As we continue to honour the women who make the world a better place, this week we turn our focus to the fire haired maven, Nicola Cooper. For as long as I have been working on the fringes of the cool kids of fashion, she has been in the spotlight gently guiding the way for the rest of us to follow. We touched base long enough between trend talks to go beyond the daily mantras and insightful articles to learn more about what drives her.
If you had to choose a McBealísh ‘theme song’ that best summed up who you are, what would it be?
Rebel Rebel – David Bowie. Sometimes I dance around my house with my hairy child, aptly named Bowie with the genius of Sir David blasting, it is something to witness.
What has been your career path to becoming one of SA’s leading Trends Forecaster and Fashion Influencer?
My career has been extremely diverse with strong underlying threads – People, Cultures (mainstream, sub or counter) and Identity.
From studying hard, writing my thesis on Tattoos as marks of Identification in South African music subcultures, to working in street/skate wear for a decade, On Air Producer for MTV Base, back into fashion, later honing my skills as a Trend Analyst through lecturing and building the Historical Fashion Studies, Fashion Media and Trend curriculum at LISOF all the while doing extra work on the side and, then, of course working with another Mentor, Dion Chang as the Head of Lifestyle and Pop Culture at Flux Trends. I have never shied away from hard work, learning new skills or adapting to a new role and I have learnt quickly from my mistakes.
I have also not let money drive my career path.
For example, when I chose to work for MTV I took a ten thousand rand pay cut, but what I gained by being trained in the MTV Europe head office and working on the largest pop culture, music and lifestyle brand in the world (at that time) was worth every cent. I walked away after years a richer person in every way.
It is so lovely to look back and say I have had the right mindset, a strong work ethic and the support, patience and advice of industry leaders whom I learned as much as I could from.
What was the last thing you ate?
Fresh Strawberries – my penultimate weakness – they are my drug of choice.
Sitting on an 18-hour international flight, who is the one person (living or dead) that you want to meet sitting next to you?
How do you pick one! I just can’t
From a fashion perspective – Iris Van Herpen, I think she is an absolute genius driving the mindset of the future of fashion through her materials, her approach, her aesthetic and her beautiful mind.
From a business perspective – Dr John Demartini, I became a Demartini advocate when I was introduced to him via a great friend of mine and read his book ‘How to Make One Hell Of A Profit And Still Get To Heaven’ which literally changed my life, my concept of work and money. So much so, any one I take on for mentorship is required to purchase and read the book.
From a trend perspective – Faith Popcorn, besides having the most rock ‘n roll name, I love her observations. We think very alike and I may want to be her when I grow up.
My list could go on from Rihanna to Madonna, to Bowie, from Heston Blumenthal to Stephen Hawking and Anais Nin, from Damien Hurst to Alexander McQueen, but I think the biggest commonality of them all is their unique perspectives on their area of focus, the ability to see and approach something from a completely new and exciting space, pushing the boundaries as they go. I love people who just break the stereotype and challenge perceived normality.
Those are the people that bring me life.
What is your favourite app of the moment?
Apart from the usual suspects like Instagram and VSCO, my daily fix of Vice News, my favourite app at present is MyFitnessPal, I have been on a strict eating plan and exercise regime, this is my go to every day and all day at the moment.
They say summer bodies are made in winter and healthy bodies create healthy minds…here’s hoping.
Jo’burg or Cape Town?
Whenever I am asked where I live I state somewhere over the Karoo in the air. I would have to pick both as I tend to ping pong between, each city has its beauties and its flaws, diversity of people and places. I love them for their differences and their similarities, their ‘beauty’ and they’re ‘ugly’.
What is the one piece of advice you would give yourself right now?
My daily advice is, always keep your side of the street clean. I live by this simple philosophy and it really assists me in making my mind up on responses/issues, as well as business and personal relationships.
Who is the one person who has had the most impact on your career?
Again besides my family – who are insanely supportive and proud. My long term Mentor, renowned, Fashion Theorist & African Studies Scholar, Erica De Greef.
I have always said that I can attest a lot of who I am today to her. Her support, guidance, intelligence, wisdom and love go beyond mentorship.
Dion Chang – as a trend guru, a businessman and known personality. As much as I know I had about my area of expertise and trends, I did not ‘come out’ as a trend analyst until I felt I had earned the title. Dion pushed me to deliver my first ‘Open Session’ for Flux Trends after me working with him and researching for Flux for a while.
Beyond that, his personal and business advice as a well-respected personality has been invaluable.
To have the ability to get to know, work and engage with someone you admire and respect and for that person to have faith in you and your abilities is something I will never forget. Also, he is just such a lovely Gent.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
A little older, a little wiser and hopefully, a little richer.
But seriously, I am working on some incredible projects, which will grow Nicola Cooper & Associates financially, and some which have such profound collateral for my personal career and what I hope will be my contribution to critical thinking around South African fashion and constructs or deconstructs of identity.
Somehow you discovered a bag with ten thousand rands, what would you do with it?
I would likely travel, it is something that I genuinely love and for many, including myself, such a luxury that I never take exploring a new place or new people for granted.
To be able to travel and explore on my own time and not for work would be such a welcome indulgence.