Local Vogue 13: meeting Tony Cohen, the man behind international fashion success

Local Vogue 13: meeting Tony Cohen, the man behind international fashion success

Jul 8, 2011 |  by  |  Fashion
About the author
A 24 year old blogger suffering from a serious fashion addiction. Magazines, new pairs of heels and lots of jewellery satisfy the cravings. Walks around in high-heels, looking for inspiration on the streets of Amsterdam. Feeling fabulous? Contact me at xaviera@overdose.com!

Local Vogue is a series of meetings with local fashion talents. These are people who decided to take a leap of faith, live the dream and start their own label. They design, create and show us that when you really want something, nothing is impossible. Previous Local Vogues can be found here.

The first time I came across the label of designer Tony Cohen was in the search for the perfect dress for my 20th birthday. A beautiful black cocktail dress with feathers around the waist made me keep an eye on the designer ever since. I mean, if you wear the same dress as Scarlett Johansson once did, you know you’re dealing with a successful Dutch fashion designer. A while ago, when I had the chance to do an interview, I couldn’t wait to meet the man in person. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: Tony Cohen.

The office

Wearing a raw silk blouse designed by himself and holding a cup of Indian tea with milk in his hand, Tony (44) welcomes me in his office. The office looks raw and tender at the same time because of the unfinished ceiling and the racks of clothes made of delicate fabrics. The wall with all the designs looks fascinating: there are so many sketches on the board. Small samples of fabric are lying everywhere. While Tony’s talking he seems completely at ease sitting on a large grey couch, surrounded by his laptop, sketches, fashion magazines, fabric samples and his notebook. The couch happens to be his office, he doesn’t has a real desk. It’s quite easy to imagine him sitting there relaxed with his notebook on his lap sketching yet another amazing design.

About Tony

Without any educational experience besides practice, Tony has been a part of the fashion industry for the last fifteen years. Before that he had a short professional baseball career. When I ask him why he chose this industry, he remembers his childhood. “I guess I’ve always been intrigued by clothes, especially from the seventies. I can still remember how my brothers were dressed in that time. Besides that, as a child my grandmother used to take me to the old Waterlooplein (where the Stopera stands now) two or three times a week to sell second-hand clothing. I’ll never forget how much I enjoyed that.” In fact, he still owns a lot of vintage pieces from that time. “In my closet I’ve got this huge archive with special clothes. Vintage pieces from my grandmother, my five favourite pieces from every collection and men’s clothing I designed myself”, Tony says proudly. With a twinkle in his eye he tells me more about his childhood and how he experienced Amsterdam in the seventies. “When I walk around in the city I’ve got so many memories. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and I get a certain feeling when I wander over the canals, pass an old café or visit the places my dad once took me to. It’s a feeling of realness. The city breathes history and authenticity. It’s inspiring.”

Three labels, two stores

In 2004 he started his first own label, he now has three: ‘Atelier Tony Cohen’, ‘TONYCOHEN’ and ‘2loveTonyCohen’. The first one is couture, the second is new (although the name already existed as the origin label) and the third label is a more basic line for the everyday woman. Even though he has these three labels, precious delicate fabrics, drapes, ruches and soft tones make his designs easy to recognise.  

With our designs we love to highlight the female curves. ‘Our’ woman is soft, feminine and edgy, just like our designs.

Three years ago Tony moved his outlet and opened his first store in one of the most expensive shopping street of Amsterdam, the P.C. Hooftstraat. “We needed an appropriate location to sell the ‘Atelier Tony Cohen’ collection, since these items are more expensive. Our lease also came to an end, so we had to move out,” Tony explains. Nevertheless there was still a high demand of the outlet collection. “Last year when we opened our store in the Huidenstraat (one of the 9 streets) we decided to re-introduce the outlet department. It fits perfectly with ‘2loveTonyCohen’, and the store attracts a different crowd. There are even a lot of modern brides that come by in the store to find their perfect wedding dress.” The two stores are indeed completely different. The store in the P.C. Hooftstraat is bright with a simple interior, while the store in the Huidenstraat has a more dark and boudoir like interior. Either way, both stores attract customers and they complete each other in a good way.

The collections

Tony Cohen with assistant designer Lars WillhausenWith three different labels Tony had to adjust the process of designing. “Normally you start sketching and you decide what kind of fabric and material you would like to use afterwards. “That’s too much work now, therefore we choose the fabric and materials first. The designing starts afterwards.”

When it comes to inspiration Tony takes a look into his archive. “I get my inspiration from a certain feeling. For instance, when I think about the seventies I can feel the craving for freedom. I try to use that feeling to design my collections. Perhaps that’s why I tend to bohemian at times,” he explains. “But scents can give me inspiration too. When I travel I get triggered by unfamiliar scents from spices and herbs. The same counts for the shapes and colours from flowers.” The upcoming collections (spring/summer 2012) aren’t finished yet, but he already knows exactly what they will look like: “It will be darker than what we normally do with a summer collection. Think about green and old blue tones.”

New York vs. Amsterdam

After showing his collections for six seasons in a row on New York Fashion Week, Tony decided to show his fall/winter 2011 collection in his home-town due to financial reasons. Born and raised in Amsterdam his business has always been based in the centre of the city. Showing on New York Fashion Week was basically a better choice for international success, since it led to more requests for his labels worldwide. “We even had people from Kuwait and Dubai calling for our clothes. Our collections came in magazines all over the world, especially in Asia and the Middle-East.” He feels it’s a pity that his New York Fashion Week adventures are on hold. “Looking back at it all, our last show there was definitely the best. The stylist arranged everything in precise detail. The line-up from the models looked fantastic. We had an excellent spot in the schedule, right before Marc Jacobs, the right people were sitting front row and the reviews after the show were great.” He continues: “For now we’ll focus on our shows in Amsterdam. But you never know what the future brings. We might go back one day.”

Tony Cohen fall winter 2011

During Amsterdam International Fashion Week next week, Tony will show ‘Atelier Tony Cohen’  on the 13th of July, ‘2loveTonyCohen’ will be presented on the catwalk on the 17th of July. I can’t wait!

Tony Cohen stores

P. C. Hooftstraat 29
1071 BM Amsterdam

Huidenstraat 28
1016 ET Amsterdam

Or shop Tony Cohen online.

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