London based eponymous brand Tolu Coker has been named as the winner of the autumn/winter 2019 Merit Award by Fashion Scout, which will see the unisex fashion label making its debut at London Fashion Week in February.
The Merit Award was created in 2009 as a new talent initiative to develop new designer businesses and support them on their global goals. As winner, Tolu Coker will receive a package worth 20,000 pounds across three seasons including a fully sponsored catwalk show with Fashion Scout.
Tolu Coker, a graduate from Central Saint Martins, has been creating a lot of buzz for her unisex brand that centres around inclusivity, diversity and social responsibility. Her designs have already been worn by the likes of Rita Ora, Rihanna, Emily Sande, and Demi Lovato, and they even saw her clinch three awards at the ITS 2018 competition across both the fashion and artwork categories - The Diesel Award, The Vogue Talents Award and The ITS Time For Coffee Award.
Originally from Nigeria, Coker isn’t just a fashion designer, but also a textile designer and illustrator, and that all comes through in her designs which feature reworked denims, recycled leathers and re-used plastic and lace scraps across striking and daring silhouettes, bold illustrative prints and embroideries across its environmentally conscious clothing, shoes and accessories.
Coker states that the brand’s ethos is all about identity with the aim of serving as a creative outlet for “youthful expression of political reform, changing social and economic climates and new emerging identities”. Within her designs Coker showcases her own identity by embracing dual heritage and cultures by reconstructing the black identity within the western world with the addition of personal prints, embellishments and personal old polaroid photos of her family.
Previous collections have focused on giving social 'outsiders' a space within the community by representing their stories and challenging conventional perceptions of power, aesthetic beauty and stereotypes.
On hearing she had won the Merit Award Tolu Coker said in a statement: “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 designing, 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 added: “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 are excited to give Tolu Coker the opportunity to continue building the brand and profile here in London.”
Coker, who has worked at Maison Margiela, J.W. Anderson and Celine, as well as collaborate with established labels such as Dr Martens, Swatch and illy, follows in the successful footsteps of past Merit Award winners including Eudon Choi, Phoebe English, David Koma, Roberts|Wood, Han Wen, Xiao Li, Katie Ann McGuigan, Edda and spring/summer 2019 winner, I-Am-Chen.
Tolu Coker will show her autumn/winter 2019 collection on February 15 at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week.
Images: courtesy of Tolu Coker/Fashion Scout