B  R  A  N  D  S D  E  S  I  G  N C  R  E  A  T  I  V  E O  P  I  N  I  O  N S  U  B  S  C  R  I  B  E
CREATIVE:
FRASER COOKE:
THE MASTER IN PERFORMANCE LIFESTYLE MARKETING FreshBritain | Glenn Kitson | Antony Crook
AS THE PROVERB GOES, WHEN THE CULTURAL BUTTERFLY FLAPS IT’S WINGS ON ONE SIDE OF
THE GLOBE, THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE MANUFACTURE ON THE OTHER SIDE IS MOVED BY
A TORNADO.

ONE OF THE MOST POTENT CULTURAL BUTTERFLY'S OF THE LAST 20 YEARS HAS BEEN FRASER
COOKE AND WE HAVE BEEN BENEFITTING FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS FLAPPING
WINGS FOR DECADES.

MANUFACTURES GLENN KITSON WENT TO MEET HIM.
Having recently relocated to Los Angeles from his home in Tokyo,
Fraser Cooke is about to embark on a new chapter. With this
crossroads in mind, it seemed an opportune time to catch up with
him and reflect on his past, present and future. Glenn Kitson
and Antony Crook headed to California and spent a couple of
hours in discussion at the Sunset Towers Hotel. They started
where all the most interesting stories start, right at the beginning.
PART [1/2]

GLENN KITSON: So you’re from london?

FRASER COOKE: Yes, I was born in Whitechapel, East London
but I grew up on the end of the Central line (east) in the suburbs,
but I lived all over London. The final place I had before moving
abroad was in Islington close to Highbury Stadium.

I used to live in Shoreditch around 1995 and it was dead around
there, it was so cheap to live in a loft. There were no shops open
at night, if you needed a pint of milk you had to go to the petrol
station. In contrast to how it is now, back then it was like a
ghost town at the weekend.

When I visit London now, I stay in Kensington. I prefer that these
days. I like the slickness a bit more. I can see if you are young
that it must be quite exciting to live in East London but, personally
it’s not what I am looking for these days.

GK: So how did you get into the industry? what is your
background?

FC: When I was growing up I was always into skateboarding,
Hip Hop music and stuff like that and it was always in the
background. Originally, I was trained as a hairdresser and worked
for Vidal Sassoon. I did a three-year apprenticeship and moved
on from there to a salon in Soho called D-Mob, which was a bit
of a scene. They had their own clothes store and also a salon.
Nearby was another clothes store called Passenger and I used
to cut the guy’s hair that worked in there.

Around this time I was quite friendly with Karl Templar who
was at the time working at the Face. They were doing this thing
called Fashion Hype at the time, which looked at new cool
stuff in the front section of the magazine. There was a large
American influence; Public Enemy was very big so they may
have styled someone in a Raiders Starter jacket or something
like that. I was into that sort of stuff and into sneakers and the
guy who worked at the store (Passenger) asked me if I wanted
to come and work as a buyer. I was a little tired of cutting hair
at that point and felt this job was a kind of calling, which I think
it has to be if you’re going to do anything for a long time.

GK: Can you talk us through your early years in that role?

FC: So it was around 1989 and I went and started working
for this guy. Almost immediately I had to go to New York. We
would go about once a month and see companies like New Era.
They’re quite big now but back then they weren’t so much. We
started buying up baseball caps and varsity jackets. We would
go over to Brooklyn to Dr Jay’s and buy up all their adidas
Superstars, which must have been $19, a pair – deadstock.
Made In France. Nobody cared about it then, they were like ‘OK,
so you want to buy ALL of them?’

This was before any reissuing or anything. We used to work
with some other stores with a lot of deadstock inventory, old
Nike’s, old suede Fila’s, which were very popular, back then.
I only worked there for less than a year till we parted ways
but I made a lot of good contacts in New York and some good
friends.

GK: You went back to cutting hair?

FC: Yes, after that, I went back to cutting hair temporarily but
while I had been in New York I met a guy called Don who had
a label called Pervert and he kept sending me stuff. I would
give it to Karl (Templar) who was still at the Face and he would
feature it in the magazine. He would put my number in there as
a contact and suddenly I became a distributor by default. Stores
would call me asking where they could get stock.

So as a result, I learned that I could make some money out of
this and earn a living. Back then I really wanted to live in the US
as I was excited about the things that were coming out of there
– musically and stylistically. So I set up my own distribution
company and would go back and forth to New York and it funded
itself as a business.

As well as this, I was also doing other projects such as working
with Blackmarket Records in London. The Rave scene was
very big and we would sell tickets out of the store. As a result
I ended up meeting James Lavelle who had just started Mo’
Wax. He was working at Honest John’s record store and I was
living off Portobello Road. He was a young kid from Oxford and
he said he needed somewhere to stay, so suddenly I had a flat
mate and by default Tim Goldsworthy (producer and Mo’ Wax
co-founder) would stay as well.

