For Coco Fennell, the 33-year-old British fashion designer who founded her namesake collection of retro-inspired, colorful, and mood-lifting dresses a decade ago, the idea of pursuing a creative profession was genetically inevitable. “My mom always kind of worked in clothes in one way or the other, and my dad is a jewelry designer. It’s sort of always been in my DNA, I suppose,” she says, Zooming in from her East London studio. Her hair is a shock of turquoise blue.
In addition to her mother, Louise, who has also written two novels, and her father, Theo, whose fan base includes Elton John and Madonna, there’s Coco’s older sister by two years, Emerald—best known to some for her role as Camilla Parker Bowles in the television series The Crown, and to others for her Oscar-winning screenplay for the 2020 film Promising Young Woman (which she also directed).
In fact, several of Coco’s pieces, including a rose-printed dress worn by Carey Mulligan’s character, Cassie, appear throughout the film, further imbuing its twisted, revenge-themed plotline with shades of sinister sweetness. The feminine aesthetic characterizing Fennell’s brand, however, comes from a much more intentional place. “I really wanted to make dresses that were super-flattering and wearable all the time,” she says.
A graphic designer by trade, she has infused the collection with a range of happy prints, including gingham checks, candy-colored hearts, and lively illustrations by other artists.
There’s a joyful nostalgia to her work, which extends itself—in an almost exaggerated fashion—to her kitsch-filled home. At her house in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood, Fennell outfitted the rooms with carnival and fairground ephemera, including a recently acquired bubblegum-pink Love-O-Meter. “I just like to be around things that spark joy,” she says of her whimsical surroundings.
There’s a joyful nostalgia to her work, which extends itself—in an almost exaggerated fashion—to her kitsch-filled home.
She even once enrolled in a six-month trapeze course, but, alas, the actual carnival life eludes her: “I was terrible—absolutely no upper-body strength, which really put my dreams of being in the circus on hold!”
Fans of Fennell’s dresses and girlish jumpsuits include Rita Ora, Kylie Minogue, and Rihanna, whose public appearances in her wares often result in those items selling out (including the rose dress in Promising Young Woman). “I make things in small runs, as I don’t want to have fabric wastage,” she says, adding that she occasionally revisits and releases new iterations of popular items.
Despite a notable uptick in sales during the pandemic, Fennell plans to keep her online-only business relatively modest in scale, but perhaps increase her number of collections per year. “I’d also love to do homeware,” she adds.
More immediately, though, there’s her label’s 10th-anniversary collection, which she’ll unveil this September, but beyond that, she’s content to keep a measured perspective, especially as the world finds its legs again. “I just love how it is going at the moment, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s all plans are subject to change.”
Laura Neilson is a New York–based writer