Edvin Thompson of Theophilo is a Brooklyn-based fashion designer whose Jamaican heritage forms the underlying basis of his brand. Since his love for fashion developed early on in high school Thompson became eager to learn everything he could about fashion. Upon moving to the Big Apple, he has never let go of the cultural influence of his Jamaica, his birth nation. Each collection he produces references the island's flag.
Staying true to himself and his heritage has led him to win the CFDA award for American Emerging Designer of The Year for 2021. For Thompson's Spring 2022 runway show, he drew inspiration from island's national air carrier, Air Jamaica. It was the first aircraft he took when immigrating to America from the West Indian isle. His Spring 2023 collection, titled “Homecoming,” was an homage to himself traveling back home to Kingston, Jamaica while also celebrating his life in the U.S.
Though he now resides Stateside, he’ll always be a Kingston boy at heart. According to Thompson, his line, Theophilio, is a wearable autobiography of his lived experiences in this country. Check out his backstory below.
EBONY: Tell us a little bit about your heritage and background
Edvin Thompson: I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. My entire family is Jamaican. When I was 9 years old, my grandmother, mother, siblings, and I moved to New Jersey where we lived for 8 years. Then, in 2010 my entire family, including my father, moved to Atlanta, where we lived for 4 years. Atlanta is where I completed high school. An online class with the Academy of Art University based in San Francisco prompted my move to New York in 2014, where I now currently live.
How did you get into design?
Fashion design has always been a part of my life but after my online class with the Academy of Art University, I wanted to gain a more hands-on learning experience in fashion design. I had hoped to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but was unable to at the time due to my financial standing. I was fortunate enough to gain mentors during this time that supported my desire to enter the industry. I began interning with various photographers, stylists and brands. Internships with Amanda Uprichard and Gypsy Sport allowed me to obtain access to a variety of resources: fabric stores, cutting rooms and tailors. These internships acted as a pillar to learning more about the fashion industry.
How has your Jamaican heritage informed your designs?
My Jamaican heritage has informed everything from my fabrications to my colors to my silhouettes. Denim is the fabric used heavily throughout my designs and I remember fondly when my mom would dress my siblings and me up in distressed denim and denim shorts with trucker jackets. Jersey is another fabric I often gravitate towards; it’s reminiscent of basketball sets and netted shirts us kids used to wear on the island. Growing up, my aunts and grandmother were the ones who sewed my school uniforms. Even from a young age, I was always conscious of how clothes functioned and how they made me feel.
Tell us about your latest collection.
My latest collection, "Homecoming, is a love letter to Jamaica and a celebration of the urban cities I lived in since moving to the United States. Theophilio is a wearable autobiography making every collection a collection of my lived experiences. Ahead of the debut of the collection, my team and I were able to take a beautiful trip back home to Jamaica to shoot an editorial that coincided with the message of the larger collection.
What challenges have you faced as an international designer?
As an international designer, one of the greatest challenges I face is raising funding. I didn’t have any capital to start my brand. My very early projects and collections were funded by every penny I saved working previous jobs. I am extremely grateful for the mentors and support I have in building the business to where it is today but I still think the industry needs to make a continued effort to support emerging designers and Black-owned businesses.