GK: You ended up working together?

FC: Well James was into the Hip Hop stuff that was I playing so
I guess we inspired each other and I became an early employee
of Mo’ Wax. On the very first few releases you can see it’s only
the three of us credited.

I began doing some deals with companies to license tracks and
also James needed some merchandise. So I started making
T-shirts and bags for the label with people that I knew along
with doing my own distribution for my own company. We all
moved into an office together and this went on for a few years.

GK: It sounds like quite a fluid and flexible way to work. You
diversified into doing other things too, didn’t you?

FC: I was doing this and that, DJing, a lot of writing, I used to
write for the Face and i-D, Arena Homme+.

I was always quite friendly with Michael Kopelman (from
Gimme5); he was someone I would run into. We would come
out to the States twice a year to the action sports retailer
tradeshows. Michael was always big into the Japanese side
of street wear and one day explained to me that he really wanted
to do the Japanese market and American market properly and
not just as a wholesaler. He didn’t think that any of the stores
were representing it very well and asked how I felt about
‘teaming up and opening a shop?’ And at that time I was ready
for moving on to the next thing so it seemed right.

GK: This was when The Hideout first opened then?

FC: Yes, we opened up under the name Hit and Run but we had
to change it because the name was registered elsewhere. It
then became The Hideout. This was 1997 and I would say it was
perhaps the first genuine Street wear store outside of Japan.
It was a great time, it was a good scene, the Mo’ Wax thing was
still happening, the Bathing Ape thing was kicking in early and
I was still DJing. (London nightclub) Fabric had just opened and
we started doing stuff with them. It was good.
up down
up down
GK: How did the hook up between yourselves and Nike get going?

FC: After a couple of years we got approached by some guys
from Nike who were doing a form of what we would term now
as Energy Marketing, this was done via placement and trying to
push product that other stores wouldn’t take as it was too risky.
The first thing he brought to us was the Air Woven, so we
turned the store into a pop up Nike store for a few weeks and it
just blew out – people went crazy for them.

We were also quite close with Hiroshi Fujiwara who I had met
a few years back through Mo’ Wax. Hiroshi was already getting
involved with Nike in Japan but saw the collaborations we
had been doing which influenced him greatly, things like the
Wovens and subsequently the HTM shoes.

What we found was that the customer who would buy sneakers
from us wasn’t necessarily the same one that would buy the
apparel lines we were doing. We felt there was a lack of good
focused boutique sneaker related stores, so Michael and I opened
Foot Patrol. Around the world other boutiques began to open such
as Undefeated and Alife Rivington Club, which became the core
sneaker destinations. It was exciting and new yet it seemed quite
tough to get the right product. I think it was hard for the brands to
justify why they would give this little store that doesn’t buy much
this exclusive product. But all of us were at the scene and hooked
up with the media so we made it work and showed our influence
in other ways. But we learned over a few years that the business
model was very difficult, and I would say it still is now.

GK: So despite having to play the game of retail, you’d sown the
seeds with Nike. How did your relationship continue to build
from that point?

FC: During that period a group of very senior people at Nike
did a European tour and went to Milan, Paris and then finally
London. In each city someone outside the company was invited
in to show them around. In London, I was that guy. We spent
three days together and I took them to different places, I took
them to the store. We already had a good relationship with Nike
as we had been working these projects together and at the end
of this trip they approached me and asked if I would consider
working for them.

GK: What does your role entail?

FC: I work in a part of the company called Energy Marketing
which is where we look at the evolution of culture, where it’s
heading, how sport is evolving culturally and informing or
being informed by art, music etc. We have people in a number
of cities and they open up conversations. The idea is that they
put Nike’s work in front of people that are a little more forward
thinking with their ideas. It’s about finding those people who
appreciate when things are different, who aren’t followers and
can see when something is interesting.

Initially I moved to Portland to work on the marketing side but
my thing was that I was always into product – I was a buyer
and a distributor and had been working in retail so I came from
the unique position of also having this insight. Now, it’s my
job to help consult on each part of the process. From product
inception to design, to sales, marketing etc.

GK: What was the thinking behind the move to Japan?

FC: I went from Portland to Tokyo as I felt I was losing touch
with the things that were important to me and the job I was
trying to do. Tokyo was doing very much as it does now in
influencing Europe and Asia. They were the pioneers. To me,
streetwear as we know it now is not an American thing. It was
instigated in America but what it is today is because of the
Japanese.

IN PART TWO, FRASER DISCUSSES HIS ROLE IN NIKE
GYAKUSOU AND THE NEXT STAGE IN HIS CAREER
MOVING TO LA.
up