Welcome to our newest editorial initiative, Who What Wear Spotlight, where we'll be using our editorial platform, social following, and ad inventory to turn the spotlight on small businesses that need our support now more than ever. Each week, we'll be highlighting a new fashion or beauty company. If you own a small brand and would like to be considered for the program, please apply here.
There is no escaping the reality that the pandemic has had a significant effect on the fashion industry. What, especially, happens to the up-and-coming eveningwear brands who built a foundation on dressing women for red carpets, weddings, and all the various galas and events we're so dearly missing these days? Inclusive womenswear brand Coyan is celebrating its one-year anniversary tomorrow, and in that first year, its silky, minimalist dresses have donned the bodies of influencers and actresses like Insecure's Natasha Rothwell and Chrissy Metz of This Is Us.
Lucas Zunz, Coyan's founder and CEO, may have just celebrated selling his first wedding dress (and subsequently making a face mask to go with it), but as the pandemic worsened, he had to reckon with the fact that the market he built his brand for may disappear for quite a long time. Pivoting is, of course, the route many in his position have to take, but don't for a second think that means Coyan is leaving its signature silks behind.
"We are developing a new collection that will come out in October. It'll be slightly more casual with an even bigger focus on comfort to align with the new normal," Zunz says. "There is a big emphasis these days on how well the athleisure market is doing and how everyone only wants to buy comfy clothes right now, but I believe women still want to feel their best while WFH. It can actually be more comfortable in a silk kaftan than a pair of sweatpants!"
WFH silks is a concept I can get behind, but that's not all for Coyan. Zunz is also working to take the brand further on its slow-and-sustainable mission.
"Our main priority for the future is sustainability," says Zunz. "[We're] turning into a made-to-order business to avoid any waste and using only eco-friendly fabrics. Our next collection will feature recycled cashmere and organic silks, all made in the U.S. We want to contribute to shifting the consumer mindset from overconsumption and fast fashion to being comfortable with investing in timeless, well-made pieces that will last forever."
For a company focused on creating pieces for women of all body sizes, that mission is even more promising. For too long there has been a lack of size-inclusive clothing that is well made, fashion-forward, and sustainable. Keep reading to learn more from Zunz and shop his favorite Coyan pieces.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
My name is Lucas Zunz and I'm a creative director based in New York. I was born and raised in Paris, but I have been based in the U.S. for the past six years, which is where I started my career in fashion. After working in-house for a womenswear label for a few years as the head of e-commerce, I started consulting with a DTC brand, helping them creating high-end and relatable content and online experiences. I used this experience and knowledge of the market to launch Coyan.
Coyan is a high-end womenswear label aiming to redefine the way we shop luxury clothing with a slower and more inclusive model. We create clothes in exceptional fabrics with impeccable details for women of every size, from U.S. 0 to 24.
And if you had to sum up your business in five or so words?
Slow. Inclusive. Luxury. Effortless. Timeless.
What inspired you to start your business?
The idea first came when I was running Sachin & Babi's e-commerce. We were seeing quite a lot of requests for sizes 16 and 18, which we didn't carry at the time. I was in charge of introducing a plus-size category and seeing if this was an actual opportunity for us. During that process, I witnessed women's frustration as well as an incredible lack of options in the extended-sizes market. Luxury offerings were almost nonexistent, and when it came to mass-market options, everything was made out of synthetic fabrics and quite dated in terms of aesthetics. I just couldn't find anything modern and well made that aligned with the kind of fashion I saw out there. That's how the concept was first born with the focus on inclusivity and representation being the ethos of Coyan.
What has been your proudest moment as a business owner?
We have a customer getting married in a Coyan dress! It is happening next month, so I can't say a lot about it, but having a woman reach out inquiring about one of our gowns for her big day was so exciting. We'd existed for only a few months when it happened, and I was so proud that someone would consider us for her wedding. She came back to us recently to get a matching silk mask for the ceremony.
How have social distancing and stay-at-home orders affected your business? How have your priorities shifted?
The stay-at-home order in March made us very vulnerable. We were already quite tight in terms of cash flow and could see that online orders would drop at least for the time being. We downsized, left our co-working space and warehouse, and moved everything to our homes. We had to accept this as a new normal and operating with close to nothing (while applying for loans, etc.) until it gets better. We were already scrappy, but this was next level.
The business did pretty much pause for a few weeks. We are totally event-driven and all summer weddings getting postponed definitely affected us, among other things. We also decided not to go on sale as it goes against our company culture, so it was difficult to compete with all the markdowns happening during the pandemic.
The silver lining is that it forced us to be creative and think of new ways to reinvent ourselves. We worked with friends and family to get fresh content during lockdown by shipping dresses around the globe and doing homemade photoshoots. We shifted our production from L.A. to New York to avoid traveling and had to find new partners, which was super exciting in a way—kind of like starting from scratch again.
We focused on making face masks, which did so well. They sold out, and we just made more. They are made out of fabric scraps from our first collection, which was the most sustainable and cost-effective option for us.
Let's give a little spotlight love to other brands. What are two to three of your favorite brands you like to support and why?
Henning: Lauren also makes high-end plus-size clothes but with a focus on workwear and tailoring. We launched pretty much at the same time and share a similar ethos. One of the only brands out there offering true luxury pieces in extended sizes.
I do buy a lot of vintage for myself, and I’ve been loving going back to my favorite thrift shop called Front General Store in Dumbo, Brooklyn. They are a New York institution and curate a mix of vintage and their own brand.
I discovered Marrakshi Life during the summer and love it. They are a slow fashion label like us. Everything is gender-neutral and handmade in Marrakech. Their lose shapes make me want to make some Coyan unisex pieces, which will happen eventually.