We had the good fortune of connecting with Coco Clem and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Coco, what do you attribute your success to?
I feel the success of Coco Clem is from a combination of things: mending a hole in the swimwear market, and not compromising on my creative expression. While I aspire to be size inclusive with my silhouettes, my hand illustrated textile prints aren’t for everyone’s taste, which I kind of love.
From the beginning, I knew I wanted all types of bodies and humans to wear my art, and In order to achieve this, I would have to go against a market that is driven by fatphobia, the gender binary, ageism, eating disorders, and Eurocentric beauty standards.
It’s important to realize who you seek to serve with your vision, and why. Your purpose doesn’t have to be deep, but you can’t expect long term success doing what you love if it’s only benefiting yourself. Success to me means building relationships, so that’s what I try to do with my work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Coco Clem is an eco friendly swimwear brand that seeks to create wearable art for a wide variety of body types and gender expressions. We celebrate diversity and aspire to rethink swimwear standards with our inclusive silhouettes and playful surface patterns.
I am primarily self taught, so nothing about sewing or pattern making comes naturally or is easy to me. There’s truth in what they say that if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never get started. Trial and error has been my biggest teacher. I haven’t had the luxury of making mistakes in private because Coco Clem took off really quickly. Luckily, when I have had fitting issues, people have been so kind and worked with me and my mistakes until we got everything perfect.
The things that have been my biggest struggle have become my biggest reward. I’m always learning- I think that’s what I’m most proud of.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live on the coast in Wilmington, NC so I’d probably take my bestie to Fort Fisher for sunrise- this beach has beautiful, wiry trees unlike others I’ve ever seen sculpted from the wind and sand.
There’s usually some farmer’s markets, art markets, or live music happening, so we could check some of those out.
Some of my favorite local spots to take someone whose never been to Wilmy are: Airlie Gardens for a nature walk, Satellite Bar & Lounge or Fermental for a drink, Pho Cafe or Sealevel for the best lunch, Cameron Arts Museum, the 4th Friday Art Walk where you visit all the local galleries downtown (they have wine and snacks at each venue too), Burnt Mill Creek for jazz night, and would take them on walks downtown and through the historic neighborhoods to get a feel for the area.
And since they’re staying for a week we could drive to 2 hours to the Raleigh / Durham area for more activities.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My partner, Jon, gives me so much love and support.
Youtube for pattern making is a godsend. My sewing machines for letting me learn their temperaments, Tik-Tok has been a surreal vortex for meeting supportive people, and most importantly anyone whose ever let me make something for them!
Other: Tik Tok: @cococlemshop
Kaylee Britton, Fran Delfin, Kendyl Cosgrove, Danny Thomas II, YoVanna Hernandez, Mary Fran