London and Fashion. Two words that go together like ….er...well...London and Fashion. I love fashion and its crazy scene, its colourful people and its ever changing landscape. I was raised by a mother who was a fashion model turned photographer, my father a fashion editor/writer and I started my early days as a model in Italy followed by short career as a wardrobe stylist in the film industry in Canada. I was surrounded, breathed and weaned in fashion's colourful flamboyant fabric.
So when a opportunity came up to bid on a “Day With A London Fashion Designer” for UNICEF, I immediately wanted this. I thought this would be a fun experience. You know, get a few insider tips, a brief fashion update…and a little bit of a glimpse of the world of London fashion as told from the inside. What I didn't expect was to be impressed with this new generation of the conscientious designer, and how through this ethically moral compass fashion and its people are being redefined.
I met Charli Cohen at her studio in Shoreditch, London. I immediately loved her style (and her dog). She reminded me of an edgier “street” version of Kiera Knightly, you know if Kiera’s hair was pink.
After a chat over a soy latte in a coffee shop so cool there was no obvious name we spent a few hours with me trying on various options of Charli’s designs. Not once did I think, "do I look fat in this?" Everything I put on looked flattering and was super comfy. Charli refers to herself as a Technical Fashion brand, born out of a need for "evolved clothing". Think yoga wear meets contemporary womenswear where style and movement are synonymous.
Interestingly her influences tend to come from outside the fashion world - most often architecture which I can see in her slim, clean lines and geometric oversized shapes. But when asked about the fashion designers she admires most the names that came up were Raf Simons and Yohji Yamamoto. If she is shopping in London you can usual find her at Dover Street Market or Goodhood or for vintage Serotonin on Brick Lane.
What made this day more interesting to me was there was so much more to this bright creative designer than talent. There was a ethic and social responsibility she had taken on and wears proudly. She openly talks about the problems that can plagued the fashion industry. As a regular guest writer with the Huffington Post Charli is passionate, opinionated and outspoken. Problems like work conditions for garment makers or the pressures that are put on young designers. She wants to create clothing that doesn't play into what she doesn't like about the fashion industry. She was very proud to say her company was founded on "core values of sustainability and transparency".
She backs up what she speaks with action and has many causes she feels strongly about. After all, the auction where I bid on her services was raising money for Unicef’s “Innovation Labs”. A refugee camp in Jordan where funds go to help unlock the potential of young refugees by teaching them engineering and coding skills. She is also developing a mental health awareness platform called Shades of Blue - which when launched it will be an uncensored space for articles, personal accounts, artwork and conversation. “Part of the mission is to discuss and promote mental health awareness as a whole and part is to focus in on systematic issues within the fashion industry”. Grounded in design innovation, outspokenness and current culture the Charli Cohen brand seeks to be an inspirer, an enabler and a co-conspirator. I for one was inspired.