No frills attached

Cypress Label FW15 via  @cypresslabel

Cypress Label FW15 via @cypresslabel

I spoke to lingerie designer Coco Cook about sustainable fashion, unicorns, and the psychology of wearing panties.

I’ve never worn a bra that made me feel like a unicorn. Even so, I like the idea that a piece of lingerie could make me feel so supernatural. And while it might seem mad to some, Coco Cook thinks that it can happen. 

“A good bra and brief make you feel like a mythical creature,” the lingerie designer tells me, “…a unicorn, a narwhal, a white fox; take your pick.”

The imagination behind the chic collections of Cypress Label, Coco Cook has taken what it means to wear lingerie to an entirely new level. A place where support has nothing to do with underwire. Founded in Brooklyn, New York, in the summer of 2014, Cypress is now based in LA, where they design and produce using small scale, sustainable manufacturing. 

In the world of lingerie—a market that offers either the mass-produced or the stupidly expensive—Cypress Label is a breath of fresh air. The opportunity to experience what a true hand crafted garment feels like, up close and personal. For Cook, keeping things small scale is an integral part of the Cypress creed. 

“I’d rather buy something I know only 250 other people have, rather than 25,000,” the designer says, “I think it gives people a sense of community in a way. To know they are purchasing something from an intimate, close-knit team.”

Intimacy aside, smaller scale manufacturing also means that nothing at Cypress Label goes to waste. Sustainability, Cook says, is a daily lesson in humility and respect for the world around us. 

“I think as humans we are quite arrogant to think that we’ll never run out of resources.” It’s this resourcefulness that keeps Cypress Label so unique. “I source all my fabrics from suppliers in downtown LA, New York and Italy,” the designer says. “One that I’m really excited about is for a swim line I’m working on… it’s made of 100% recycled fishing nets.”

Cypress Label FW15 by  @erin_pederson  via  @cypresslabel

Cypress Label FW15 by @erin_pederson via @cypresslabel

This innovation is evident in Cook’s designs. In a world where women’s lingerie is so often suffocated by floral and frill, Cypress Label provides its wearer with a minimalist alternative—garments that allow women to feel desirable without the need for frivolous embellishment. “Perhaps it’s my tomboy side coming out,” Cook explains, “but I think there is immense sex appeal in practicality.”

This delicate balance between allure and ease radiates from each of Cook’s collections. Black bras with triangular center seam cups are paired with old school high waist briefs; also featuring triangular cut fronts and rear panels. Plunge front bras in pastel pinks are worn with medium high waist briefs. And for the ever-practical woman, there are the crisp-white high waist briefs with thick waistbands, featuring internal elastic for a cleaner finish. 

“It should be a pleasure to put on your lingerie,” the designer explains, “not a contortionist act!”

Given this philosophy, it’s no wonder the designer starts each collection with the wearer in mind. “I start with a woman,” Cook tells me, “and then I think about her mood. From there I navigate the colours, texture and concept around her.” In this way, each garment becomes an avenue for expression. Lingerie that is not purely ornamental, but rather, discreetly empowering. For Cook, that’s where the magic begins.

“As women when we wear beautiful lingerie, [mostly] we’re the only ones who see it… when we wear a beautiful set I think it gives us this feeling of having a sexy little secret,” the designer says. “It supports you physically and psychologically; a good bra and brief make you feel like a mythical creature.” 

Cypress Label FW15 by  @erin_pederson  via  @cypresslabel

Cypress Label FW15 by @erin_pederson via @cypresslabel

Cook’s unique approach to lingerie is largely the result of doing things her own way. The designer says that, while there are many in her field she looks up to and hugely respects, she tries to find most of her inspiration from outside the apparel industry. Instead, Cook looks to art—new and old, in all mediums—and focuses on finding women who inspire her, not just in their sense of style, but in their way of being. 

This interest in the countenance of women is understandable coming from Cook, a woman who spent much of her childhood in theatrical reverie. The designer admits that, despite her tomboy ways, her feminine side has always influenced her vision. 

“My romantic side was always vivid in my imagination,” Cook tells me, “I used to buy fabric and drape myself a long gown, and pretend I was Ophelia in my parent’s pool.” 

Today, this juxtaposition between boyishness and beauty informs many of Cook’s designs, seen from her choice of fabrics, right through to her choice of shapes. The result? Lingerie that supports a woman’s physique as well as her psyche. For the industry, and for women, it’s a welcome innovation, and testament of Cook’s down-to-earth design approach. 

Cypress Label may be the new kid on the block, but it’s a kid with a vision, and a strong one at that. “I would love to grow the company by doing artist collaborations,” Cook tells me. “In a way I think of each piece as a small slice of an artist’s expression. I would like to involve other creatives and see what they would do.” 

It’s a plan that’s unsurprising considering Cook’s own opinion on what fashion truly is. “Bottom line, it’s self expression. It’s the most immediate way to convey who we are, what we are like or how we are feeling.” But fans of the label can rest assured that Cypress Label is, and always will be, inspired by and made for the women who wear it.
“Generally I think when people hear the word muse, they think of some fine boned mysterious creature… I’m more real life than that. If I start talking to a random girl at a coffee shop and I get the sense she earnestly loves herself…she’s my muse.” 

And if that girl slips into a Cypress Label bra and feels like a unicorn, well, that’s just the cherry on the cake. 

This story was first published in HESSIAN Magazine, Melbourne, in 2016.