What is the inspiration for your brand’s name?
CoFi is named after my two boys “Co”lson and “Fi”nn.
Did you always know you wanted to be a designer? Why or Why not?
I actually received my Master’s in Learning Disabilities from Northwestern University. I was a teacher and educational specialist for some time (in my “previous” life). After having my second child, I decided to make a career change and I went into business with my dad.
CoFi first began selling iPad Cases that were lined with a faux shearling fabric in 2012. Although they were beautiful, they didn’t really ignite my passion. Once I spotted the printed leathers, I helped pivot the business to handbags and shoes. I have always loved fashion. I like playing with fashion trends, creating unique choices when putting outfits together. I would say that I am a non-conformist. I love trends, but I also love spinning them on their head. For instance, with our Erin Tote Bags, they have a very traditional silhouette; but, when you create them in a unique platinum leather, they suddenly differentiate you from what everyone else is carrying. The best feedback I receive about CoFi is that people are constantly stopped on the street: “Where did you get that bag?” or “I love your sneakers. Who makes them?”
What was the toughest circumstance you overcame when just starting out your business?
I think one of the most challenging parts of running my own business was not having much of a business background. I have had to learn everything as I go. I had never used social media, never created a website, never attended a market, never designed products, and the list goes on. It has been an ongoing learning process and I have of course made some mistakes as I grow.
I have learned not to over-buy inventory until I know there is a market for it. I have also discovered that I don’t want to create products for another brand because if they drop it, there is no recourse and I cannot sell it under their name. I have learned to take chances as long as I mitigate the risks. Finally, I have learned to be less self-critical because mistakes will happen. It is always better to face things head on, deal with it, and move forward rather than letting the issue linger.
"I saw the opportunity to create something beautiful that would stand out in a sea of competition."
If you could do something different before starting your business what would it be?
I taught 3rd and 4th grade, was an educational specialist and did educational testing for children with learning disabilities. I loved that profession; however, after having 2 children, my emotional bucket was filled with my personal life and I needed to make a career change.
What inspired you to create your own brand?
CoFi Leathers began as a family business. My father, Clive, has been in the leather business for over 45 years. My dad and I met a gentleman in Mexico who has perfected the art of creating printed leathers, after training for a few years in Italy. At CoFi, we use Italian papers and foils via a transfer process to create our unique leathers. Subsequently, we use these leathers to create handbags, sneakers, and other small leather goods.
The leathers are stunning and unique. When I first spotted them, I knew right away that they would make exquisite handbags. I also knew that there was nothing else like it on the market. I saw the opportunity to create something beautiful that would stand out in a sea of competition.
Do you feel working in the fashion industry is different today than from when you started out? Why or why not?
Right now, the world in general is undergoing a lot of changes. The fashion industry is listening to the needs of the consumer, learning how to pivot during a time of a constantly changing environment. More consumers are purchasing online. The consumer is also more focused on comfort and function, both in apparel and in accessories.
"Success means living every day to the fullest."
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
My favorite part of being a designer is having customers tell me how much they love the CoFi line, sharing stories of receiving compliments from strangers on the street.
What does the word “success” mean to you?
Success means creating a great product that is worn and loved by many. Success means raising two boys to be kindhearted, generous, and happy. Success means living every day to the fullest.
Are you passionate about something other than fashion?
I am passionate about my friends and family, getting outside in nature, and sharing laughter and love with others.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business and how are you navigating differently now than before?
Unfortunately, there are many retail stores that have either closed down, pivoted to online only, or consolidated their storefronts. This has impacted CoFi’s wholesale business. We are trying to work with our stores, having no minimums on opening orders, etc. We have also continued to work hard to increase our online sales on our website: www.cofileathers.com.