July 2004

Martin Douglass Cooper

International Fashion Designer and Photographer

Martin Douglass Cooper, the third son of Dr. Noble P. Cooper and Carole J. Cooper, was born in Columbia, South Carolina on September 15, 1965. At an early age, he showed a fervent interest in art and realized that dentistry, the family business, was not for him. As a 1922 graduate of Pratt Institute with a fashion design degree, his paternal grandmother, Ada Sawyer Cooper, was a wellspring of guidance and inspiration. She taught her precocious grandson the first principle of fashion design: that the human body is three-dimensional.

From that early lesson, Cooper and his grandmother collaborated on design projects, including complete sportswear collections from day into evening. Cooper was educated at Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia. During his summer as a rising junior, his parents made it possible for him to attend the college-level summer fashion design program at Parsons School of Design in New York. That experience changed his life. In 1983, he moved to Manhattan to study fashion in Parsons’ Bachelor of Fine Arts program. His father’s advice upon that occasion, “If you are dedicated, disciplined, and tenacious about the next four years of college, you can play the rest of your life,” stressed the necessity to plant seeds made from sound choices and decisions to reap future rewards. Cooper took that adviceto heart. While at Parsons, Cooper was awarded the Norell Memorial Scholarship for Academic and Creative Excellence. His student work was placed in the university archives as a benchmark of excellence and traveled to Parsons-Japan as a teaching model.

During his senior year, Cooper’s critic was fashion great Calvin Klein, who later recruited Cooper to assist in designing his upcoming women’s wear collection. Cooper graduated magna cum laude from Parsons in 1987 and embarked on a brilliant career as a fashion designer, working for such outstanding labels as Calvin Klein and Burberry. Currently, he is Vice President for Design at Burberry, serving as a member of The Parsons School of Design’s Board of Governors and the President’s Board of Alumni Advisors for the New School University. He is also a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and is the recipient of Pratt Institute’s Creative Spirit Award for Design Excellence.

While traveling internationally, Cooper developed a parallel career in fine art photography. His projects have taken him into diverse worlds such as astronomy and ancient sports, always using the human form to express ideas that redefine the tradition of the genre. He created OrchisArts, his not-for-profit studio, to make contributions to breast cancer organizations that focus on patient’s welfare and care. His works have been exhibited and published internationally, including the Columbia Museum of Art (solo exhibition), the Henry Buhl Collection, the Beth Rudin Dewoody Collection, Bergdorf Goodman, Banana Republic, and numerous international public and private institutions. Cooper is a member of The Royal Photographic Society in England and is married to Karen Suen-Cooper, a luxury leather goods designer.