Donna Langley, Kate Bosworth Celebrate Unfussy Fashion, Female Leaders at Schindler House
Designers Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern of Co launch a collection of elegant essentials for the powerful women who inspire them.
Fashion events usually celebrate clothes — but at Los Angeles label Co's soiree on Wednesday night, the quietly elegant ankle-skimming dresses took a backseat to the Hollywood industry leaders wearing them.
The evening's theme was feting accomplished women, Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley hosted, while industry figures including Kate Bosworth, Zooey Deschanel, Aubrey Plaza, Blair Kohan and Pamela Shamshiri attended.
The luxe and understated feminine brand, created in 2011, was launching its "Co Essentials" campaign at its new showroom, architect Rudolph Schindler's impressive mid-century modern Fitzpatrick Leland house. The line comprises 30 pieces that have both been best-sellers for the seven-year-old brand and that designers Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern have chosen as being crucial to a woman's wardrobe, including a ruffled dress and another with a easy full skirt.
From its launch date through the fall, 15 percent of the collection's proceeds will go to Vital Voices, a non-profit that partners with female leaders to accomplish their goals in areas including human rights, political participation and economics. As Danan reminded guests in opening remarks, "It's always fun to make beautiful dresses, but when you add the 'doing good' part, it makes it all the more glamorous in our eyes."
Danan, a former filmmaker, enlisted seven female leaders for the ad campaign, which Co Collection is calling "Essential Women." Honorees of the title include director Ava DuVernay, novelist Rachel Kushner, agent and Time's Up founder Maha Dakhil, Violence Intervention Program founder and executive director and USC clinical pediatrics professor Astrid Heger, UTA partner Kohan and designer Shamshiri. They were shot wearing items from the collection in black and white by photographer Amanda Demme for the campaign, which you can see here.
"I think we all feel the urgency that women and minorities need to have their voices heard more than ever," Langley told the audience of the collection's partnership with Vital Voices. She added of the nonprofit, "I have seen this work firsthand and it works."
Attendees heard the story of a Nicaraguan woman — which Vital Voices asked go unnamed, given that specifics could endanger her — who advocated for exploited women in her home country, before the country's civil unrest began in April and clashes between government forces and protesters killed 300. The woman has since fled her country but plans to return and continue her work there with the help of Vital Voices.
"There are so many collaborations now in the marketplace, and this feels like a really pure and meaningful one that makes a lot of sense," Bosworth, who calls herself "very involved" in Vital Voices, told The Hollywood Reporter after the woman's speech. Cards on standing tables during the event provided attendees with the number to text donations to the organization.
Vital Voices president and CEO Alyse Nelson added that there is overlap between the values of her organization and that of the brand. "At the end of the day, you know, the work that we do, yes, is about social justice, but for women it’s also important to look and feel good. That gives us confidence, and there is a natural alignment there with the work that we empowering and supporting women around the world."
Indeed, a mantra of partygoers during the evening when speaking about the collection was that it is a "uniform": Many felt that Co's unfussy attire was tailor-made to support their work and busy lifestyles.
"Because I have a kid who I drive to school in the morning and then go to work and then oftentimes go out at night, I often rely on a uniform of things that can really work well together and that I can travel [with]," Kohan said, adding that she's usually wearing a blazer with pants and loafers or a blazer with a dress. "It’s really about the practicality of my wardrobe and making sure it’s incredibly user-friendly in that way." The collection sells at Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Net-a-Porter.com.
Bosworth said that she prefers classic clothes along the lines of what Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Carolyn Bessette would have worn for her everyday style. "I think that goes back to my father. He was in fashion, and he would always say to me, 'Fads come and go.' As a teenager I was really frustrated with this because all I wanted to do was experiment, but with more years under my belt, I really appreciate that advice," she said.
Bosworth added that she wished she could fill a bag from the showroom and run, but that Danan and Kern "know where I live, so I wouldn't make it out."
As for the women who wear her brand, co-founder Danan described, "We’re really not into dressing that many women who lunch, we dress powerful women who have no time to go shopping who are very focused on what they do and clothes are secondary or third — it’s low on the list." She added, "So it has to have all those practicalities that she needs and yet still be stylish, elegant and have charisma."
Danan and Kern, who were once a producer and screenwriter, respectively, say that their background in the entertainment industry led them to focus on the women being honored, rather than the clothes. "I always tell the photographer, “Forget about the clothes.” If you can capture her and her character, the clothes follow," Danan said.