How Coco Rocha Used Her Modeling Experience to Start Her Own Clothing Line

We chatted with the model-turned-designer about the fashion tips from industry friends that helped her create Co+Co by Coco Rocha.
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Maria Bobila
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We chatted with the model-turned-designer about the fashion tips from industry friends that helped her create Co+Co by Coco Rocha.
Coco Rocha wearing Co+Co by Coco Rocha. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

Coco Rocha wearing Co+Co by Coco Rocha. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

Co+Co by Coco Rocha was something that the model-turned-designer quietly worked on with Paragon Projects, a fashion company based in Los Angeles, and alongside her husband James Conran, but very few others were in on the secret. "I didn't tell anyone," Rocha told Fashionista during a preview event for her debut collection. "We let everyone find out on their own. I just thought, 'Let it speak for itself.'" However, when news broke of Rocha's latest business venture, her designer friends quickly reached out. "They were like, 'Why didn't you tell me! I would have helped!' It was very sweet," she said. But with over a decade of modeling under her belt, it was only a matter of time before Rocha decided to apply her personal experiences from runway shows, fittings and photo shoots towards building her own brand. 

"Don't design for yourself" was a top industry tip that Rocha kept in mind while creating her clothing line. "I have seen designers in the past, that's how they would work," she said. "It was a learning curve for me, to feel a little vulnerable or uncomfortable. But that's what made [the collection] even better because now there are pieces that I love." One example is Co+Co's pleat-front cropped trouser in a baggy fit — although Rocha is personally drawn to pants that are tighter. "That made me a little nervous, but now I love it. I live in baggy pants now, all the time."

Described by Rocha as "athleisure-meets-streetwear," Co+Co aims to provide the model's millions of followers with clothes that pertain to their own tech-and-fashion-focused lifestyles."They're business-smart girls and they love fashion," explained Rocha. "They go on their computers every day to check out every runway show and see what's up next." She also claims that within Co+Co's price range ($80 to $300), the majority of department stores only offer boho-style brands. Her line, however, is inspired by architecture, resulting in clean silhouettes and structured pieces, such as a glitch art-printed sweatshirt made from scuba material, a pencil skirt with heat-sealed seam details and a sheer, oversized zip-up cardigan that you can layer over a color-blocked sports bra.

A look from Co+Co by Coco Rocha's debut collection. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

A look from Co+Co by Coco Rocha's debut collection. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

"I love my couture, I love vintage, I love contemporary," said Rocha. "But for me, this is the DNA that Co+Co needed to be, especially with my love for tech, and anything that's new and forward-thinking. This makes sense."

Another lesson Rocha learned from her modeling career is the "peek-a-boo effect," a design trick she remembers from Marissa Webb, which puts just as much importance into detailing the inside and back of a garment as the front. A Co+Co cobalt blue vest made from a lightweight scuba material, for example, is lined with a mesh fabric. "When you wear this, people don't know that this is inside. I think that's a great detail," said Rocha. "Inside and behind are two things that people forget because clothes are always shot [from the front.] That was something that stuck with me."

A look from Co+Co by Coco Rocha's debut collection. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

A look from Co+Co by Coco Rocha's debut collection. Photo: Co+Co by Coco Rocha

As Rocha presented her collection to Fashionista, her confidence was evident, which was something that she admittedly had to learn while working on Co+Co. "I think that I went back to my first years of modeling where [I felt] a little uncomfortable in [my] surroundings," explained Rocha. "I wasn't feeling comfortable in the title of 'designer' yet." An instance that came to mind was her idea of adding a layer of mesh underneath a pencil skirt, a detail only drawn out in Rocha's mind until she mustered up the courage to show Conran and her design partners at Paragon. "They said it was beautiful, let's make it happen," she said. "And I thought there's no need to doubt yourself. So from now on, that's how we're going to do this. We're just going to show them, and if we don't like it, we move on. If we believe in it, it will happen. Mistakes are just as good as things that are perfect."

CocoRocha.com will relaunch on Wednesday, Jan. 27, as a brand new lifestyle network. In March, Co+Co will be available on Rocha's website as well as at select retailers and department stores. In the meantime, click through our gallery below for a sneak peek of the debut collection.