A Conversation with Stephanie Danan of CO

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By Jack Stephens

This is an episode of an ongoing series of MINT interviews at Neiman Marcus.

MINT: What was your background before you got started in fashion?

Stephanie Danan: Well, I actually started in the movie business. I made movies for twenty years in Hollywood before I transitioned into fashion. I did have some fashion experience because my family was in it, so I knew it quite well. My partner and I started to do a small collection in 2011, and we made a film to go along with the collection, which got seen online by a lot of people. The stores started calling us and that’s how we started.

MINT: That’s very interesting because a lot of people talk about large fashion houses and how they maintain a monopoly on fashion and what the people and stores buy…how they set the trends. But it sounds like you came up in a grassroots, avant garde kind of way. Do you see your method as a trend, or are you an anomaly?

Stephanie Danan: I just think this idea that there is only one way to get to something is not true. There are so many different ways to get to where you want to go, and in terms of fashion, art, or film, a good story is a good story. Whether you prefer to tell that story through a screenplay, a collection, or a painting, it’s all the same. You are trying to convey an emotional experience.

MINT: That’s really interesting. Since you made a film that was disseminated online, how do you feel like the role of technology as far as marketing has been incorporated in fashion today?

Stephanie Danan: What’s really changed is the speed and how quickly people want the new things, which puts a lot of pressure on fashion and definitely changed the landscape that way. That’s why we try to create classic pieces which have nothing to do with the trends. We aim to create timeless fashion.

MINT: Based on your background working in films, how do you see that inspiration in your clothes or how you define the line?

Stephanie Danan: In terms of films, I studied drama and dramatic storytelling, so I think there is a bit of that in our clothes. There is a dramatic impact, whether a sleeve or an embellishment. But we’re also staying quite simple and trying to stand for the experience as well.

MINT: I really like your idea of everything having to tell a story. For someone who works in publishing, we always try to incorporate that as well. Do you think you could tell me first a story about any challenges you faced at the beginning of the company?

Stephanie Danan: We started in our living room. We had no money. We lived and breathed our work. We gave 100% of ourselves into the experience, which was quite challenging. We had to work really hard to get to a place where we were able to show the collection to the store and deliver on time. The whole process of the cycle of fashion is very challenging. It was definitely hard, and there was a learning curve for sure.

MINT: Was there any time you felt like giving up?

Stephanie Danan: I don’t think so, not yet!

MINT: Also, if you could talk about one of your pieces that conveys some story?

Stephanie Danan: This dress (shown on the left model) is my favorite of the collection. This collection was shot at Marlene Dietrich’s home in Los Angeles, which was never shot before; where she spent a lot of time, and a lot of archival photography was shot in that house. For me, it is very reminiscent of that era of old Hollywood glamour.

MINT: This piece is really beautiful. Can you tell me more about it as far as the process and what it contains?

Stephanie Danan: I fell in love with the fabric and wanted to use this flowing, velvety fabric to create an effortless silhouette. I talk a lot about it being a perfect hostess dress when you have people over for dinner and that you are dressed up but not overly dressed because of its flowing and casual nature. I like this idea of incredibly rich fabrics but a very easy casual silhouette.

MINT: I like this idea of the perfect hostess dress. It makes me think that each of these pieces has a role…

Stephanie Danan: Yes, a character.

MINT: Exactly. So what would be the overall vibe character you are going for with your design?

Stephanie Danan: Femininity. The character is always feminine, but she makes fun of herself and doesn’t take herself too seriously because we don’t like it when fashion takes itself too seriously. She is generous. She knows who she is. She is strong and leads a very busy life, but she is also multi-cultured, loves movies and traveling, and is not one-dimensional.

MINT: Looking toward the future, where do you see your company and your designs going?

Stephanie Danan: I aspire to make women feel great about themselves, not necessarily through the clothes but through the brand’s message. The clothes are just an extension of who they are: individuals with a lot of beauty and love that emanates from within. The clothes are really there to serve that and nothing else.

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