Rebecca Hessel Cohen had that job a million girls would kill for–a spot as the senior fashion and beauty editor at Cosmopolitan magazine–when she decided it was time to pursue a different dream: working for herself as a stylist and fashion consultant.
Around the same time she left Cosmo, Cohen also got married. After looking everywhere for the perfect bridesmaids dresses to no avail, she ended up designing her own. The response to the dresses was so positive, though, that Cohen started selling them in trunk shows and small boutiques. She figured she was on to something, and turned her attention to her dresses full time. Which is how her romantic, bohemian, beach-y line, LoveShackFancy, was born.
Since then, Cohen’s line has hung in stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Free People, Calypso St. Barth, and Blue and Cream, and has been worn by celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow. Yesterday, she was also featured in the New York Times’ Style Section.
Here, Cohen tells us about her job as Cosmo, the decision to start her own company, the best career advice she’s received, and more.
YOUR COMPANY STARTED WHEN YOU DECIDED TO DESIGN YOUR OWN BRIDESMAIDS DRESSES. WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THAT?
I was getting married a few years ago and couldn’t find bridesmaid dresses for my girls – nothing felt right. I wanted the girls to have a romantic sensibility – the dresses needed to be ethereal, bohemian and sexy at at the same time. It was so important that the girls felt great and looked beautiful – I wanted them to have dresses they could really dance in, and then keep wearing again after the wedding. I had a very specific vision!
Essentially for me it was all about creating silk chiffon gowns that would blow in the wind and move while the girls walked down the aisle, and danced the night away! I wanted them to feel beach-y but also be black tie. I created my own dresses with a pattern maker in New York City, and bought an assortment of muted pastel-colored silk fabric that we mixed and matched with the eight dresses. So that’s how it all started! I had so many requests for friends of friends to buy the dresses, so I made a few more and then all the bridesmaids started lending their dresses to friends. I even wore one of them to my friend’s wedding a month later. They were magical. I knew we were onto something!
WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO TURN THE IDEA INTO A FULL-BLOW BUSINESS?
It happened overnight, I didn’t really have a master plan! I started going to the garment district and buying fabrics to make dresses for friends, and then I had a few trunk shows out in the Hamptons during the summer of 2012 when I was still at Cosmopolitan. I basically sold the dresses out of the trunk of my car – and got an amazing reaction.
My first store was WellNest in Sag Harbor. They were so supportive. They ordered in the beginning of the summer and then placed a reorder. We did a trunk show there over a weekend and then extended it for a few weeks. After that, I started researching sales showrooms and by December I had joined The Globe sales showroom in New York and LA. I figured I would give it a try and see if I could really start a business based on this one magical dress.
The idea was to take this one maxi dress – and then to design a small collection of effortless pieces that are perfect for travel and work to complement the dress. They are all very bohemian chic pieces – seasonless and very versatile. Pieces you always want to wear.
THE DESIGN OF YOUR DRESSES IS VERY SPECIFIC. WHAT INSPIRED THE STYLE?
I am a true beach girl at heart. It’s my happy place. I love wearing resort clothes all year round – just layering them up so that they can easily transition from the beach to the city. I wear silk mini skirts all year long, but in New York will pair them with tights, boots, and blazers or oversize sweaters. I have spent the last 10 years traveling all over the world for work and for fun – so I love the idea of having a no fuss wardrobe that can be taken with you all over the world.
Simple silhouettes that can go from beach to city, despite the weather. Pieces that you can roll into a ball and easily pack in your suitcase and no matter what, you feel put together in a very effortlessly chic way. Bohemian and sexy. Ive spent several summers wearing nothing besides my halter maxi dresses. Now I mix it up with all my separates – but they all have a similar vibe.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN FASHION LINE? WHAT DO YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS?
Everything! From production to merchandising to sales – it’s a whole new world! Very challenging and very rewarding. It’s so much more work than I ever imagined though, I worked nonstop throughout my whole pregnancy while I was launching the company. And when it’s your own you can never stop working!
PRIOR TO LAUNCHING YOUR LINE, YOU WERE THE SENIOR FASHION AND BEAUTY EDITOR AT COSMOPOLITAN. THAT SOUNDS LIKE A DREAM JOB! WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
I was responsible for styling our fashion, beauty and cover shoots and I also covered a few markets. I produced and creative directed my shoots – so it was always a fun challenge.
Every month it was something different, and so extremely rewarding after we had a great shoot! I traveled all over the world – the mountains of St. Moritz, the canals of Venice, a private island in Belize, St. Barths, Tulum, Rome, Costa Rica – the list goes on! Like everyone else in magazines, I started with many internships in the fashion closet and worked my way up! It was my life, I was totally devoted. I was constantly styling and producing shoots – so I was on the road a lot.
It was great but I essentially lived out of a suitcase for years. I worked with so many incredible people though – all of the editors, photographers, models, celebrities, hair and makeup artists etc. I miss everyone!
HOW DID YOUR TIME AS A FASHION EDITOR PREPARE YOU FOR YOUR CAREER AS A DESIGNER?
It really taught me about hard work and dedication, and how to visualize ideas by expressing them with clothes. I also worked with a lot of celebrities – who are not models, and very opinionated about what they wear – so it helped me to see what people respond to.
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU WERE VERY SUCCESSFUL IN YOUR OLD FIELD. WHAT MADE YOU ULTIMATELY DECIDED TO SWITCH CAREERS?
I was planning to continue consulting and styling and also start my own line – I thought I could do it all. This is how it started when I first left Cosmo, but I never realized what a full-time job having your own line would become. When I left Cosmo I was just ready for a change. I devoted all my time and energy to my job at the magazine, and I felt like I should devote that much time to my own business. After more than eight years working in magazines, it felt like a good time to try something else and most importantly, start my own business.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE THE BEST PART OF BEING A BUSINESS OWNER?
I’ve always enjoyed working hard, and its very gratifying working hard for your own business. Also, it’s great that I can make my own schedule and spend more time with my family. My husband and my daughter, Scarlett (she is now 9 months old) definitely appreciate it! Otherwise I would always be traveling on shoots!
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED SO FAR?
Being resourceful and a go getter can get you a long way!
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN LOOKING TO LAUNCH A FASHION LINE, OR START ANY BUSINESS?
Put in your hours and stay focused and dedicated! It’s not an easy industry to get into so if you have the opportunity, start early on and stay motivated. And don’t every think you are too good for anything. Everyone starts at the bottom and works their way up. You will ultimately be respected more for that!
WHAT STYLE WORDS DO YOU LIVE BY?
“Fashion changes, but style endures.” -Coco Chanel