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Daily Inspiration: Meet Coco Johnsen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Coco Johnsen.

Hi Coco, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I was born and raised in North Carolina and spent most of my childhood in foster homes, moving to an orphanage when I was 12 years old. After high school, I moved to New York and was discovered on a subway by a model scout and was signed to Elite Models. I modeled for several magazines such as Swedish Elle, Essence, Vibes, etc., and worked in Sweden, Denmark, South Africa, and South Africa. I was fortunate to work with renowned photographers like Peter Beard, David La Chapelle with whom I modeled with Jay Z for the VH1 Awards campaign. I appeared in several music videos and worked with film director Brett Ratner. I later moved to Los Angeles when Hugh Hefner invited me to appear as one of the first Playboy Cybergirl Centerfolds and I also appeared in the Playboy 50th Anniversary issue. After several years as a model, I decided to return to school and was accepted at the prestigious Fashion Institute Of Design (F.I.D.M) and became a fashion designer. I was invited by IMG director Fern Mallis to show my first collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Los Angeles and I am still designing today. I am enjoying the opportunity to run my own company although it has been very challenging during Covid 19 Pandemic.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Becoming a fashion designer has had its challenges. It is often difficult to find funding for minority small business owners, but during the pandemic, I have been pleased to see more awareness around the issues of equities often faced by minority women. I also believe that if we had more mentors who have already been through the same struggles they could give business counseling and assistance with securing funding, writing business plans, etc. it would be a great help. I have struggled to find my way into understanding the business side of fashion and I spent years just trying to figure out which wholesale trade show my brand should be featured at and if I had the proper mentor, this process would have been a lot smoother.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am an entrepreneur and fashion designer and the creative director of my lifestyle brand Coco Johnsen. The Coco Johnsen collections consistently communicate authentic messages of women empowerment. We believe that women can do anything and that we can work together with our community to ensure that women feel supported in all aspects of our lives. We hope in the future to be able to provide clothing to underprivileged women’s organizations that provide clothing and accessories to women returning to work after the Covid 19 pandemic. The Coco Johnsen collection is manufactured in Los Angeles and we are a Made In The USA brand. At Coco Johnsen we believe in a sustainable world and strive to use environmentally friendly materials in our design process. Whenever possible we use close-out lot fabrics and do not work with harsh fabric dyes. The Coco Johnsen collections are feminine, colorful yet powerful. The unique pieces are meant to be integrated with each other to create a unique polished yet balanced look. Coco Johnsen collections are modern yet I use a retro-inspired approach while focusing on sustainable fabrics and extra attention shown to craftsmanship and fit. Coco Johnsen has designed for Megan Fox, Tyra Banks, Mariah Carey, Paula Patterson, Garcelle Beauvais, Christina Milan to name a few. My editorial work has appeared in Vogue Uk, Harper Bazaar, L’Officiel, GQ, Fantastics, Paper Magazine, Arise Magazine, Glamour UK, WWD, Apparel News

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Growing up the way I did in foster care and an orphanage was difficult and I was a very shy girl. I have always been different and was bullied a lot by other girls in school. I was never the girl that had a lot of friends because I have moved around to different schools a lot and I was also teased because I was very skinny, tall, and awkward-looking which I now know were the looks in the making of a model. I was interested in classic movies and I loved looking at all the make-up, hair, and beautiful gowns. I was teleporting myself through movies to another world away from all of the pain of having no parents or home. I realized as a child that I needed to study hard and create an independent life for myself. I was about 7 years old when I really started to sew little dresses for my barbie dolls and because I was poor and I couldn’t afford fabric I would use recycled Salvation Army T-shirts or discarded vintage dresses that I fashioned into glamourous miniature gowns. I never dreamed that I could make my dream come true and actually become a designer but I did and I am proud of myself for never quitting.

Pricing:

  • Dresses (200-450)
  • Gown (1,500-3,400)
  • Bridal Gowns (2,000-5,600)

Contact Info:

  • Email: cocojohnsen@icoud.com
  • Website: www.cocojohnsen.com
  • Instagram: @cocojohnsen
  • Facebook: coco.johnsen
  • Twitter: cocojohnsen
  • Youtube: coco Johnsen


Image Credits:

Jeff Linett, Ron Contarsy

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