Tricia Hoke on The Cotery and Bringing Out Your Inner Designer
For those of us who lack the drive to be a designer, there's now a website for that. But The Cotery was really created to make it easier for talented designers to do their work without having to get bogged down in the production and distribution side of the business -- and in the process, the site also highlights the amazing talents of Denver. Tricia Hoke and Charlotte (Char) Genevier are the creative minds behind the Cotery; Hoke recently took time out from her busy schedule to talk with us about how how to bring out your inner designer with the Cotery.
Design by Kristin Hatgi
Tricia Hoke: Char and I are founding partners of The Cotery. I bring the fashion, she brings the technology to thecotery.com. I have worked in almost every sector of the fashion industry...as a designer, a developer, a fit technician, a retail buyer and seller, a fashion show producer; I have even worked on the factory floor. My industry working experience includes work for brands such as Sierra Designs, Isis, Smartwool, Descente, Izod Golf. Most recently, I founded a product development company called Pie Apparel, where I helped many independent designers, such as Project Runway winner Mondo Guerra, move into manufacturing. In addition, I am a volunteer board member and mentor at the Denver Design Incubator. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and varied experiences, which have given me the tools to operate in the corporate fashion industry while remaining rooted in the independent design community. A designer at heart with the acumen of a developer, my favorite thing about fashion is taking wildly creative ideas and applying logic.
Charlotte Genevier taught herself to code when she was fifteen years old, studied theoretical mathematics at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, and has spent nearly the last fifteen years building tech companies. In 2007, with a few acquisitions under her belt, she founded SocialEngine, a white-label social-networking platform, which she bootstrapped to profitability. SocialEngine went on to become a part of the Techstars Boulder class of 2011, before being acquired by Room 214 at the end of 2013. Char now uses her technical expertise and knowledge of community building to make the Cotery the premiere resource for aspiring clothing designers.
What are your thoughts about the Denver fashion community? What's good, what could be improved?
The industry here is improving! We have some great designer resources, like Denver Design Incubator and Ralph's Sewing supply. There are many new places where designers are able to produce their goods (Running Stitch Industries/Co-sewn) and many local shops actively support local designers (Goldyn, Made Life, Fancy Tiger, A-line Boutique, Indy Ink, Super Ordinary.) It is awesome that they are so vested in the community. People supporting the artists, designers and the locally owned stores and boutiques is the #1 thing that will continue to improve and empower the industry. I think Denver and Boulder have strong communities and governments that support the arts. The fashion industry is an extension of that larger initiative, and I feel honored to have watched it grow.
Talk to us about the Cotery.
The Cotery is a website that enables designers to design, sell and manufacture all online. We basically automate the entire process for the designer.
Why did we build this? Because starting an apparel brand is hard! Choosing vendors, sourcing fabrics, managing timelines, meeting high minimums, buying into excess inventory, building an audience, predicting the market, managing costs that meet with end consumer needs, and then finding a manufacturer that will even take your smaller scale project on -- and doing all of this for multiple seasons. Needless to say, it is very challenging and very expensive.
Our aim is to remove those barriers, and let designers design. At the Cotery, you are able to design your garment through our online "design assistant" where you can select trending silhouettes, fabrics and trims, dye them to match to specific Pantone colors, apply your own print designs, etc. After you have created a garment (or a whole collection), you are then able to build a store on the site and pre-sell your collection to your customers. This is through our site, and via your own website and social media platforms. Once you have met the minimum sales requirement, the Cotery will manufacture your garment, and ship directly to your customers! The best part is you get to set your price as the designer, and you make a profit!