In a fast-paced, constantly-changing fashion industry, designers often feel pressure to do more: more collections, more collaborations, more social media, more noise. Stephanie Danan and Justin Kern’s approach for Co is quite the opposite: slow, steady, and “quiet,” as Danan put it on a recent call. “We sort of hide in L.A.,” she said with a laugh. “We’re growing at a rate that feels really comfortable and allows us to perfect what we do, and it’s created really loyal customers because it’s grounded in reality. It isn’t all loudness and press and this and that.”

The takeaway is that those customers are super engaged. Danan and Kern are happy to collect their feedback: When fans asked for more of Co’s simple, elevated basics—puff-sleeved shirtdresses, wide-leg trousers, poplin blouses, etc.—the duo created Co Essentials, a line of core pieces that won’t disappear after a single season and can be paired back to the fashion-forward stuff in their main collections. Their customers’ next requests were for luxe, everyday accessories to complete the look. “Our women were coming to us and saying, ‘What we find in your clothes—the clean-lined approach, the practicality, and the really strong price point—we can’t find in accessories,’” Danan said. “We wanted to create a line of accessories that fulfilled the same values as our ready-to-wear.”

They started with handbags, a development process that began nearly two years ago. The first styles debuted on Co’s site (quietly!) earlier this week: a concise selection of bucket bags, slim totes, and cross-bodies, all in luxe Italian leather or canvas. With minimal gold hardware and sleek lines, they’re simple and versatile, but not lacking character: A few bags come in glossy, croc-embossed chocolate or black leather, and there’s a standout ivory bucket bag with subtle matelassé quilting. Unlike the sleek, hard-edged bags we’re seeing elsewhere on the market, these have a touch of softness, lending themselves to being slung over your shoulder or gently crushed under your arm.

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Garance Doré in Co’s new handbag campaign.Photo: Amanda Demme / Courtesy of Co

“We always think about design and practicality, and giving equal weight to each,” Danan says. “I feel that when things are too practical, they don’t always have the aesthetics we’re looking for, but when things are too aesthetically driven, it’s almost irrational to the reality of a woman’s life. In all of our bags, we want you to get the sense that they have both.” She added that they’ve reduced their margins on the bags to achieve a competitive price-point: Smaller styles start around $750, with the larger bags coming in at $1,450.

“That’s still a lot of money for most people, so I’m always one to say, how can we make it feel like like you’re really getting your money’s worth? In my mind, luxury is not a piece of clothing or an accessory—luxury is a state of mind and how you live your life. It’s a philosophy. How can we get to a place where we buy something and feel that we paid the night amount of money for it, and that it’s a brand we want to return to because we feel good about what we paid for?” she mused. “It’s awful to buy something and go home and feel bad about it. I think there are a lot of women out there who live realistic lives, who are very much in line with that. They’re who I want to speak to.”

It helps that Danan is very much that woman, too; in figuring out what’s missing in her own wardrobe, she understands what they’ll want and need as well. Her own busy travel schedule informed their second collection of bags, which appear in Co’s new Resort 2020 collection (landing in stores in November). The XL zebra-striped tote is her idea of the ideal airport bag: “I found myself traveling a lot last year and wanted a bag I could throw my computer in, but also my wallet and everything else. I like to travel light, and I wanted to be able to go from the airport to a meeting without needing to change it,” she explained. November will also see Co’s debut shoe collection, which will be sold exclusively on Net-a-Porter. Until then, shop the current lineup of bags at Barneys and on Co’s website here.

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