Inside Desiree Kohan's Los Angeles boutique, Des Kohan, you'll find a pretty delicious spread of unusual and directional designers, Hussein Chalayan and Pegah Anvarian among them. But lately, these wearable offerings aren't the only thing that has Kohan's customers coming back week after week. The shop-owner has converted to designer, and for now, she's keeping the promising venture to herself…literally. "I design dresses that cannot be found anywhere but here," she says. "I refuse to wholesale."
Sold exclusively at Des Kohan, the in-house dress collection (which happens to be Kohan's best-selling line) was launched two years ago to coincide with the store opening. Inspired by friends and stylists who were always pining for less mass-looking frocks, Kohan's line yields her own form of California couture. "I think my clients really love the collection because they know it's demi-couture but with a ready-to-wear price." Kohan works with a couture seamstress in order to create a range of figure-friendly cuts that have a superior fit value. "It's about making everyone look better than they ever imagined," she says of her slightly minimal dresses. "The line really is what's missing in American fashion—customized fits." For spring/summer, Kohan turned to a cheerful palette of royal blue and yellow with hints of creamy neutrals. The designer says she prefers to use colors that enhance the fabrics, so the hand of linen and silk georgette can be fully appreciated.
While the dresses span the gamut of codes, from casual office to cocktail, Kohan has a few favorites that make the most of versatility. "My blue georgette drop-waisted dress can be worn as is with flats, or it can be cinched at the waist creating a 3-tiered effect for black-tie." To complement her dresses as well as the other collections in her store, Kohan collaborated with designer Annie Costello Brown to create the Des Kohan collection of hand-cut leather belts. With antiqued brass hardware, each style can be worn in multiple ways. But so far, branching out with belts is as far as the designer is willing to go…the single piece is just her thing. "I think it makes life simple to wear dresses," she says. "And from just being here at the store, I know that's what women always seem to be asking for."
The Des Kohan collection of dresses and belts is available at Des Kohan, 671 Cloverdale, Los Angeles, 323-857-0200; www.deskohan.com.
Desiree Kohan creates her own brand of Cali-couture.