Bernard Koomson doesn’t think he’s creative, but everything about him suggests otherwise. As the programmer for style and culture festival Bread and Butter, and co-founder of the globetrotting audiovisual collective deadHYPE, it’s safe to say that his innovative outlook on fashion is just one of his many creative qualities. Koomson’s approaches his three passions from a similar perspective. “I like to DJ, I like to cook and I like to wear clothes. I take different ingredients and add them together in cooking; in DJing I mix different tracks, and I put different clothes together.” Like any good DJ or chef, in regard to style, his skill lies in pulling from an ever expanding pool of references, which range from Korn to Casper (the friendly ghost). Although Koomson counts Tupac as his primary style icon, it’s clear that he has honed in on an aesthetic that is 100% his own. Koomson was kind enough to let SLEEK into his closet, where he shared with us the stories behind some of his favourite pieces.
It all started with sneakers. Now in his late 20s, Koomson remembers his teenage years writing on Nike Talk with people like Highsnobiety founder, David Fischer. Though sneakerhead culture has captured mainstream attention in recent years, back then, it was a subculture Koomson felt part of. Working in shoe stores in and around London, including Offspring in Covent Garden, his footwear fascination grew. Koomson’s keen eye and wealth of knowledge made him a successful reseller; he bought and resold so he could buy again. Even as a kid, Koomson remembers being “really particular” with his mother about what he wanted to wear, specifying style and colour before they even arrived at the store. His relentless specificity in regard to what he wears is the foundation of his next-level personal style. Today, Koomson considers himself over the sneaker hype culture, but still has an enviable collection to commemorate his years as a sneakerhead.
At just 20 years old, Koomson left England for an internship at the headquarters his all time favourite brand, Adidas. He describes himself as a genuine Adidas “fanboy” who then suddenly landed his dream job. “I was super gassed to be there. It was almost unhealthy!”And rightly so — not everyone gets to meet Kanye West as an intern. There’s no doubt Koomson’s veritable stoke helped him shine at work, landing a job in digital marketing at Adidas in Amsterdam. Having never visited the city, the young Brit boarded a plane and started a new life in the Dutch city, where he lived for 5 years. Although Koomson now has a different place of work, his Berlin closet features a rainbow of Adidas tracksuits that pay tribute to his past. The best part about moving on from Adidas? Getting to wear Nike.
Between then and now, Koomson has changed cities and jobs, but his dedication to his project, deadHYPE has been unwavering. Although he refers to audio-visual as “a really strong hobby”, it’s clear that it’s as much Koomson’s career as anything else. “We do music, radio, DJing, VJing and live events,” Koomson explains. “We work with different people in different cities, across different platforms, we’ve even worked with the Dutch Government”. His propensity for combining sound and music doesn’t stop there. Koomson has a wealth of deadHYPE related material to share: logos, T-shirts and even a self-designed jacket, to commemorate their recent tour in Asia. “I had never seen lava on clothes before,” he tells us. “So I designed this jacket with that print. Then we added patches and flags for every country we visited.” Many of Koomson’s clothes relate directly to his experiences and come with verifiable backstories. This one-of-a kind approach to his garments is a lingering theme in his beloved pieces. If he owns something that isn’t perfect for his style or his body, he’ll figure out how to make it that way.
Many of the items Koomson showed to SLEEK featured his own alterations or additions. Highlights include a neoprene scuba jacket (from a military store), which he added a self-made patch to, overall ski pants which he spent weeks taking the lining out of, a matching black denim jacket and trouser with acid-brown, hand painted bleach streaks and a keychain devised from some pieces of his own hair. Koomson insists he doesn’t have “production skill”, but on seeing his clothes, it’s clear his imagination and resourcefulness reap altogether new designs. When asked if he’s ever thought about creating his own line, he replies, “I’ve definitely thought about it. But I would never want to make clothes for one kind of person.” Although ironically, that’s exactly what he’s ended up doing, by making clothing for himself.
Like any true style icon, Koomson’s closet is also filled with some exceptionally rare pieces. His limited edition NBA jacket by Jeff Hamilton and vintage korean moto-jacket with hand painted flames are like fashion trophies awarded to him and him only. Koomson says he really only buys things when he needs them and when he does buy, he plans for long term use (proven by his once brown, now black NBA jacket). That’s one thing which aligns him more with Berlin than Amsterdam, where he feels people “dress more clean and sharp”. “Berlin has a really gritty style, it’s authentic and not fabricated. I find that really beautiful actually,” says Koomson. Since moving to the German capital, Koomson acknowledges a bit of a shift in his own dress. When asked how he’s changed, Koomson replied with a smile, “I definitely wear more leather”.