Former film producer, screenwriter and half of the creative force behind the amazing L.A. based womenswear brand Co Collection, Justin Kern is certainly a man with many talents. His collections are full of stunning classic pieces and are always presented alongside narrative film. Justin blurs the boundaries between fashion and fiction. We caught up with him to chat about the story so far, what’s next and what he sees for the future of fashion film…
We know you’ve been friends with Mario for a while, how did you both meet?
JK: I first met Mario in 2004 when he cast me in a Burberry campaign – but we became friends after we crossed paths in L.A. and realised we were neighbours! We just started doing fun little collaborations when he was in town. I’d bring him to the studios of artists or musicians I knew in L.A. and he’d photograph them or I’d film their conversations. In some ways I was his guide in L.A., but he would often take me to something amazing in my own city I’d never heard of. We both value that kind of curiosity and have remained close friends for over 10 years now!
Incredible. 10 years is a long time. So you went from modelling to exploring film and then fashion with your own line now?
JK: Exactly. I was inspired from spending time on sets with people like Mario. I loved watching all the elements of a shoot come together. I became really interested in branding. My partner, Stephanie Danan and I started our luxury womenswear brand, Co, in our living room, so it’s been an exciting 5 years to see it grow to the point where it’s now carried in places like Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-Porter. There’s no way I could have built Co without her. There’s a trust and understanding of our vision that feels like telepathy. It’s incredibly gratifying to create something with the person you love.
That’s amazing. Who are you thinking of when you design for the Co woman?
JK: We use the word ‘thoughtful’. She wants to look sophisticated, and fashion is just one part of her curated life. She wants to start her own business, invest in art and travel. We also want to create clothes that reflect Southern Californian life. Our pieces can be sophisticated and even dramatic, but the clothes have to be wearable. Timelessness is something we think about a lot too. We like to think of our woman curating her wardrobe the way she might her home.
How did the idea to start Co come about?
JK: We both worked in film before. Stephanie was a producer working with Universal and Focus Features. I wrote scripts, so our collaboration started on film projects. We had backgrounds in fashion, so it was something we’d wanted to explore. We created a small collection and made a short film to promote it. The film was different to the fashion films at the time because it was narrative based. It was picked up by the fashion blogs and then Barney’s picked us up.
It’s incredible that film is such a central part to your work…
JK: Fashion and film are both such visual mediums, but there are rules of storytelling that fashion could learn a lot from. When we put Co together, I was reading this screenwriting book, and it influenced me a lot. Even at the core of fantastical sci-fi plots there are still relatable human emotions that the people can recognise and see themselves in. It’s worth thinking about when creating the fantasy of fashion.
What else inspires your work?
JK: We love the great Japanese designers. We’re inspired by L.A.’s history of architecture and interior design, especially from the Old Hollywood era. We’ve shot our collections in places like the former home of Marlene Dietrich and Tony Duquette’s Dawnridge estate. Having a child also put everything in perspective. Our company grew the most the year our son was born. It’s still a blur and we were completely exhausted! It solidified our goal.
What’s next for you?
JK: Menswear and accessories, I hope. We are starting to work on prototypes for shoes and handbags too. We’d like to go back to making content in conjunction with the launch of our e-commerce in the coming year as well.
To view Co’s latest collection, click here