In Bustle’s Quick Question, we ask women leaders all about advice — from the best guidance they’ve ever gotten to what they’re still figuring out. Here, LoveShackFancy founder and creative director Rebecca Hessel Cohen reveals how Gen Z inspires her and the moment she realized she was ready leave her media career.
Some women take pride in being “not like the other girls.” Then there’s Rebecca Hessel Cohen, a lover of all things pink, femme, and fancy. Too often, women aren’t taken seriously when they embrace their feminine side in the workforce — but for Hessel Cohen, it was leaning into her penchant for aesthetics that helped bring her brand, LoveShackFancy, to life.
“Originally I made my bridesmaid dresses,” Hessel Cohen, 40, tells Bustle. “I couldn’t find anything I liked — I wanted this beautiful, sort of flowy, dreamy dress in all different shades of silks that the girls could dance in and feel feminine, beautiful, but still sexy. And then just wear over and over again. So I created this one halter dress, which we’re going to bring back, which was our dress that I literally lived in.”
Since its inception in 2013, the brand — known for its vintage-inspired flair and wear-everywhere dresses in every shade of pastel — has built a devoted, influencer-heavy following and has managed to work its way into every trending aesthetic, from cottagecore to Barbiecore. Ahead of her New York Fashion Week presentation on Monday, Sept. 12, Hessel Cohen chats with Bustle about starting her company and staying true to her vision along the way.
How did you get your start before launching LoveShackFancy?
I started in magazines. Pretty much my early childhood was spent living in the Seventeen magazine office back in the day, because my mom was the creative director there for over 20 years. So my first memories were always hanging out in the fashion department and the beauty department.
When I was still in high school, I interned throughout, starting at all the magazines — Elle, Vogue. And then I ended up working at Self magazine, and then at Glamour, and then I was at Cosmopolitan for, I think it was like, eight-and-a-half or nine years. I was the senior fashion and beauty editor.
What made you feel ready to pursue LoveShackFancy as your full-time focus?
I was making these samples of dresses and then using them sometimes [in photo shoots at work]. The turning point was pretty much saying I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in magazines. I mean, I wanted to but I didn’t feel as challenged and as excited or inspired anymore. I felt like the world was definitely starting to change. I went to my editor in chief, who was Kate White at the time, and she fully gave me her blessing.
You’ve said before that your mother is the brand’s original muse. What is her style like?
It really did inspire and shape my point of view and my eye and everything. Her house is still the same — she’s got piles of vintage Victorian and Edwardian dresses, and pillows, and textiles from all over France and England. And this is just sort of how I grew up, in hand-dyed vintage slip dresses with little bows. And that really is the essence of LoveShackFancy, which is about reinterpreting things and the juxtaposition of the beautiful mixed with a bit worn, tattered, raw-edged.
Her style is a bit more tomboy than mine. She’s definitely more laid-back, pared-down than I am. She’s the more Love Shack, I’m the more Fancy, I guess you could say. I love to dress up. I’m always in dresses. I’m always in heels. She feels fancy if she puts my heels on.
Does she give you advice?
She’s always my first phone call — sometimes I like to take her advice, sometimes I don’t. She’s such a perfectionist when it comes to her eye, and she’s typically always right. She’s the ultimate sounding board.
The brand ties in perfectly with a myriad of top trending aesthetics, from cottagecore to Barbiecore to the Bridgerton-revived regencycore. How do you stay authentic to your brand while still appealing to Gen Z’s rapid trend pipeline?
I say that we’re inspired by Gen Z just as much as Gen Z is inspired by us. I guess you could say that there is a little bit of different nods to all of these [trends], the Barbiecore, the Bridgerton regency, all these things, because that is also what inspires us, just in an organic way. I’m constantly looking at pop culture and sourcing, whether I’m sourcing vintage or whether I’m seeing what movies are coming out or what people are responding to.
Any plans to implement a size expansion for the women’s line?
Yeah, it’s been an ongoing conversation. I would love to, and we are talking about doing something with two other companies who would be able to help us. One might be collaboration-based, one might be as another partner, but there are a lot of production issues. We are definitely still having the conversations and looking into having a specific offering that is more size-inclusive.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever received?
Well, the worst career advice was when someone very important told me that in order for them to carry the line, I had to change the name from “LoveShackFancy” to “LSF” or something that felt more sophisticated or chic, which I seriously contemplated for about a few weeks. Until, of course, my mom was like, “You’re not my daughter if you change the name.” And luckily I never changed it, because “LoveShackFancy” is who LoveShackFancy is, and that’s the heart and soul of it.
And the best?
The best piece of advice is to really build that support team and surround yourself with people who believe in you and who bring you up, not down.