Stephanie Cooper | Fashion Lecturer | Central Saint Martin's | London
Hailing from a small town in Yorkshire, Stephanie lives in London where she works in fashion and fashion education. Currently one of the Fashion Design Pathway Leaders at Central Saint Martins, Stephanie works with students to help them realise their wildest dreams and creations of fantastical visions of fashion. Stephanie seeks inspiration from the various places that she travels to. From art galleries and museums to antique markets, Stephanie learns about new cultures and styles and traditions from her various travels.
Stephanie Cooper writes about the various places from her travels which have been a great source of inspiration for her, along with why these are places that creative individuals and designers must visit on their travels:
- Venice itself as an ancient city is a living breathing work of art with all its incredible death-defying beauty and decay. I always visit the Venice Biennale because it showcases so many diverse artworks in incredible settings - there’s so much overwhelming inspiration, ideas, points of view and contrasting opinions and challenging visual dialogue to see.
- There are so many inspiring places to visit such as the Palazzo Grassi, the Accademia, Peggy Guggenheim Gallery, Fondazione Prada, but the Palazzo Fortuny is one of the most beautiful and fragile representations of the city. The former home of the fashion and textile designer Mariano Fortuny, it retains the lamps and wallpapers he designed and even the original sinks with paint splash still there as if Fortuny himself had just cleaned his brushes a few moments ago.
- The most beautiful café in Venice is Florian In St Mark’s Square which was opened in 1720 and retains its traditional decoration and elegant rooms and when you go in, you’re transported back to the 18th-century pleasure gardens of Venice. Most people sit outside but the interior is where the best experience is.
- Gallery Borghese in Rome has an incredible collection of masterpieces including Caravaggio’s David with the head of Goliath and Bernini’s marble sculpture portraying the myth of Apollo pursuing Daphne who is at that moment being transformed into a laurel tree to escape him. It’s the most incredible work of genius. If you are a fanatic of Caravaggio like I am, Rome and especially the Borghese Gallery is a great place to find him.
- From Venice to Rome and Florence you will find some of the most incredible art but in Florence, one of my favourite places is outside the main art gallery arena, La Specola which houses a natural history collection of taxidermied animals and also the most important collection in the world of the anatomical Venus wax sculptures that were created by casting body parts from cadavers in the 18th century as teaching aids for surgeons. They are perfectly formed anatomical female bodies which are opened to show immaculately painted internal organs that in the museum are displayed reclining on silk beds with their long hair sensually flowing behind them. It is a wondrous spectacle and an extremely unique collection.
- Situated in Louisiana, Denmark, a little outside Copenhagen is the incredible Louisiana Gallery of Modern Art which houses one of the most relevant contemporary collections housed in amazing buildings. It is where I imagine my utopian life would be lived if that were my home, with its immaculately conceived synthesis of architecture art and landscape.
- The Basque region of Spain houses 2 of my most beloved places, the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Museoa Cristobal Balenciaga in Getaria. The Guggenheim designed by Frank Gehry dominates the town of Bilbao and similarly, the Balenciaga Museum appears as an alien spaceship landed on the traditional Spanish landscape.
- Apart from these hugely important places that celebrate the best of art and fashion you could wish for, the food in this region is among the best in the world. The small restaurants in the little streets in Getaria winding towards the sea will provide some of the most perfect and honest food you could ever hope to eat.
- In Paris, the Musée Gustave Moreau is also the former atelier and home of the artist and houses the collection of artworks, paintings, and drawings in the original 19th-century setting. It’s almost a secret as it’s such an intimate gallery space a little out of the way in the 9th arrondissement but the artworks are what it’s all about and a powerful representation of this important symbolist artist who created the most beautiful stories myths and legends visualised in highly stylised and poetic works of art.
- Beijing is not so much a city but a small country, it is so unfathomably huge and fast-moving, an assault on the senses, but what I love is the energetic clash of ancient and modern, of tradition and technology. The vastness of the city with its many districts and incredible amounts of monuments and temples, you could never hope to know it all.
- If you visit Panjiayuan antique market, it’s like a small town full of anything in the world you could ever think of - from pottery to calligraphy brushes to cultural revolution curiosities, jewellery, furniture and clothes and you get a starring role in the drama as the stallholders to assume if you touch something then you’re going to buy it and engage you in relentless haggling for something you hadn’t even decided to buy yet.
- The Lama Buddhist Temple is one of the most important in Beijing. You are accompanied by a constant overpowering scent of clouds of smoky incense wherever you go. These ancient buildings dedicated to devotion and prayer are so beautiful, monumental, and well preserved with huge Buddha statues looking over mountains of floral tributes and gifts of fruit creating a visual feast.
- Amidst the thousands of eating establishments in Beijing that this fearful vegetarian dare does not go. Opposite our hotel was Blossom vegetarian which must be one of the best and most innovative vegetarian restaurants in the city, which I frequented on almost all the ten days of my stay in Beijing.
I’ve travelled the world from big cities to small towns and everywhere holds something inspirational if you look for it, but wherever I go I’ve always been on the lookout for flea markets and second-hand shops. I’ve spent most of my life looking for treasure and inspirational pieces and some of the most amazing things I’ve found in small places that offer up items from local people and their own personal history and life stories represented by things they once loved and cherished that end up for sale on a table or a blanket on the floor. Someone else’s life’s narratives are handed over and begin a new life in different hands. The fascination of finding personal objects, clothing and textiles that were owned and worn in another life is an obsession I’ve always had. The personal history of people and their lives can be narrated through time and the life of their clothing and their memories.
She say's "We live our lives and communicate who we are through our clothing and our clothes live with us and absorb all our experiences and retain our memories, so fashion and clothing are powerful communicators of human experience, existence and identity"
We, at CROW, couldn’t agree more with Stephanie. Our travels to different places have given us insight into so many aspects of textile and fashion design and trade. Like Stephanie, we find the charm and beauty of thrift shops and vintage stores very alluring. The garments we find there, we bring back, and study – gaining so much information about how people communicated their cultures, identities, and experiences through the clothes they wear.
You can follow her on Instagram: stephaniecoop