature, which have become as recognizable as a logo; artful placement of utility pockets and hooks, and California-specific points of interest, like the Crystal Lake trail map print on his first nylon backpack.
Denim trousers and work jackets, each one-of-a-kind and hand-stitched from puzzled together upcycled Levi’s, added collectible-cool, while silk camisoles and skirts in a California oatgrass botanical print had a more feminine touch. The one-off Levi’s pieces are teasing a more extensive collaboration that will launch soon.
Launch Gallery: Reese Cooper Men's Spring 2022