︎ INTERVIEW: CHARLI COHEN
Fashion designer Charli is the mastermind behind the self-titled, technical fashion brand Charli Cohen.
The brand was conceived from the core principles of sustainability and transparency, melting high-performance fabrics with a high-fashion approach to design.
Building upon the brand’s established values has allowed Charli Cohen to remain grounded in innovation and outspokenness, all the while maintaining a closeness to the current cultural climate.
Charli Cohen’s design principles as a technical fashion brand were born from a need to evolve clothing, seeing movement and style as synonymous. The careful balance between the two is what allows CC to translate advanced performance technology into contemporary fashion for both men and women.
Alongside CC's commitment to sustainability, through the sourcing of materials from Milan and production in Leicester, Porto, and Shanghai, the brand has established a mental health awareness initiative - Shades of Blue.
Cortex spoke with the visionary fashion designer about success, work ethic and advice for aspiring designers:
So, you were recently featured on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list for Retail & E-commerce - congratulations on that! Have you always envisioned you’d reach this level of success?
I’m very single minded and as much as this business seems impossible at times, I hold on to a deep-rooted belief that I can grow it into something big (albeit not as quickly as I’d like). I’ve always set extreme goals for myself - most of which I’m still working on. A spot on ‘30 Under 30’ has been on my bucket list for a long time but as something so outside my control, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it - it’s genuinely one of the pinnacle moments of my life so far!
Can you explain your first memories of fashion and what the initial pull was to the industry?
It’s a cliché but as far back as I can remember I really loved fashion and styling - putting together looks from pieces I owned or sketching looks and designs I wanted to own. If I couldn’t quite find what I was after in stores, I’d buy the most similar thing available and customise it. The fashion industry was also something that combined both business and art - that really appealed to me because I wanted to make cool things but I also wanted to make money. This is the 4-year-old that used to try to sell her crayon drawings to her parents.
It’s safe to say you have an incredible work ethic, where does this drive come?
No plan B! I’m doing the one job that allows me to explore everything I’m most passionate about, so I have to make it work and I have to make it grow.
You started your fashion line straight out of uni, what was this transition like and how did you overcome the pressure of securing a stable job?
I honestly don’t think it was a pressure that I ever experienced - as stupid as it sounds, growing up in a family of business owners I didn’t even realise a stable job was an option for a large portion of my childhood! So there was never that conditioning - if anything there was much more pressure to do my own thing! By the time I’d finished uni I had run two small fashion brands and two consultancy businesses (one in fitness and one in digital marketing), so CC felt like a logical progression. I view everything prior to CC as my practice run!
It seems that you naturally combine your personal interests within your brand, do you believe that staying true to yourself is what brings success and if not success, fulfilment at least?
Both! Most people are multidisciplinary. I think if you’re put into a box where you only get to explore one part of that, it can be really stifling. If you explore everything to see where it goes and how it can cross over, you’re likely to get a more special end result and a clearer USP - as well as greater fulfilment.
Do you see your brand as an extension of your personality?
100%. There isn’t really a line between me and the brand - that goes for values, aesthetic, tone of voice... In the past that may have prevented a brand from scaling but now, with the appetite for brand transparency and for a point of view that goes beyond just product, I see it as an advantage.
You’re a great role model for aspiring designers and beyond, as well as females in entrepreneurship, what advice would you give to young women in pursuit of careers in the creative arts?
Aw thank you! First of all, don’t let your end goal intimidate you - you’re going to learn so much along the way and evolve greatly as both a creative and a businessperson. The challenges get bigger but you become more and more ready for them. Stay true to your vision because it’s what makes you, you and your output yours. Take advice on board that fits with your vision and pass on advice that doesn’t - it can feel like you need to please everyone but not every suggestion is going to be right for you, even when it’s coming from an expert. Learn to trust your gut instincts.
What’s next for Charli Cohen?
We’re just about to embark on a two year partnership with Reebok, which is extremely exciting - so there’s definitely footwear in our very near future, plus some really cool activations to look forward to. I’m also in the process of building our new platform, Shades of Blue. This will be an initiative run through the CC brand, to raise awareness around mental illness and endemic issues within the creative industries that contribute to poor mental health.
Interview by Reuben Selby