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September Editor's Letter By Stephanie Danan Edited by Amanda Fortini September 15, 2022

CO was founded 10 years ago. It all started in 2012 in the garage of a mid-century house in the Hollywood Hills while sifting through boxes of my mother’s clothes from the ’70s and ’80s, which had somehow travelled from Morocco to Montreal to Paris to Los Angeles and were heading back to Paris with my mother to end their long journey. These boxes held the history of her fashion trajectory and life.

I have always loved beautiful clothes, but as I pulled the pieces out of the box, I found myself falling in love anew with the romance of fashion and how the clothes we wear throughout a lifetime are associated with such strong emotional memories.

Stephanie Danan at Richard Neutra’s Hendershot House

It was a profoundly transitional time for me. I was 34 years old, I had just been through a difficult divorce, and I was slowly exiting a 15-year career as a producer in Hollywood that had given me an incredibly rich and creative life.

I was experiencing a rebirth, as I have many times in my life, and out of that came the unexpected gift of a new relationship, the creation of CO with my partner, Justin Kern, and shortly after, the birth of our son, Jacob.

I’ve always found transitional times to be the most powerful moments in life. I’m deeply interested in these seasons of change and want to explore them in a series of upcoming personal newsletters, of which this is the first installment.

My parents, both born in Morocco, are of Jewish Sephardic ancestry. My mother was from Marrakesh and my father from Fez. They married young and dreamed of immigrating to America. But becoming American was difficult, so my parents, always resourceful, opted to head to Canada while the rest of their family went to France and Israel.

Stephanie’s mother, Marcelle Danan, and father, Henry Danan, at their wedding

In 1973, I was born in Montreal, surrounded by beautiful clothes and very stylish parents, aunts, and cousins. My parents believed in elegance but reminded my brother and me not to confuse it with snobbery, as Yves Saint Laurent would say.

Stephanie and her mother, Marcelle
Stephanie, age 5

My mother and father worked together in fashion for 20 years in the ’70s and ’80s. My father owned a showroom that represented brands like Jean Paul Gaultier, Marithé et François Girbaud, Chevignon, Fiorucci, and so many other success stories of that era. My mother designed her own line of womenswear and became a sort of fashion icon in our tightknit Jewish-Moroccan community, known for her beauty and style. When my brother and I were children, her work grew out of a need to find her own identity independent of her roles as wife and mother, and ultimately became her escape from a troubled marriage.

Stephanie’s mother, Marcelle Danan
Stephanie’s father, Henry Danan

During that time, she often flew to Asia to design and produce her collections. There she met a group of fascinating, worldly women who influenced her journey of spirituality and self-realization by taking her to ashrams in India. I was a teenager at the time and I watched, enchanted, as my mother transformed.

As I witnessed her metamorphosis, I was also growing interested in the power of storytelling. I dreamed of telling my mother’s story, which ultimately became mine: The story of womanhood, our innate ability to give birth and our ease with being repeatedly reborn ourselves; the story of how, as women, we are so often trapped in a life and within an identity we reject, yet also have an almost uncanny ability to transform and find our way out of our cage.

Both of my parents, in fact, have reinvented themselves many times, and as a child I witnessed and learned the hardship and beauty of living several lives within a single lifetime. During their 20 years in Montreal, they achieved great success in their work and recognition in their community, but were also met with financial and emotional challenges that ultimately led to divorce and, finally, to bankruptcy. They left Canada in the early ’90s, with my father returning to Morocco and my mother relocating to Paris to live near her extended family.

Stephanie’s childhood home in Montreal, Canada
Marcelle and Henry Danan in Marrakech

The need to reinvent oneself, I have often observed, tends to arise when we are passionate and fearless about our choices. Passion and courage put you at risk of heartbreak, failure and loss—but those risks are, of course, the cost of living.

CO is the product of one of my many reincarnations, and now, as my partner, Justin, and I approach its 10-year anniversary and continue to challenge ourselves as a brand, I feel compelled to pull back the curtain and voice what lies behind the pretty dresses and polished image—to let you in on my thoughts, experiences, and hopes for the future. As the world changes so quickly, human connection feels more important than ever, and perhaps our platform can be a place for a small and humble dose of vulnerability and authenticity.

Stephanie’s son, Jacob
Stephanie and her son, Jacob

Since the brand’s creation, I have quietly hidden behind the scenes for many reasons. At first, I did not fully understand my own creative identity, and finding it has been a long and bumpy ride that is ongoing. I also had a baby and struggled with body image; I felt more comfortable obscuring myself rather than using myself as an extension of my work. Meanwhile, I was working extremely hard on building a company and had little time for anything else. Like many women, I struggled to understand my needs and what I was capable of giving within romantic partnership. Lastly, I battled to find balance and equanimity in a world taking extreme positions on literally everything.

Yet throughout that time I also connected to my nurturing side through motherhood. I developed deep and meaningful friendships with very passionate, creative, and intelligent women and men—filmmakers, writers, designers, architects, performers. In my role as Creative Director and CEO of CO, I worked with inspiring photographers, stylists, and businessmen and women who taught me much of what I know.

I travelled to places I fell in love with, like Japan, whose elegance, graciousness, and poeticism tapped into my sense of romance. I spent extended amounts of time in my favorite city, Paris, and I lost myself and then found myself again and again until I realized the importance and power of leaning into uncertainty to keep my creative pulse alive.

Stephanie on set of SS23 Essentials lookbook shoot
Stephanie in her office at Richard Neutra’s Hendershot House

As we enter a new decade at the company, we hope to offer the women who love and buy our clothes much more than a wardrobe. I want to share my experience, knowledge, ideas, thoughts, and desires. I want to talk about what it means to be a woman today and how complex our lives have become. We are feminine and masculine, grounded and emotional, courageous and afraid. We are independent and attached, self-sufficient and desirous of partnership. We are everything and its opposite and we are often misunderstood as a result.

How do we communicate our inner and outer complexities with strength and an unwavering sense of self? Our figurative deaths and rebirths? I am constantly exploring such questions in my life and I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you through these newsletters.

Expressing our complexities often starts with the clothing we wear and the identity we choose to project when we get dressed in the morning, before going out into the world as women to lead, create, nurture, love and be loved.

I look forward to sharing with you not only the pieces I wear, what I take with me when I travel, and how I believe it should be worn, but more importantly the identity and meaning it all carries. I plan to write about my own personal transformations that have shaped the design and direction of CO, the questions I ask myself in times of uncertainty and times of creation, my personal challenges and accomplishments, the places I find inspiration, the adventures I embark on, the places I call home, and finally, the people I admire and love.

More to come—


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