How I'm Making It: Designer Mandy Coon

Mandy Coon has the innate ability to mix things that are cute (bunnies) and things that are badass (leather) with ease. From diaphanous dresses to body-conscious jumpsuits, Mandy Coon knows what a woman wants. The eloquent and meticulously organized Texan invited me into her studio to get a peek at the behind-the-scenes life of her young fashion brand. Let me tell you, it's quite amazing. What was the inspiration for you to start your own label? I always wanted to do it, but I was unsure of myself for a long time. Growing up in Texas being a fashion designer wasn’t a thing you could be. I went to college for computer science, if that gives you any idea. Then I ended up in the fashion industry and knew I wanted to design, but I was kind of unsure of myself, so I went back to school at FIT and learned everything technical I could possibly learn. Afterwards I started working for Camilla Staerk, and I knew I wanted to start my own thing, but I was being hesitant. Camilla was the one who really pushed me to start. She was like, “You’re ready. You’re going to do this.” Her believing in me that much was what pushed me to actually do it.
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Mandy Coon has the innate ability to mix things that are cute (bunnies) and things that are badass (leather) with ease. From diaphanous dresses to body-conscious jumpsuits, Mandy Coon knows what a woman wants. The eloquent and meticulously organized Texan invited me into her studio to get a peek at the behind-the-scenes life of her young fashion brand. Let me tell you, it's quite amazing. What was the inspiration for you to start your own label? I always wanted to do it, but I was unsure of myself for a long time. Growing up in Texas being a fashion designer wasn’t a thing you could be. I went to college for computer science, if that gives you any idea. Then I ended up in the fashion industry and knew I wanted to design, but I was kind of unsure of myself, so I went back to school at FIT and learned everything technical I could possibly learn. Afterwards I started working for Camilla Staerk, and I knew I wanted to start my own thing, but I was being hesitant. Camilla was the one who really pushed me to start. She was like, “You’re ready. You’re going to do this.” Her believing in me that much was what pushed me to actually do it.
Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Photo: Shawn Brackbill

Mandy Coon has the innate ability to mix things that are cute (bunnies) and things that are badass (leather) with ease. From diaphanous dresses to body-conscious jumpsuits, Mandy Coon knows what a woman wants. The eloquent and meticulously organized Texan invited me into her studio to get a peek at the behind-the-scenes life of her young fashion brand. Let me tell you, it's quite amazing.

What was the inspiration for you to start your own label? I always wanted to do it, but I was unsure of myself for a long time. Growing up in Texas being a fashion designer wasn’t a thing you could be. I went to college for computer science, if that gives you any idea. Then I ended up in the fashion industry and knew I wanted to design, but I was kind of unsure of myself, so I went back to school at FIT and learned everything technical I could possibly learn. Afterwards I started working for Camilla Staerk, and I knew I wanted to start my own thing, but I was being hesitant. Camilla was the one who really pushed me to start. She was like, “You’re ready. You’re going to do this.” Her believing in me that much was what pushed me to actually do it.

What moment in your life made you want to go back to school? I think I was running out of excuses of telling myself why I couldn’t do this. And “I don’t know everything about pattern making,” was the last one. So I went and took all the technical and nerdy classes.

What sort of things inspire your designs? All kinds of things: Art, music, film, books, people, movies, a lot of animals and biology. It could come from anywhere really. Most seasons it’s like several different things that may not seem to have anything to do with each other, but somehow in my head they do.

What’s a typical workday like for you? It depends on the time of year, but these days I get up at 7am, have coffee, feed the animals, and take my dog out. I’m usually in the studio at 8:30am and it’s go-time from then on. I have an hour or two to work on drawing or patterns before everyone else gets here, and then it’s a lot of managing. That’s also when the emails start. The workday is a lot of managing and a lot of answering questions. Around 5pm it gets quiet again and I can work on designing.

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What’s the biggest challenge in your work? These days, when you’re a designer who has your own company, you’re really everything. You’re the spokesperson, you’re the image, you’re the designer, you’re the businessperson, you’re the boss, you’re the production manager – you have to wear all these hats. Sometimes it’s hard wearing all the hats.

What’s the biggest risk that you’ve taken? Starting my label was a pretty big risk, I’d have to say. Another that comes to mind, I don’t know if this was the biggest risk, but I really, really thought people were going to think I had lost my mind with that bunny bag. I don’t know why, I just thought people would think I had gone crazy. I thought it was the coolest thing. The response has been so overwhelmingly amazing to the bunny bag, I can’t believe that has become my best-selling item. It’s like my signature.

That’s so strange! I remember the first time I saw the bunny bag I flipped my lid. I’m so glad it worked out that way. But I definitely had a moment of doubt there.

Who is your dream customer, living, dead, or imaginary? Well, my dream living customers are Rooney Mara or Tilda Swinton, easy. Not living, the Marchesa Casati.

What do you see in store for your brand in the future? We’re growing pretty steadily, but I like to try to keep it organic and not grow too fast because that gets hard to handle. I want to keep growing and bring more accessories into it. More bags, I really love doing bags. Maybe some dog accessories… I’ve got some of those in the pipeline. I mean, just things that I want.

It’s all about the dog. I could care less about my clothes, but I’d buy anything for my dog. Totally. Me too.

What do you do in your free time, if you have any? I don’t have much. And it’s not very exciting. When I do I usually just want to curl up and watch a movie with my boyfriend and my dog. It’s not very exciting. There’s not much free time, so when I have it, my dream is to just do nothing. The best is when I have a weekend off and I can take a nap. That’s such a luxury for me now.