One to Watch: C.O.I. NYC

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I always get overexcited when I hear about a new label, particularly one that is doing everything in its power to retain mystery and subvert the very grounds for its existence. The acronym for fashion’s newest arrival is in itself a clever play on one of America’s key institutions, namely the Central Office of Investigation, so it stands to reason that the founders of C.O.I. NYC named it so for its full title, Conflict of Interest. A conflict indeed when without those all-important dots to separate the letters you end up at the other COI, but more so due to what its design content is all about.

Last month, when the label was launched, CR Fashion Book editor Shiona Turini was snapped at London Fashion Week by street style pap and Jak & Jil fashion blogger, Tommy Ton wearing a kooky tee emblazoned with one word “Ballinciaga”. Echoing Henry Holland’s colourful (in more ways than one) slogan tees, which reached the style spotlight in 2009, famous for their provocative rhyming; C.O.I. NYC’s offering is right there in that tongue-in-cheek neighbourhood. Matching Holland’s play on words, the label’s line of brow-raising tops includes odes to other leading fashion houses with “Giraunchy” and “Bodega Vendetta” among the designs.

Waving off the potential conflict of interest with their other jobs, the brand’s founders who work in the industry maintain an air of anonymity and in comment to Brittany Adams at Style.com, said:  “We are definitely fans of the labels we parody, and if we don’t love the original house, designer, or logo, we don’t touch it. Our objective is to create a dialogue on fashion iconography and imagery.” It is play, nothing more, and what is fashion if not a theatrical stage on which to act out inner fantasies from the childhood surrealism of playing dress-up in Mummy’s wardrobe to the catwalk privilege afforded up-and-coming Hollywood starlets whose sole aim is to get noticed on that red carpet modeling the designer numbers of their adolescent dreams.

The label has taken the interpretation of its name to witty heights, basing itself on a fictitious government agency whose job it is to raid warehouses and seizing unlicensed designer goods. Shoppers who obtain one of the $60 shirts crafted by the fashion brand will even receive it encased in an actual tamper-proof evidence bag. The Tommy Ton photo created an online furore, leading the fashion pack directly to Coi-NYC.com to see what other treats lay in-store. The label has assured its already blooming following that limited edition hats and sweatshirts will soon be added to the line, in addition to further subversive collaborations with companies eager to have their logos put through the C.O.I. NYC treatment.

C.O.I. shirts are also available at VFILES, 12 Mercer St., NYC.

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