Fashion can tell stories but more importantly, it can be manipulated as a tool to recount our souvenirs and life experiences. Edvin Thompson, the creator of the Brooklyn-based label Theophilio, knows how to use it to share his valuable leanings and perspectives from his background. Theophilio is Thompson’s autobiography, from his early years spent in Jamaica to his current reality in the creative universe of Brooklyn. By sharing his point of view, he aims to connect with his community.
Born in Jamaica, Thompson spent his childhood in beautiful and diverse surroundings. Although the mainstream psyche has specific references when it comes to this culture, from “Bob Marley, jerk chicken, yellow, green and black,” he insists on the fact that “It is beyond that. The country is vast and full of diverse individuals.” As part of it, he is the vessel of one of the many subgroups nested in this multi-dimensional culture. Through his designs made under Theophilio, he is narrating his aspirations from his community with an approach that embraces various types of bodies and celebrating the sense of belonging to a diaspora, this way it is a label meant to be experienced.

For his Spring/Summer 2021 collection – named Migration – presented under the CFDA 360 initiative, Thompson got deeper into the search for identity as an immigrant. “I really wanted to dive in and initiate a conversation about the immigrant community, especially in this political climate,” he states. To explore this social position, he relied on his own experience – which can speak to people from diverse types of heritages. Although the pandemic has shaken up the fashion industry, he has managed to evolve and progress in such a complex context. It is truly exciting to see advancements made by designers. It is even more thrilling when they are using their labels are an extension of themselves – as creative Edvin Thompson is doing through Theophilio.
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Could you introduce yourself to those who don’t know your work yet?
My name is Edvin Thompson, I'm a Jamaican American designer of Theophilio, a contemporary clothing brand based in Brooklyn (New York City).
You are a Jamaican American designer, although your heritage is truly present in your visual aesthetic and designs, how would you say that it impacts your work and approach overall?
The depth of my inspiration(s) will always be Jamaica and how I can use my culture to be the bridge into many other cultures and communities. I feel many of us see Jamaica as Bob Marley, jerk chicken, yellow, green and black, but it is beyond that. The country is vast and full of diverse individuals. It is extremely important for me to share my cultural background through my designs and sometimes even my design process. The nostalgia from my younger years in Jamaica transcends over to many of the stories I share through my collections.
Your work is a blend of your early years in Jamaica and then the New York/Brooklyn influence that came later. Would you say that your label is a sort of autobiography? If so, does it allow you to connect with individuals with the same life trajectory?
Yes, I would consider my label an autobiography. It reminds me of my supporters and where they came from, specifically within the Caribbean community. We all still hold on to those memories from when we were a child.
Your designs are truly embracing different body shapes. While looking at the editorials involving your clothes, we can feel that the item adapts to the wearers themselves and not the other way round. Why is it important for you to respect inclusiveness when it comes to body types?
It is imperative that I showcase all body types through my design stories because it is reality. The world is filled with so many different shapes, sizes and colours. Why not celebrate that? Specifically in the fashion industry, this shouldn't even be discussed.
A certain gender fluidity can be felt in your designs. Is your intention to dismantle the perceptions of masculinity and femininity when it comes to Black bodies?
It is not necessarily my mission to dismantle any perceptions of masculinity or femininity. My mission is to initiate conversations and safe spaces that allow us to hear each other.
Speaking of Black bodies, the fashion industry has the annoying habit to manipulate them with no concern over the symbolism and representations. What would you like to see change on this specific matter? And how do you think your own work can contribute to these causes?
I would like to see actions towards change. There are so many trendy conversations about supporting and funding Black, but no tangible actions are being taken. I would like to see words put into action.
Your last show – your Spring/Summer 2021 collection – is named Migration, and it is also part of the CFDA Runway 360 initiative. What was the goal and message behind this?
Migration is an ode to my cultural background as an immigrant. I really wanted to dive in and initiate a conversation about the immigrant community, especially in this political climate. I feel immigrants in this country are not really seen as Americans. America was built on immigrants, so it’s a conversation I really wanted to propel and continue to discuss, specifically for the Black community. I think we share the same struggles as many other cultural diasporas. This collection was a visual stamp on the ideology behind Theophilio. Being a Jamaican designer and coming as an immigrant to achieve that American dream really pushed the validity of this collection. 
You established your label in Brooklyn, this area gathers a lot of talented creatives at the origin of impressive projects, from photographs to stylists, skills seem infinite. How do you navigate in this creative environment?
Brooklyn is a safe space for many creatives. I'm grateful enough to have the Brooklyn community champion my work ever since our initial release back in 2016. There is a sense of togetherness amongst many of the artists and creatives in Brooklyn.
The Covid pandemic makes everyone question their habits and lifestyles. As a designer what was the most challenging part for you? Also, on a more personal level, how are you dealing with this ‘new normal?
The most challenging thing for me during the pandemic was how I could scale my business while still practising sustainable solutions. Because of the support of my immediate community and my ambition as a creative, I was able to succeed in my business during the pandemic.
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