For Dewi Cooke, an average workday requires her to be across many diverse elements – and what she requires from her working wardrobe is just as multifaceted.
Cooke is chief executive officer of The Social Studio, a not-for-profit supporting refugee and migrant creatives that’s part fashion school, part clothing label, part ethical manufacturer, part shop.
In all, it’s something of a Venn diagram of Cooke’s interests. A former journalist who’s covered social affair and arts reporting, she’s also always loved fashion – even more so when combined with a sense of purpose. Since becoming CEO in October 2020, Cooke has enjoyed “indulging more of my interest in small-scale, unique, heritage craft-type pieces”, she says.
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“I’m a big fan of small labels that are made in Melbourne or made in Australia, but I also really love a lot of small-scale social enterprise-type labels internationally,” Cooke tells Broadsheet. “I don’t think there’s much that I own anymore [that] doesn’t have an interesting story attached to it.”
What’s your definition of a good work wardrobe?
Practical but fun. I get a lot of joy from my clothes and like to think about the combination of prints, patterns and textures that I’m wearing, as well as repping garments and brands that align with my values. Comfy shoes are a must – I basically live in sneakers or my Henrik Vibskov black lace-ups – but I love a fancy sock, too!
What do you require from your clothes to be able to do your job properly?
Truthfully, my work wardrobe is very similar to what I wear out-of-hours. Nothing too precious and some key pieces that I can dress down or up according to the occasion. My “office” is an industrial working space combining a school and manufacturing studio with loads of people coming and going, so I need to be able to move around easily and jump from normal desk duties, to meeting with a funder, to staffing the store or installing an exhibition, without too much thought.
Do you have a go-to item in your wardrobe that you associate with a good or productive day at work?
I have a thing for blue workwear jackets, so no matter what I’m wearing I often find myself layering one of these over the top. I got my favourite one from a trip I made to Japan years ago. It’s falling apart so I keep repairing and patching it and it’s now almost like that grandfather’s axe paradox – how much can I replace of it before it becomes a completely different piece? Otherwise, if I’m going to an event or speaking publicly, I’ll generally wear one of our limited edition collaboration pieces (like this Kay Abude x Alpha60 dress) as these are always so special and give me lots to talk about.
What’s your most beloved item of clothing?
I’m lucky to still have a lot of my mum’s clothing from the ’70s and ’80s when we lived in Southeast Asia and had access to amazing tailors. And I have some vintage Jenny Kee and Flamingo Park knits that I adore. But the piece that means the most to me is probably this old tracksuit jacket of my big brother’s – he was a great swimmer as a kid and swam in competitions all over Asia. The jacket is covered in patches from his various wins, and it’s got his name embroidered across the front. It used to be my trademark jacket when I was in my twenties and it still fits me now. I don’t think I’ll ever let it go.
Do you have any favourite beauty products?
My mum has amazing skin and got me using Ella Bache products at an early age. I use their Spirulines moisturiser, serum and eye cream but, for cleanser, I tend to swap between a Mecca or Go-To cleansing oil, as well as daily sun cream. I hate the feeling of make-up on my skin, so I only use a Nars concealer very sparingly under the eyes, maybe a tinted BB cream and then a waterproof eyeliner. If I’m going out I’ll go for a bright red or orange lip, but otherwise I keep it simple with a Chanel gloss.
Thoughtful, Craft-Forward Brands Dewi Cooke Loves
**The Social Studio**
“I wear a lot of The Social Studio’s own label, and labels that we stock in-store like Melbourne brand Remuse or the awesome merch T-shirts from not-for-profit org Music in Exile.”
Norblack Norwhite & Injiri
“Generally I love pieces with a story to tell, either through heritage, craft, colour or technique, and I often look to India where there are so many brands doing incredible work with traditional printing and weaving techniques. Norblack Norwhite and Injiri are among my favourites in this space.”
“I also love the batik work and overall mission of Indonesian social enterprise Sukkha Citta, which works with women across villages in West Java to weave, dye and sew their clothes. They only use natural dyes and are also investing in regenerative farming to grow the cotton for their collections.”
Kids of Immigrants
“The social message of LA streetwear brand Kids of Immigrants, which honours the hopes and aspirations of immigrant families, really resonates – and they have great graphic design, too.”
This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.
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