Edvin Thompson is the Jamaican-American designer behind the cult clothing brand, Theophilio (@theophilio), based in Brooklyn, New York. The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist spoke with In The Know ahead of his New York Fashion Week show about how he incorporates family and his homeland of Jamaica into his collections.
Thompson attributes his interest in clothing and textures to a group he and some friends founded during his freshman year of high school called “The Cool Kids Crew” that experimented with style. “One week we would be like, goth, and then the next week we would be ‘70s,” he explains.
He then discovered the site Tumblr, where he found infinite fashion inspiration and planted the seed that he could be a designer.
When it comes to his own creations for Theophilio, Thompson finds a wealth of inspiration from his childhood in Jamaica as well as the country itself. “Jamaica always specifically pops up in my collection with the colorways I choose. I feel like I own the colors green, red, yellow, and black,” he told In The Know.
And Thompson’s homeland inspiration is palpable. Trinidadian-born musician Theophilus London—whose name served as an inspiration for Thompson’s brand name—feels very connected to Thompson’s clothing and even felt compelled to reach out to him upon seeing it.
“It reminded me of all the iconography that I saw growing up in the Islands,” said London. “I was amazed, and I said, ‘Let me call him, let me reach out, let me send him my number.’ And we spoke about our childhoods and coming from dirt roads. The people that come out of those places are so regal, just like with a little bit of gold on their footprint, or just the silhouette of the hat, the smell, the food that’s cooking, the energy, the family. It’s what makes us dream as kids, it’s what makes us dream as adults.”
Thompson’s boyfriend DoQuan Hines, who is also a stylist at Theophilio, loves that Thompson pays homage to Jamaica with his designs and sees it as a significant and necessary contribution to the fashion world at large. “Him being a Jamaican designer is great because growing up for me and always loving fashion, I never had an example of that,” Hines tells In The Know. “I feel like a lot of times in America, they see Jamaican fashion as just red, yellow, and blue but there’s so much more to that.”
While Theophilio is a clothing brand, for Thompson it’s also a way for him to cultivate community. He recalls a formative trip to the Afropunk Festival in 2013 as a catalyst for finding and fostering a Black community. “That really changed everything,” Thompson says of the music festival. “I was like ‘I need to be around these people,’ because it was just so many beautiful Black people, and that was my first time seeing that since coming from Jamaica.”
Thompson explains that as a Black designer, his clothing brand gives him an opportunity to make a space for himself and the Black community to own their own stories and visions. “Many of our visions may be stagnant or delayed because of these spaces that we’re not invited to. And again that incites me creating a community around myself, really cultivating a safe space for us to champion each other,” he explains. “Rather than go, ‘Oh okay, that space is not gonna have us,’ we’re gonna create that for ourselves.”
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