Life is a Circus

Iconoclast Murphy Cooper is Creating His Own Fashion

For the Montreal “contextual artist,” upcycling old clothes is an integral part of marching to his own drum.

Murphy Cooper is many things: a hip hop poet, a self-professed contextual artist, a pure iconoclast, and – perhaps to his surprise – a fashion trend-setter. In 2021, he made Cult Montreal’s list of Best-Dressed Montrealers, a distinction he is sure to have shrugged his bemused shoulders at, as a person dedicated to rejecting categorization of any kind.

In many ways, Cooper’s idiosyncratic approach to fashion is part of the ongoing work of performance art that is his life. Cooper is an “upcycler” who refuses to buy new clothes. Instead, he prowls the bins of second-hand clothing stores for items that he re-purposes to his own ends. Professing that we live in a great time for thrift shoppers, Cooper emblazons his recycled clothing with messages that question authority and existing social structures. The result is a fashion style that is unique, and entirely his own.

There are undoubtedly environmental advantages to recycling old clothes, but Cooper refuses to endorse these. Ever a non-conformist, Cooper believes that boasting about eco-consciousness in any form is just another way for bourgeois society to flatter and promote itself.

Instead, every aspect of his style and performance is intended to underline how the individual can create a persona and role in the world that is intentional, unconventional, and ultimately in a new category of their own. Choosing, preserving old clothes, and repurposing them in a way perhaps unimagined by their original designers, is part of an ongoing act of personal and social re-invention.

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