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Manish Arora for Lee Cooper design.

Lee Cooper 100 Years Project

Lee Cooper, ‘The Fine English Denim Company’ celebrates its centenary with a series of exciting collaborations in the ‘100 Years Project’.

In 1908 a young refugee from Lithuania named Morris Cooper moved from South Africa to London’s East End, setting up a factory there to produce workwear. Inititally named M. Cooper Overalls Ltd, its name was changed to Lee Cooper by Morris’ son, Harold after his wife’s maiden name. When Harold took over the company after his father’s death, he switched the focus from workwear to denim and capitalized on the growing boom for jeans as fashion. Lee Cooper courted controversy by creating the world’s first front-zipped slacks for ladies in the 1950s', the baby boom decade that saw jeans became inextricably linked with rebellious youth. In the 1960s' Lee Cooper, fittingly for a British denim brand hooked up with some of the biggest British bands of the era (The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, among others) becoming synonymous with the rock and roll spirit in the process.

A series of memorable advertisements by Jean Paul Goude and associations with counter culture icons like Serge Gainsbourg upped the cool factor of the label. Strong links with France were established in the 70s which has eventually led to its studio being based there today.

Today the label with its iconic red diamond and white writing has become Europe’s premier denim brand, challenging the American triumvirate of Wranger, Lee and Levis. In 2007, in a lovely echo of when Jane Birkin modelled for Lee Cooper in the 70s', her daughter, the chic French actress Lou Doillon designed a quirkily charming capsule range for Lee Cooper, titled Lou Cooper.

For its 100th anniversary, Lee Cooper continued its tradition of envelope pushing collaborations by asking some of the most exciting design talent in the world today to design a special piece. Paco Rabanne, Jean Charles De Castelbajac, Giles Deacon, Chicks on Speed, Jitrois, and Swarovski are some of the visionaries who created one-off pieces which will be auctioned off at a Gala Auction at the Drouot Montaigne in Paris on Sept 29th to raise money for the Red Cross and Designers Against Aids. A party to celebrate the event will occur at Les Bain Douches. From 1908 to 2008 and beyond, the rock rolls on.

Lee Cooper ads from 1983 and 1985.

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