A Coterie Moment with…Cooper & Ella’s Kara Mendelsohn

by Kristen Heinzinger

Today marks the final day of Coterie at the Javits Center in New York City, and we caught up with cooper & ella founder and designer Kara Mendelsohn to get the scoop on her start in the biz and what’s next…Stop by and find out more at Booth 4934!

This line was born out of your hunt for the perfect date blouse. Tell us about your worst date!
I was working for Michael Kors at the time and I was meeting a guy right after the show. I was wearing an all winter-white outfit. I remember it perfectly: It was a white cashmere turtleneck with white corduroy wide-leg pants—it was so chic! I felt so good. I walked into the bar, he turned around and smiled, and a waiter walked directly into me with a tray of red wine. I think I cried more about the death of the white pants than the date…
Tragic! What were you were looking for in designing the perfect blouse?
I love a sexy blouse, but to me it’s about balance. Plunging V-neck? Yes, please! But then I want a sleeve. Deep back is great, but give me lingerie snaps to make sure that the top stays put and doesn’t slide around. I want to feel confident. I want to be able to wear a bra, and I don’t want to have to self-consciously suck it in all night. I want to look chic and modern but not like I’m trying too hard. I want to feel sexy, but not trashy. All of this comes into play for me. And I think a lot of women agree!
Agreed! And you have dresses, too…
The dresses are off to an amazing start. It was a natural next step for us. Our customers were asking for us to expand and I knew I could apply the same concept of “chic, modern, accessibly priced” to the dress category. I’m so excited to say that they were a hit with the launch in Spring ’15 and are currently blowing out for fall! We’re looking forward to continuing the momentum into the holiday season with our fun party dresses, and I’m really proud of how the designs have developed for Spring 2016.
And what are you most excited about for fall?
The weather makes for my favorite time of year. We live for backyard fires with s’mores and cozy sweaters, turning leaves, and sleeping with the windows open, and most importantly, I’m thrilled for the return of wide-leg denim.
What’s in store for the brand?
We’re carried at all Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus CUSP doors, and we’re slated to launch in six Nordstrom stores in October! For the Spring ’16 collection, we’re introducing skirts, rompers, and jumpsuits. The brand is really evolving nicely and I am so excited for the future. We’re really just getting started!
Why do you think it’s important for a designer to be at Coterie?
We chose to do it this season because our business has grown to such a large size that we couldn’t service all of our clients without the convenience of Coterie. The show allows us to make it easy for our client to get to us. Coterie is the one location where they can get a large amount of work done without having to race around the city. They’re exhausted and have so many people to see, and it saves them both time and money.
Can you tell us about your involvement with the HOPE foundation?
From day one, it was important to us to build a meaningful give-back component into the company, and we wanted to give back by empowering those in need, children specifically. We had the opportunity to work with the HOPE Foundation in India. When we asked how we could best support the HOPE Foundation School Tannery Road, Bangalore they told us by funding their food, consistently. HOPE practices a “cradle-to-career” solution. By providing the meals for 400-plus students, their parents are more likely to send them to school, because this could be their child’s only guaranteed meal of the day. We were so impressed by the charity that we decided to make a long-term commitment. Through our Empower program, with every Cooper & Ella purchase made, we’re providing a hot, nutritious meal to a child in need. As we grow, our ability to make a difference will increase and we would love to expand.

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