Teen Vogue

Designer Akili Cooper has twice as many shows as years on his license

Akili Cooper (JAHI) can attribute his start in fashion to just trying to find the fun part of a homework assignment.

Back in sixth grade, before he’d go on to graduate from the local Arts and College Prep Academy (ACPA), a group social studies project called for Akili to do all the drawing when conjuring the looks of people from medieval times.

He only needed to draw two; instead, he came up with five.

With his teacher’s encouragement—and magazines from her personal collections—Akili fueled his newfound passion for fashion by creating roughly 200 sketches, work that would  ultimately lead to his first show., which would debut when he was only 16 years old.

The next show coming down the line for Cooper will open this month—and it’s his 50th (!) since that first show  back before he could attend prom. Here we’ll give you a preview of the work you’ll catch at Encore (Westin Hotel, 5/21), and a little more about what fuels his creative engine:

Inspiration: In addition to his teacher, he credits his mother… and the Spice Girls and their outfits.

Resume/Skills: Learned how to sew in a pajama-making class. Made his first dress in 2009 at age 15, and had his first fashion show a year later. His third fashion show was for Fashion Week Columbus.

Prize Design: Current Rose Garden collection, because when he first started he was never inspired by abstract concepts. The inspiration behind the collection is a mix between the Park of Roses and the “dark side of a beautiful relationship.”

Philosophy: “To be honest, I haven’t picked up a Vogue or Harper’s magazine at all this year. I just look at what women are doing naturally, in real life.”

Advice: “It’s not what you wanna do when you get older, it’s what you wanna do now.” (A tip from his high school principal.)

Mantra: “Learn how to sew; learn how to draw; read fashion books. Be yourself with fashion.”