Designer Spotlight: Kara Mendelsohn
We're excited to share a new series we're launching today called Designer Spotlight, where we feature badass female designers of brands that you, Dear Reader, simply must know about. To kick it off we chatted with Kara Mendelsohn, the designer of cooper & ella and super-chic mom-of-two (can you guess her kids' names? wink wink). After years of working at Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein, she struck out on her own and in the spring of 2013 cooper & ella was born. It's a contemporary clothing line chock full of easy-to-wear silhouettes, soft, silky fabrics, and fun-yet-sophisticated prints, that would make any woman happy. We caught up with this New Jersey native to pick her brain about her design philosophy, how her company gives back, and the best style advice she's ever gotten. Oh and did we mention her hunky hubby is Director of Eyewear Design for the of-the-moment glasses brand Warby Parker? Yeah, OK, we definitely have a #girlcrush on Kara.
As a women's designer, where do you get style inspiration? I find inspiration in real women—my friends, my sisters, and my colleagues. We're all busy women leading busy lives and we deserve to look and feel good while doing it all.
What's your goal in designing for cooper & ella? I aim to create memorable, flattering pieces, that easily go from day to night. I believe in clothing that's special and elevated in its design, made of quality fabrics, yet affordable in price. And everything needs to be machine washable!
What do you think is the most important thing women need to consider when getting dressed in the morning? I think great undergarments are key. It's funny, as you get older you realize that the right bra or piece of shapewear can make all the difference in the end result—especially when you're wearing a dress. Also, I think having a go-to uniform of sorts really helps. Once you nail down what works for you, say a slim black pant and cute flats, you can then just concentrate on changing up your top. If you have the building blocks, then it's easy to just update and refresh.
Where is your favorite place to shop? What is the coolest store you've ever visited? There is an amazing store in Pennsylvania called Eaves that's owned by my dear friend Susan Ahn. We met years ago while working together at Marc Jacobs and I completely trust her taste. So much so that if I'm on the hunt for something, like a new bag, I just text her and she sends me options I know I'll love!
What's the best style advice you've ever been given? Less is more. In fact, I'd describe my personal style as minimal yet feminine. I gravitate towards clean lines and muted color and I usually keep it classic with a great pair of shoes or accessory.
We noticed on your hangtags a really amazing way cooper & ella gives back...can you tell us about that? We are deeply dedicated to the empowerment of children, and so in 2014 we made a long-term commitment to the HOPE Foundation School in Bangalore, India. Instead of giving them a one-time large donation, we decided the best way to have an impact was to incorporate a unique philanthropic program into our business model: for every cooper & ella item purchased a hot nutritious meal is given to a child at HOPE. For many, this is the only meal they'll eat all day. In this way, our customers become part of the solution too.