Ben Copperwheat is an impossible-to-miss style star on New York’s streets. From head-to-toe, Copperwheat dons kaleidoscopic patterns and colors in such an audaciously idiosyncratic way, it makes stopping him to ask about his wardrobe choices seem practically mandatory. (And indeed, people do stop him often.) The most impressive part? Copperwheat will gladly tell you he screen-prints everything himself. And it’s all part of his new eponymous brand, launching Sunday, May 19, exclusively at Lady Fag’s Pop Souk event (scroll to the bottom of this post for more details).

After working as Calvin Klein’s head designer for five years, Copperwheat ventured out on his own in the fashion industry. Instead of working within the limitations of a large company’s palette and screen-printing products digitally, he returned to screen-printing by hand, a skill he mastered during his studies at London’s prestigious Royal College of Art.

Then, Copperwheat successfully produced five collections as the designer of COPPERWHEAT, an avant-garde menswear brand he created with his cousin Lee Copperwheat, a tailor. In September 2011, the cousins decided to go separate ways and Ben built his own brand from scratch.

Copperwheat designs many one-of-a-kind pieces, mixing and matching various prints and hues, even screen-printing a different pattern from the front of the item onto the back. And for those inclined to avoid wearing prints, Copperwheat also incorporates his design aesthetic for interior-friendly works including wallpaper, fine art and accessories like tote bags.

How would you describe your style?

My style has really evolved. When I was younger, I went through a grunge phrase, and before that I was a metal head. It wasn’t until I was in college when I started wearing prints. Now in New York, I’m always wearing something of mine, something printed or brightly colored. I never wear black. I get a lot of interest on the streets. That’s how people are in New York—they’ll ask you about what you’re wearing. Some designers don’t necessarily reflect what they make, but that’s not true for me. What I wear does reflect what I do.




How did Ben Copperwheat the brand come into fruition?

When my cousin Lee and I had set up COPPERWHEAT, we realized we had very different ideas. It wasn’t a sustainable brand, and it turned into kind of a headache. Where I’m at now with Ben Copperwheat is very sustainable. I’m starting out small, just enough to sustain myself and pay my rent, and I’ve been building it up slowly from there. I print everything myself by hand, and I sell my products directly, too. So far I’ve gotten a lot of interest, and it’s growing.

Why does printmaking click with you?

Well, I really started off trained in the fine arts on paper, but I got really into silkscreening and the textile side of printing later in college. When I print, I love to play with repetition and colors. I find it gives me a lot of energy, and it’s a time I find myself the most clearheaded. Printmaking can change all the time, really. I like that about it.




You have a masters’ degree in printed textiles. Are you doing anything differently now than what you learned in London?

I’m actually going back to more of what I did in college. When I was there, it was very raw and experimental. My work has gone back to being more hands-on, and now I can print onto anything. Since I’m doing everything myself, it is challenging, but in other ways it’s great. I can get my head into it and enjoy my work.

A lot of your work has hearts. Why is that?

The hearts came about when I did my project for Susanne Bartsch and Patricia Field’s Valentine’s Day Ball this year. I thought of doing something with cupid and an arrow, but I decided that was cheesy. Then, I fell in love with the idea of doing repeating hearts. It was light—a simple idea with a very pure concept. There are so many negative things in the world, so this became a fresh, positive thing to put out there.




Photos courtesy of Ben Copperwheat