We talked about our mutually exclusive experiences in retail, we talked about our love for R&B as Usher's "Confessions" played in the background during our interview, we even talked about more serious topics, such as the value of education versus real life work experience. Basically, I covered it all with the founders of the popular sunglass brand, Coco & Breezy. The longer we talked, the more I realized I was not only conversing with a uniquely stylish duo in terms of both looks and personality, but I was also in the presence of two old souls. They've achieved quite a bit considering their age, but they are extremely humble in their point of view on New York City, their take on success, and the stylish crew they roll with.
C & B: Well... our first job was at a Chinese food spot when we were 15. At 16 we each had two jobs and by 17 we each had a total of three jobs. We always knew we wanted to be entrepreneurs/own our own business, so during high school we asked our counselor what we could do to graduate early. By our junior year we had doubled up on enough credits that we only had to attend school half the day (until 12PM) - the other half we spent working. We actually ended up graduating early and that's when we started thinking seriously about living in NYC.
Lexi: What was your first New York "experience" and what led to your infatuation with the city?
C & B: We always knew we wanted to be in NYC but our first experience was on MySpace. When we were 16 we were like the MySpace maestros. We would just look at people from New York on the internet and watch how they dressed because we were so intrigued by the New York lifestyle. We made a lot of friends on MySpace that were living in New York and we let them believe we actually lived in the city (because that's what they thought!). We loved it! Finally we begged our parents to let us go to New York and visit.Lexi: What was something that happened during that trip that made you feel like NYC was the place for you?
C & B: We met sooo many people! We've always had this hustle mentality so to actually be in the city and see what all of these young people around us were doing inspired us. The stuff they were doing in NYC was stuff we couldn't do in Minnesota. The other thing that really hooked us was that when we visited, people knew who we were from MySpace!
Lexi: Wait, really? How?!
C & B: Yes! People would recognize us on the streets and yell our names "Coco & Breezy!" Then we realized we couldn't just be "cool internet girls," we needed to turn our dreams into reality.Lexi: Okay, I need to know more about this personality you created for yourselves on MySpace?
C & B: We had a following. We were these twins that wore cool outfits and said inspiring things. We didn't ever try to gain a following we just were being ourselves.
Lexi: Where did you get your sense of style in a place that was less stylish than somewhere like New York?
C & B: Our mom is very stylish - not brand savvy but she can put anything together. And dad... yea, back in the 70s our dad was one of those guys with the bell bottoms and the Jheri curl. Both our parents had style.. But we were always all about being different. We told our parents when we were kids, "Mom, dad, we think we're special." They embraced that though. Their mentality was: you have good grades and work hard at your jobs, if you want to shave your heads, go for it girls.Lexi: So you visited NYC originally and then went back to Minnesota... When did you finally move for good?
C & B: Well we visited about three or four times but at age 19 we moved out for good. We were still in Minnesota at the time working for retail stores in sales and decided to buy our flights and come to New York for two weeks. Towards the end of our two weeks we went job hunting everywhere. We figured if we told our parents we had a job they would let us move. Now when we say we went job hunting everywhere... we mean everywhere...a sock place, a cupcake place, retail stores, we didn't care. We just wanted to be in New York.
Lexi: And did you get one?
C & B: No...we had to tell our parents a little white lie.. We said we had jobs and actually didn't have anything secure yet. In reality, we thought we would have jobs soon enough because we had an interview at TopShop and we had a lot of successful retail experience. Mind you, we never got the job because they couldn't hire sisters! But it was a blessing in disguise because we were forced to really pursue our personal brand.Lexi: So let's get to the the Coco & Breezy brand, when did you start making sunglasses?
C & B: Well we were always interested in sunglasses. We were into fashion from a young age and people actually made fun of us for what we wore because no one dressed like us in Minnesota. Part of the reason we ended up designing sunglasses was because we liked the idea of keeping ourselves hidden and avoiding eye contact with the people who made fun of us. Our first pair that really caught on were made using safety goggles, studs and some glue. It was very trendy. Once our glasses hit the market they were really popular - everyone wore them too, from Nicki Minaj to Lady Gaga.
Lexi: Your brand has come a long way from DIY shades to your current designs. How did you figure it all out? From production to distribution, etc?
C & B: All of the sunglasses are original designs. We had no idea what the process was and did a lot of studying. We had to figure out a lot on our own but were able to find some valuable mentors. We evolve with each collection.Lexi: Tell me more about your signature style. I'm clearly obsessed but why should other people love them?
C & B: I think we make the best sunglasses. The quality and design distinguish us, but the story behind our brand is also very important. There aren't a lot of sunglasses that look different in terms of frames.
Lexi: Where do you get inspiration?
C & B: A lot of our inspiration starts with art. We aren't too inspired by fashion. We call ourselves artists. That's what we love - art and business.
Lexi: And you never went to college? I'm curious as to what your perspective is on "making it" without a degree under your belt? Can you speak to the experiences you've had in the working world versus what you would have gained in college?
C & B: We never want to be "anti-school" but there are people who are meant for it and people who are not ready for it right after high school. Once you get into the working world you learn more about what you actually want to do and then you can go back to school and focus on certain areas. For example, now we own an eyewear company, so maybe the next step is business school. Obviously this is all dependent on your career desires.Lexi: Obviously your style caught on in NYC...How were you meeting people and making a network for yourselves? Did you go to events?
C & B: Definitely. When we first moved we went to every event we could. One of our best friends, Ugo, who we met on MySpace, knew a lot of people in the city. He would bring us to all the cool fashion events. Ugo [Mozie] always knows what's going on - we have to give him credit for getting us on the map.
Lexi: What are some of the things New York has taught you?
C & B: We don't want to be starving artists but we need to find the middle ground between staying true to our aesthetic and also appealing to the customer who wants more of a basic frame. Our brand name is growing so these are things we really need to consider. Social media has been big for us but we still aren't as well known as we want to be. We're very much about feedback and the more honest feedback we get, the more the brand evolves. I feel like right now we are at our breaking point.