GEORGINA COHEN AND CHERRYL COHEN
This Mother’s Day, we are thrilled to spotlight the wonderfully supportive duo, Georgina Cohen and her mother Cherryl Cohen, to who we are grateful for continuously championing our brand.
Cherryl Cohen is a veritable powerhouse in the North West whose childhood was steeped in the vibrance of her parents’ 60s art world and whose unflinching eye for minimal, utility separates inspired the opening of The Clothes Shop in 1999, in which Marfa Stance has been a recent sell-out. Mother to Georgina Cohen, she discusses the joy (and power) of having a job and why women have it harder today.
Have you always worked in fashion?
I’ve always been very passionate about whatever I’ve done. I’ve always worked and I modelled from 18-30, it was a way of overcoming feeling insecure because I never thought that I was attractive and this was a way of proving to myself that I could be successful at something. I did some television work for Granada and I found that when I could talk to the people who were auditioning me, I always got the job, perhaps because my personality shone through. When I was working in television I came across different actresses and people said would I dress them and so I did, and then thought, if people liked my style, I might as well as put them together and so I launched the Clothes Shop in 1999.
Why did you set up your shop?
As a child I went to Italy with my parents four times a year, during the late Fifties and early Sixties. My father was an art dealer and so we would visit different artists.
I was so influenced by all the wonderful chic women and the men and the way they dressed. And the clothing! The cashmere! Even as a young child I understood.
I have a passion for fashion and fabrics and a zest for life. Also, I was Jack Garson’s daughter and Frank Cohen’s wife and I wanted my own identity. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be something else besides a mother and a housewife, something more for myself in life.
I was torn, as a mother, you never feel you get it right. But you have to give 100% to a business and I wanted shopping at my store to be the easiest, most pleasurable experience. And we had fun. I took Georgia and her brother to art galleries all over the world and to buying trips to fashion houses. She would help and advise from a younger woman’s perspective.
Do women have it easier today? Some battles have been won but there's potentially more to juggle, what are your thoughts?
Both my daughter and daughter-in-law work but men are supportive and share the house, and so many men cook today, but people do work 24/7. Women are expected to do everything today, in that way it’s harder.
I always liked working. I felt it was a positive role model for my children, I was fresh for them when I got home and I had something to talk about with my husband. And he was proud of me.
Your store is a highly curated edit with a very loyal following, how do you go about it?
A lot of my customers buy clothes because they like personal style, so if it isn’t good enough for me, then I don’t buy it. I love Bottega Veneta, even before Thomas Maier was there. It started in 1969 and it’s one of the few remaining brands that actually has craftsmen. Their intrecciato bags are made to the same methods as they were in 1969.
I have also bought a lot of Margaret Howell and I love that men’s workwear style, utility look. Jean Howell her sister made knitwear and it’s very well priced.
I’ve always preferred dressing in separates. When you get complimented it’s because people think you look great rather than they like the dress you are wearing.
Georgina Cohen is a Director at London’s Gagosian, Contributing Editor to Porter, Maybourne & Baby London magazines and Cultural Director of 3.1 Phillip Lim. With a ringside seat in the international art scene she celebrates a keener sense of collaboration in our post pandemic world and more thoughtful ways of living.
Growing up, how did your family and your mother especially inform what you decided to do career wise
My mother has been in the fashion business for over 30 years and my father’s business was retail and they have both been passionately collecting art since I can remember, so being exposed to that growing up definitely inspired my career choices today. I used to go to fashion shows and buying appointments with my mother and my love of fashion has never waned. Many of our family holidays were centred around arts and culture. Both my brother and I work in the arts, as Directors at Gagosian (he in NYC, me in London), and thus we have a continued open dialogue with our parents and the wonderful thing is this has made us even more closely connected as a family.
Were you in the minority having an independent, go-getting working mum?
I think at the time perhaps I was - I grew up outside of London and at a different time. Not as many women worked or had the same desire to work as they appear to today. My mother always had a career, from her early days acting and modelling to setting up ‘The Clothes Shop’.
I never felt that she was absent and if anything I think it made her time with us at home more special as she was present and full of energy. She also included me in her work life, we got to enjoy many mother, daughter trips and I was able to see the joy and enthusiasm she has for what she does.
What have you learnt from her? What are the life lessons that she instilled in you which you hope to pass onto your son?
I think most importantly a great value system which is an important lesson for all of us and having every day “Integrity”. My mother taught me to be a creative and independent thinker, gave me great foundations to become a strong and confident woman and to believe in myself. One thing she always used to say was that “a wise woman keeps council with herself”. I think about that often and quote this when giving advice to others.
As a Director at Gagosian, you sit at the intersection of so much culture, what change have you noticed in this post pandemic world?
Museums and galleries were among the first places to shut when the pandemic hit. Art lovers moved online, as did carefully curated collections. The pandemic has not only boosted partnerships within the art world but it has also increased coordination amongst the global art industry. Collaborating virtually and supporting one another not just nationally, but internationally, seems to be the way forward to sustain and develop stronger roots. In a world where there are still some limits on physical travel, virtual collaboration has and will continue to go a long way in helping people to stay connected.
The pandemic also forced people to reconsider the value of their homes and its look and feel, with many wanting to enhance their work and living space as they continue with a hybrid WFH model.
Creativity amongst artists will continue to be on the rise as they express their collective and individual experience of the pandemic. The wave of art from these times will be remembered forever and will very much be thematically linked to the pandemic and its repercussions on every level.
How are we living and working differently?
I think many have made a sharp pivot career wise after realising the pre-pandemic way of working simply doesn’t make sense anymore. People are reassessing their relationship to their jobs and have more control over their schedules. Some have taken a leap of faith and quit long term positions to pursue other things with the feeling “We aren’t supposed to live to work. We’re supposed to work to live.” That has always been my motto and words I try to live by.
How have our priorities changed?
I think times of struggle can help pave the way for new ways to live. We have all learnt to do more of what brings us joy and to live in a more balanced way. It has given many of us an opportunity to grow and develop and reassess our priorities.
Photography by Alex Cameron
Interviews by Carolyn Asome