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September 2 2014

styledotcom .@StellaMcartney's It girl wanders through New York in items that top our lust list: stylem.ag/1qV74Z5 pic.twitter.com/QyUpXjbxFZ

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Cooper & Ella Succeeds With Basic Tops That Are “the Least Expensive Thing in the Most Expensive Stores”

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Cooper & Ella

Kara Mendelsohn launched Cooper & Ella just over a year ago with a singular, focused concept: offering pretty, versatile tops—all of those cliché phrases like “day to night” and “desk to dinner” apply here—at an ultra-affordable price point. With nearly two decades of industry experience in sales and merchandising (in addition to running KBL eyewear with her husband), Mendelsohn recognized this “white space” in the market and dove in. So far, her business plan has proved to be a lucrative one. Since its debut, Cooper & Ella has been picked up by major retailers including Saks, Neiman Marcus, Shopbop, and Harvey Nichols. “The awesome prices [ranging from $78 to $150] have been the key to my quick acceptance by the big guys. Basically, I’m the least expensive thing in the most expensive stores. People don’t need to wait for it to go on sale,” said Mendelsohn at a preview of her Fall ’14 collection. While the blouses are comparatively cheap, the quality level is there. Each piece features subtle designer details such as picot stitching, fagoting, or delicate gold hardware. Mendelsohn already thinks like a buyer, so she considers practical concerns like: Can you wear a bra with this? Is this fabric too sheer to wear to the office? Can you wash it? “My customers love design and fashion but ultimately need it to work for them in their everyday lives.” Highlights from the new collection include deep V-neck tops with an open back (yep, still works with a bra), as well as playful printed styles and easy tanks that have a multilayered look. At a price point like this, we’ll take one for each day of the week. Cooper & Ella’s swift success also made me contemplate why more up-and-coming designers aren’t starting out with this item-driven model. Surely, nailing down a signature early on paves the way for introducing more categories down the line…Young designers, Mendelsohn is available for consulting, by the way.

For more information, visit CooperAndElla.com.

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Dept. of Culture