B-COS I LOVE YOU
My memory of my first real store crush is so clear in my mind that it may as well be tattooed intricately on the interior of my cranium. It was the European Summer of 2009, and I found myself on a family pilgrimage to Deutschland, a journey to unfurl the deeply rooted origins of my Grandparents and their ancestors before them. Before delving into the payment of family homage, a blissful week was spent discovering Berlin’s loveable Mitte neighbourhood. The modern city struck me like the type of kid in school who is irresistibly oblivious to their own level of cool, yet unwittingly draws people, fascinated and transfixed, into their realm. So genuinely unaffected by the perception of others, are the afore-mentioned genius cool kids, that they have the liberty of channeling all their energies towards exceeding their own level of amazingness: and Berlin seemed to function in exactly the same way. In any case, I had a lot to learn from Berlin, the heart of a country whose shame-kissed past had fertilized new generations of people of strength and resilience, resourcefulness and ingenuity, logic and practicality.
It was on a day dedicated to pavement-pounding in my new temporary neighbourhood that I encountered COS, first intrigued by their statement SALE sign: a skeletal structure boasting an eye-catching pattern of wooden vertebrae mixed in with solid, grained, knotty panels. My well-trained eye, ever hyper-aware of the tell-tale signs of quality, was immediately on alert upon entering through the doors of the chicly minimalist retail space. I am a strong believer in stores beaming an aura detectable immediately upon finding oneself within its walls – this aura, if off-putting, can easily make for a very short shopping trip. Luckily, COS was a shining example of an environment where there seemed to be an obvious respect for quality and clever curation. I still remember gliding past the racks in a dream-like haze, sighting considered palettes of pure pigments, noting unique silhouettes and subtly daring details that would usually denote a price-point high enough to crush my dreams of exiting the store laden with bags. I was convinced that I had had the simultaneous fortune and misfortune of wandering into the flagship of one of those sleek Scandi brands that I am always prone to falling for… I told myself that MAYBE I would be lucky enough to exit the premises as the new owner of one single, carefully selected wardrobe addition. I believe it was as my fingers wandered over a pair of beautiful Nubuck flats, turning them over in my hands, that I was jolted into a completely different reality. Yes, I had sighted the price sticker – and YES, it was practically breath-takingly affordable. It was almost disconcerting to experience a change in environment so dramatic as this was. Naturally, a rush of adrenaline and an excitement-induced high ensued. I still remember the pure ecstasy.
It was after leaving the store that I was desperate to learn more about the Raison d’être of this new find, and how it came to be. Who was responsible for treating me to items of such aesthetic, fabrication and manufacturing quality, at a fraction of the price that I would be cruelly cornered into forking out on my own Australian home soil? This was truly a dream I thought to be impossible… so who was the facilitator?
Ever insatiably curious, it was not long before I began to uncover the story behind this mysterious cult-worthy COS. My discoveries left me with a mind more blown than ever, learning that my new fast-made favourite was not quite the independent boutique start-up brand I had presumptuously taken it for, but rather, an offspring of a much bigger corporation. Yes, COS was a baby (a very trendy one, at that) of mass megapower H&M, the infamous European fast-fashion engine. Having been so struck by the strong simplicity, the modern minimalism and clean confidence of COS, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that it was a byproduct of the company whose stores I associated with an overwhelmingly maddened fashion frenzy.
Started in 2007, COS was a project focused on creating a line of clothing that would be dedicated to a consistent vow to quality on all levels: aesthetic, cut, fabrications, make and finish – all things that would carry through to the retail experience. Reading interviews with COS’ heads of design, Karin Gustafsson and Martin Andersson, the company’s commitment to creating a brand with a personal touch at all stages of the process is clear – as is their insistence on independence in approach and conception. Gustafsson was recently quoted as diplomatically explaining that while logically they as a team are obliged to take note of apparent trends, “the work of other designers is never the starting point for (their) work”. Instead, it is evident that within their own frame of a focus on quality, originality, and a willingness to challenge convention shine through, most commonly through the plethora of re-imagined classics that so often fill the racks of COS’ 40+ Europe-scattered stores. Each season, the collections prove themselves to be geared towards a woman who places great importance on self-presentation, and who values her wardrobe reflecting her own ambitious characteristics. Always with a cheeky smirk of unconvention, COS delivers unfailingly, and by today in 2012, the brand boasts a league of loyal followers, who return time and time again knowing that they will be rewarded with boldly designed, body-considerate pieces at mass-comparable prices (something which is accommodated only through COS’ ties to H&M).
COS speaks volumes about what the future of high street fashion needs to be. Despite its youth, its burgeoning popularity could barely be any more demonstrative of the market’s hunger for the exact type of garment that COS so successfully serves up. It is really all about the identification of the fashion-appreciative client whose likes to feel as though the importance that he or she places on cleverly-conceived, consistently-detailed, high-quality clothing is met with continuously refreshing seasons of sartorial offerings.
And so three years on, with COS as my go-to haven in London for any clothing crisis, and my passion and adoration strong as it was on that fateful day in Berlin, it is only fair to say that perhaps in this case, I may just believe in love at first sight.