Dutch Fashion Designer Explains Bill Cosby’s Infamous Sweaters

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 30 2012 1:01 PM

The Man Behind the Cosby Sweater

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Fashion designer Koos van den Akker with one of his original Cosby sweaters

YouTube/Vice

Among Bill Cosby’s many achievements—the comedy albums, the TV shows, the advanced degrees (honorary and otherwise)—one cannot ignore his singular contribution to fashion: the Cosby sweater. Made famous on The Cosby Show in the 1980s, the distinctive garments have inspired multiple websitesblogs, and even events dedicated to their loud, zany patterns.

Happily, Vice has now introduced us to the man behind the sweaters, Dutch fashion designer Koos van den Akker, who showed the magazine around his New York City workroom. (The Cosby-related material starts around the 2-minute mark.)

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Van den Akker, who was trained in Paris at Christian Dior, explains that all of the sweaters he designed for Cosby were “one-of-a-kind.” Despite a seemingly anything-goes fashion zeitgeist in the ’80s, van den Akker’s patterns met with astonishment. “When I did this, there was nothing like that around,” he says. “They said, ‘What the fuck is that?’” The designer goes on to detail how he came to work with Cosby, the fabrics he likes to use, and his creative process.

Van den Akker comes off as wonderfully self-aware about his creations: “This is a very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius,” he says. And his lack of humility is oddly charming. (The term “genius” is thrown around throughout the interview.) And why not boast a little? The funky look he created apparently won’t be going out of style anytime soon.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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