The fierce feminine duo behind Cushnie et Ochs are known for creating clothes that make women look good. Michelle Obama, Jessica Alba and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are all fans of designers Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs’ clean and sophisticated style. Their fan base is also growing amongst locals as their collection continues to expand at Neiman Marcus. Vegas Seven sat down with the duo, who met at Parsons School of Design in New York City and have been collaborating since 2008, recently at a clientele luncheon at the luxury department store.
Tell us about your partnership with Neiman Marcus.
Michelle: They are great. We are in 22 Neiman Marcus stores. It’s nice to see the different regions and how that woman dresses and how they merchandise. After 10 years, we can really focus on getting in touch with our customer.
How did the line come together and what has been your strategy in regards to growth?
Carly: When we started, we really wanted to create a collection that sort of struck this balance between something that was minimal and sexy. We felt like minimal became too androgynous for a lot of designers and sexy became too overt. We wanted to empower women to feel sexy, beautiful and feminine but in clean and minimal pieces, which were classic in a way [that] she could always go back to [them] in her closet and always build upon [them] season after season. When we started out, we became very well known for our cocktail dresses. So much for us is really about fit, but now it’s beyond the dress for us. Our separates are doing well. Our pants, tops and knitwear are doing incredibly well. Now we’ve launched activewear and our own handbags.
So you start off on the creative side of things, but then you realize there’s such a strong business component to having your own line. How have you handled those two sides?
Michelle: We tell young people, trying to start a line is more than just drawing and sketching. It’s about running a business that you have to nurture as much as the creative because they have to grow hand in hand.
Carly: You can’t just be creative for creative’s sake. Yes, fashion is an art but it’s a product that has to function. You can’t make it just because it’s beautiful and not care whether it sells or not. You still have to listen to your customer. If there is something that you love to design but no one is buying it, you aren’t going to last very long.
One of the things you are known for is making clothes that fit women really well, what is your process?
Carly: Because our clothes are so clean as well, it’s really about the fit and how it looks on the body. If you have a print, it’s not about the silhouette so much as it’s more about what’s going on with the dress. For us, the dress really comes alive when it’s on the body. If it doesn’t look good when it’s on the body, then the dress is useless. For us, it’s like, it looks one way on the hanger but once you put it on, it really comes alive and hopefully makes you feel sexy and beautiful and great.
What is your collaborative process? How do you come together?
Michelle: Because there are two of us there is never a lack of ideas. We do sketch separately in the beginning, but then we come together and kind of let the collection lead us. It’s good to come from two perspectives because everyone sees things differently but then you can see where you overlap, or maybe you are onto something because you can see that both of you are on the same page. Then you develop into that and the collection becomes stronger and stronger.
What ensemble from your collection would best work for a night out in Vegas?
Michelle: The pieces with pops of color would really do well here. The jumpsuits are also a great silhouette for Vegas. You don’t have to match it like a separate but it’s not a dress so you can still be fun and flirty with it and still be comfortable.